MLS to resume season in Orlando July 8

Major League Soccer is back.

All 26 teams will participate in a World Cup-style tournament starting July 8 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Group stage matches will count in the regular season standings and the tournament winner will earn a 2021 Concacaf Champions League berth.

After this tournament wraps up, MLS plans to continue a revised regular-season schedule in home markets with the playoffs and MLS Cup at a later date to be announced in the coming weeks.

The MLS' medical and infectious disease experts have developed a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan for the entire tournament, along with health and safety protocols. The league will make a contribution of serology (antibody) tests to Central Florida residents beginning June 18.

Clubs can begin arriving in Orlando as early as June 24 to train, but those teams that can hold full team training in their home city like Atlanta United must arrive no later than a week before their first game.

"We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a MLS release. "The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play. We also recognize that the death of George Floyd and others has focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women. Together with our owners, players and staff, the League and its Clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long."  

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MARCH 11: Emerson Schellas Hyndman #20 of Atlanta United drives the ball during a quarter final first leg match between Club America and Atlanta United as part of CONCACAF Champions League 2020 at Azteca on March 11, 2020 in Mex

The tournament will feature a slate of matches almost every day for 16 days straight, with most played in the evening. Each club will play three group stage matches, with the top two teams from each group and teh four best third-place finishers moving on to a knockout stage. The knockout stage will consist of a round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finally a championship on Aug. 11. Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knockout phase will go into penalty kick shootouts.

Teams may name up to 23 players on match day rosters, with five subs per match.

Being the host club, Orlando City will be given the top seed in Group A. The five remaining seeds will consist of the four semifinalists from the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs – Atlanta United, Los Angeles Football Club, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC – and Real Salt Lake, the team with the next highest points total in the Western Conference from the 2019 season. The remaining 20 teams will be drawn and distributed across the conference-based groups.

"Sports have the power to unify and inspire, particularly during challenging times," Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products said in a release. "And we’re looking forward to bringing this exciting sport back to millions of fans, while prioritizing the health and well-being of the players, coaches and support staff as well as our cast members."

In addition to matches that count in the regular season standings and the Champions League berth, players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.