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MLS is Back tournament viewing info

MLS is Back: Group stage fixtures, TV schedule, dates, broadcasters, format, prizes

June 11, 2020 By Michelle Bonsu
The 2020 MLS is Back tournament will restart the 2020 MLS season after an interruption due to COVID-19. Here's all you need to know to follow the tournament, which starts on July 8th.

Although COVID-19 has really caused a lot of problems worldwide after rapidly spreading from China to every single inhabited continent, things finally seem to be getting back to some sort of tentative "normality". Sports are slowly making a comeback, with many European leagues getting up and running, and now the same is happening in the US as well. Fans of MLS can finally celebrate, as the league is set to resume action in under a month with the 2020 MLS is Back competition kicking off to re-start the 2020 MLS season that was interrupted due to the global pandemic.

Here's all you need to know ahead of the upcoming tournament.

When does the 2020 MLS is Back tournament begin?

The inaugural MLS is Back tournament will begin on July 8th and conclude on August 11th. A total of 54 games will be played over the course of the competition.

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Are there any restrictions at the 2020 MLS is Back tournament due to COVID-19?

Yes. Just like the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, the 2020 MLS is Back tournament will be played behind closed doors. Players are also required to arrive no later than seven days before the competition starts, and will have to undergo two exams prior to traveling to Orlando. Once they arrive, they will be tested again, and then housed in a specially designated "village" for the duration of the event. While there, all players and staff will be tested every other day for the first fortnight, and then on a regular basis throughout the tournament - especially the day before games.

Social distancing will be strictly enforced. That means no swapping jerseys, trying to keep an acceptable distance when sitting on the bench, and being careful when spitting or blowing one's nose. Masks and other face shields will be required during press conferences, post-match interviews, and sitting on the bench. In addition, players won't be sharing water bottles like they used to - so fans won't be seeing a couple of players taking a spritz of water from the same bottle during a quick break in play anymore.

What teams are featuring in the 2020 MLS is Back tournament?

All 26 teams currently in MLS will be featuring in the MLS is Back tournament. The teams are broken down into seeded (6) and unseeded (20).

Each conference (Eastern and Western) will have seeded and unseeded teams. The six seeded teams are:

  • Orlando City (Eastern Conference)
  • Atlanta United (Eastern Conference)
  • Toronto FC (Eastern Conference)
  • LAFC (Western Conference)
  • Seattle Sounders (Western Conference)
  • Real Salt Lake (Western Conference)

The other 20 teams, which are unseeded are:

Eastern Conference: Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, Inter Miami, Montreal Impact, Nashville SC, New England Revolution, NYC FC, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union

Western Conference: Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver Whitecaps 

What is the MLS is Back tournament's format?

The MLS is Back tournament first begins with the group draw on June 11th. The 26 teams are split into six groups, which is made up of five groups of four and one group of six. In this, the Eastern Conference will have one group of six and two groups of four. The Western Conference will have three groups of four teams.

This is because the Eastern Conference has more teams (14) than the Western Conference (12).

The six seeded teams will include hosts Orlando, as well as the four 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs semi-finalists - Atlanta, LAFC, Seattle Sounders, and Toronto. Real Salt Lake gains a seed as they earned the next highest number of points in the Western Conference during the 2019 MLS season. Each seed is placed into a group, and then the other 20 teams are placed into the six groups accordingly.

UPDATE - MLS Is Back tournament groups:

Due to modifications by the IFAB as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and teams having to cram in more fixtures per week to make up for lost time, five subs will be allowed in this tournament instead of the usual three. Each club has three chances to make a change in a game. However, changes at half-time do not count against the three opportunities each club is given to make a substitution.

Teams will be able to name a max of 12 subs, which is a significant increase in the usual MLS allotment of seven.

Like other major tournaments, the MLS is Back competition begins with the group stages. Each team plays a total of three matches. A caveat, though - only teams in Groups B through F will play every single team once. That's because they are quartets (four teams per group).

Teams in Group A - the group in the Eastern Conference that has six teams - will not play every single team once. They will only play three out of their five other competitors.

The group winners, group runners-up, and four best third-placed clubs advance to the knockout rounds, which are made up of a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final.

Finally, players will earn further bonuses from a prize pool worth $1.1 million for participating in this tournament.

In the knock-out stages of MLS is Back, will there be extra-time if a game ends in a draw after 90 minutes?

No. If there's a draw after regulation time, the match will go straight to penalties.

What is the MLS is Back tournament's TV schedule?

Matches will be played at three different times during the day, with most games being played in the evenings. The kick off times for games are:

- 06:00 PST/09:00 EST

- 17:00 PST/20:00 EST

- 19:30 PST/22:30 EST

What are the key dates for the MLS is Back tournament?

The key dates for the 2020 MLS is Back tournament are as follows:

  • Group stage matches will start on July 8
  • Round of 16 matches will start on July 25 and end on July 28
  • Quarter-finals matches will be played on July 30 and end on August 1
  • Semi-finals matches will be played on August 5 and August 6
  • Final match will be played on August 11

MLS is Back broadcasters: TV and streaming guide

ESPN and its sister networks will be providing coverage of the 2020 MLS is Back tournament for fans in the US. Live streaming and on-demand access are available via ESPN's app ESPN+.

Check back on our dedicated MLS broadcast page for detailed information regarding additional broadcast information for the upcoming 2020 MLS is Back tournament.

How does MLS is Back impact the regular MLS season or CONCACAF Champions League?

The MLS is Back tournament does have an impact on the regular MLS season. Here's how.

How a team goes in the group stage phase will have a role in their 2020 MLS regular season standings, but their performance in the knockout stage phase does not have any role whatsoever.

As for the CONCACAF Champions League, the winner of the MLS is Back tournament will gain an automatic ticket to the 2021 CONCACF Champions League tournament.

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