MLS is back. The league announced on Wednesday, June 10 that it will be resuming its season on July 8 with a leaguewide tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The league’s 26 teams will be split into six groups for the tournament which will be held without fans. All teams will play three group matches with the top 16 teams advancing to the knockout round and the winner earning a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
MLS last played a game on March 12 before suspending the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“From the very beginning we said anything we do has to ensure that we’re going to protect the health and safety of our players, all of the staff that will be accompanying them and those that are going to be working the tournament,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.
“There will be testing for those who are traveling down to Orlando before they leave and when they arrive. There will be testing regularly during the competition in the training that will precede it. And staff will be tested as well.”
The final match will be played on August 11 and the prize pool for the tournament is $1.1 million.
“When we first put together the tournament concept at Disney, we just were very uncertain about when we’d be able to return to our stadiums in our own markets,” Garber said. “We thought why don’t we get them all together, get 26 teams together in one neutral site, play games every day and get our players back on the field for our fans. But very importantly doing it with games of consequence – a total prize pool of a million dollars and the winner getting a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“All of this is our best foot forward to do what we can in an exciting, compelling, and meaningful way to return to play for 2020.”
The coronavirus outbreak has led to the cancellation or postponing of many large events including The Masters, NCAA Tournament, Coachella, SXSW, the Winter X Games, Stagecoach, Ultra Music Festival in Miami, and more. The NBA, NHL, and MLS temporarily suspended their seasons.
The coronavirus mainly comes from animals and a majority of those who were infected early either worked at or frequently visited the Huanan seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, according to The Guardian. The virus is similar to Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers).
The Wuhan coronavirus is transmitted from person to person through “droplet transmission.” That means an infected person can pass the virus by sneezing or coughing on another person as well as by direct contact.
While a majority of the cases have been detected in the United States and China — with more than 100,000 deaths in the United States — it has now reached many countries around the world. It has also been confirmed in Italy, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and many other eastern countries.