The Major League Soccer (MLS) returns in the night from Wednesday to Thursday (Dutch time) in a special way with the MLS is Back Tournament. The season resumes at Disney World in Orlando, Florida with strict measures. What awaits Frank de Boer and the debuting Jaap Stam?
The regular season in the United States was stopped in early March after two rounds of play due to the corona crisis. Playing out in the usual way (with or without an audience) was not an option for the MLS: clubs had to make too many long journeys and that resulted in unnecessary risks.
The organization of the competition decided in June to continue the competition with a tournament format. That tournament will take place between July 8 and August 11 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. "This way we have the opportunity to have all clubs play in a controlled environment," said MLS boss Don Garber at the time.
Originally, all clubs from the MLS would participate in the tournament, but it became clear on Tuesday that FC Dallas is excluded from participation. At Dallas, ten players and a member of the technical staff have tested positive for the corona virus.
The selection of Los Angeles FC was waved off by fans before leaving for Orlando. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Group matches count for regular season
The other 25 MLS teams are divided into six groups, where they can qualify for the knockout phase. Eastern Conference teams sit together in the group, as do Western Conference teams. For the time being, there is one group with six teams, four groups with four teams and one group with three teams. It is not yet clear whether the exclusion of FC Dallas is still in the groups.
The numbers one and two of each group qualify for the knockout phase, just like the four best numbers three. The winner of the final, to be held on August 11, will secure a ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2021. The final will be between an Eastern Conference team and a Western Conference team. As in Europe, this tournament is allowed to change five times during matches.
All group stage matches count towards the regular MLS season. It is not yet known when that can be resumed, but the MLS is working on a new post-tournament schedule in Orlando that will allow games to be played the 'old-fashioned' way.
The Dutch in the MLS
- Atlanta United: Frank de Boer (trainer)
- Columbus Crew: Vito Wormgoor, Eloy Room, Youness Mokhtar
- Los Angeles FC: Kenneth Vermeer
- Seattle Sounders FC: Kelvin Leerdam
- New England Revolution: Alexander Büttner
- San Jose Earthquakes: Danny Hoesen
- Chicago Fire: Johan Kappelhof
- Philadelphia Union: Jamiro Monteiro
- FC Cincinnati: Jaap Stam (trainer), Maikel van der Werff, Siem de Jong, Jürgen Locadia
Jaap Stam will make his debut during the tournament as a trainer of FC Cincinnati. (Photo: Pro Shots)
MLS takes strict security measures
The MLS, together with health experts, has made a plan to continue testing all players, staff and other personnel throughout the tournament. It is intended that everyone involved be tested for the corona virus every two days.
All players are required to stay in a hotel for the entire tournament, must keep their distance from each other and wear face masks. If someone is tested positive for the coronavirus, that person is immediately set aside. It does not mean that a team is immediately taken out of the tournament.
Due to the strict safety requirements, the total 54 games at the tournament in Orlando will be played without an audience. The tournament starts in the night from Wednesday to Thursday with Orlando City-Inter Miami (kick-off 2.00 am). The game between Nashville SC and Chicago Fire, which would also be played on the first day, has already been postponed due to five corona cases at Nashville.
Atlanta United (De Boer) and FC Cincinnati (Stam) sit together in the group and start the tournament in the night from Saturday to Sunday.
All players were immediately tested for the corona virus upon arrival in Orlando. (Photo: Pro Shots)