October 24, 2021

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MLS is Back tournament updated schedule, TV channels, format & more to know about 2020 restart

MLS is Back tournament updated schedule, TV channels, format & more to know about 2020 restart

In the days after the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the world was declared by the World Health Organization to be a global pandemic, every major sports organization in the world shut down in the hope joining the quarantine would help prevent the disease from inflicting even greater damage.

Until recently, the only elite team sport leagues that managed to successfully return have been in soccer: among them the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga in Europe, NWSL here in the United States.

Major League Soccer launched its attempt this week with the MLS is Back Tournament.

MORE: Watch MLS action on fuboTV (free seven-day trial)

The league determined the quickest route to get its players back into action and onto the field would be to create a “bubble” in one particular location with sufficient hotel space and practice fields to accommodate all its teams. That led them to Orlando, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

However, Florida gradually (and then rapidly) became one of the hottest areas in the country relative to spread of the coronavirus, leading to concern about the ability of the officials to prevent COVID-19 from penetrating the MLS bubble.

That was not helped when multiple members of the FC Dallas squad tested positive for the virus after arriving in Orlando and several more were discovered the in succeeding days. Monday, Dallas was excused from the tournament. The league ultimately added Nashville SC to the withdrawn list, after a total of nine players tested positive and the team had to shut down training. The Colorado Rapids delayed their flight to Orlando because of two positive tests. Because of the two withdrawals, the Chicago Fire were moved from Group A to Group B, giving the tournament six four-team groups.

Overall, though, MLS has had relatively few players produce positive COVID tests and should be able to complete its tournament — so long as the bubble approach keeps the virus confined to the outside world.

All games from the tournament group stages will count toward teams’ regular-season records. MLS hopes to resume competition in home venues (with or without spectators) subsequent to completion of the MLS is Back Tournament.

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When does the MLS is Back tournament start?

The opening game was Wednesday, June 8, matching Orlando City and Inter Miami CF, one of two new franchises in the league for 2020. Both teams had played two games at the time the league shut down in early March.

Orlando City, led by longtime Manchester United regular Nani, had split its first two games. Inter has a potential league star in midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro and still is searching for its first MLS victory. Nani wound up scoring the game-winning goal in added time for a 2-1 Orlando City victory.

The first morning match, matching the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC, occurred Thursday, with the Union earning a 1-0 victory.

MORE: FC Dallas’ removal not a sign that MLS is Back tournament needs to go

MLS is Back schedule 2020

  • Group play: June 8-23
  • Round of 16: July 25-28
  • Quarterfinals: July 30-Aug. 1
  • Semifinals: Aug. 5-6
  • Championship: Aug. 11

There will be two group games most days from July 8-23, with the most anticipated confrontation arriving July 18 at 10:30 p.m. — an El Trafico (without the traffic) between LAFC and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Date Match Kickoff time (ET) TV
July 8 Orlando City vs Inter Miami 8pm ESPN/TSN
July 9 New York City vs Philadelphia Union 9am ESPN/TSN
July 9 Montreal Impact vs New England Revolution 8pm TUDN/TSN
July 10 Seattle Sounders vs San Jose Earthquakes 9pm ESPN/TSN
July 11 Atlanta United vs New York Red Bulls 8pm FOX/TUDN/TSN
July 11 FC Cincinnati vs Columbus Crew 10:30pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 12 Sporting Kansas City vs Minnesota United 8pm ESPN/TSN
July 12 Real Salt Lake vs Colorado Rapids 10:30pm ESPN/TSN
July 13 Toronto vs DC United 9am ESPN2/TSN
July 13 Los Angeles FC vs Houston Dynamo 8pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 13 LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers 10:30pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 14 Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders 9am ESPN/TSN
July 14 Orlando City vs. New York City 8pm TUDN/TSN
July 14 Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami 10:30 p.m. TUDN/TSN
July 15 Montreal Impact vs Toronto 8pm TUDN/TSN
July 15 Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes 10:30pm TUDN/TSN
July 16 Atlanta United vs FC Cincinnati 9am ESPN/TSN
July 16 DC United vs New England Revolution 8pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 16 Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls 10:30pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 17 Sporting Kansas City vs Colorado Rapids 8pm ESPN/TSN
July 17 Real Salt Lake vs Minnesota United 10:30pm ESPN/TSN
July 18 Portland Timbers vs Houston Dynamo 8pm ESPN/TSN
July 18 Los Angeles FC vs LA Galaxy 10:30pm ESPN/TSN
July 19 Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes 8pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 19 Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps 10:30pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 20 Inter Miami vs. New York City 9am ESPN/TSN
July 20 Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City 8pm TUDN/TSN
July 21 Toronto vs New England Revolution 9am ESPN/TSN
July 21 Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew 8pm TUDN/TSN
July 21 Montreal Impact vs DC United 10:30pm TUDN/TSN
July 22 Real Salt Lake vs Sporting Kansas City 9am ESPN/TSN
July 22 FC Cincinnati vs New York Red Bulls 8pm ESPN/TSN
July 22 Colorado Rapids vs Minnesota United 10:30pm ESPN/TSN
July 23 Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps 9am ESPN/TSN
July 23 LA Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo 8pm FS1/TUDN/TSN
July 23 Los Angeles FC vs Portland Timbers 10:30pm ESPN 2/TSN
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What channel are MLS games on?

  • U.S.: ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1 and TUDN
  • Canada: TSN

MLS games will be televised by the ESPN and Fox networks, along with TUDN, in the U.S., and TSN in Canada.

Games on Fox, FS1 and TUDN in the U.S. are also available to stream via fuboTV, which offers a seven-day free trial.

Explaining the MLS is Back format, groups

The MLS is Back Tournament is constructed similar to a World Cup — a 24-team World Cup.

There are 24 teams in the tournament following the departures of FC Dallas and Nashville SC, and MLS had to adjust the original format. There are six groups, with Eastern Conference teams split into groups A, C and E. Western Conference teams are in groups B, D and F, with the exception of the Chicago Fire, an Eastern team that was moved to Group B to account for the withdrawals. Each team will play three group stage matches. 

The top two teams in each group advance to the 16-team knockout round.

The other four spots will be taken by the teams that finish third with the most points.

The knockout rounds begin with the Round of 16 between July 25-28, with two games contested each day. The championship game will be played Aug. 11. The winner receives automatic entry to the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.

Here are how the teams are broken down by group: 

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Group B Group D Group F
Seattle Sounders Real Salt Lake Los Angeles FC
Chicago Fire Sporting KC LA Galaxy
Vancouver Whitecaps Colorado Rapids Houston Dynamo
San Jose Earthquakes Minnesota United Portland Timbers

Where is the MLS is Back tournament?

  • MLS is Back site: Orlando

The tournament will be staged at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, which contains 17 fields that can be employed for soccer training or competition.

Disney opened the complex in 1997, and it contains a basketball field house and other courts that will be used for the NBA’s return, as well as baseball and softball fields and a track.