MIAMI, Fla. — (10 June 2020) Today, MLS announced what we already knew: The league will stage a made-for-television tournament to get back to playing games. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 virus is still present in the United States, MLS has decided to return to play. The MLS is Back Tournament is set to take place from July 8-August 11 at the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports complex. The league has been in suspension since March 12 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is a guide to the tournament and what Inter Miami’s participation in it will look like:
What is the format?
The month-long tournament will be similar to a FIFA World Cup. All 26 current MLS clubs will participate in the tournament, with teams being drawn into five groups of four teams each, and one group of six teams.
The six groups will be separated into three for the Eastern and three for the Western Conference. The live draw will be streamed Thursday, June 11, at 3:30 p.m. ET on MLSsoccer.com and the official MLS Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.
Inter Miami will play a minimum of three group stage matches with a typical point structure: three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero for a loss. The twist is that these group stage matches count toward the MLS regular season table.
After the group stage, the top two finishers in each group together with the four best third place finishers will advance to the knockout rounds, leaving 16 teams in the competition. In the knockout rounds, matches that end in a draw at the end of regulation will go directly to penalty kicks — no extra time. The following procedure (in order of priority) will be used to determine which third-placed clubs advance from the group stage:
- Total number of points
- Goal differential
- Goals for
- Fewest Disciplinary Points
Each team will be allowed five substitutions per match, following the temporary protocol established by The International Football Association Board, and Video Review will be in effect for each match. In addition, teams may name up to 23 players on each official match day roster. As all teams will be centralized in one location, there will be no home or away team designations.
When are the games?
The ‘MLS is Back Tournament’ begins July 8.
The dates for each round of the tournament are as follows:
- Group stage: July 8 – July 23
- Round of 16: July 25 – 28
- Quarterfinals: July 30 – August 1
- Semifinals: August 5 – August 6
- Final: August 11
In total, the tournament will run for 35 days. Inter Miami’s full schedule is expected to be released in the coming days.
Where is it?
The tournament will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Bay Lake, Florida. The 220-acre complex sits near the Walt Disney World Resort and features a number of available fields.
How can I watch?
Not in person. The matches will be closed to the public.
Every game of the tournament will be conveniently televised. It is expected that one game will be at 9:00 am and two others will be in the evening at 8 and 10:00 pm ET, to keep the players out of the daytime extreme heat and to allow for the best possible television ratings. Full details on the broadcast schedule and how Inter Miami fans can tune in are expected to be announced in the near future.
What does the winner receive?
As mentioned, the group stage results count towards MLS regular season standings.
The winner of the tournament will also receive an automatic 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League berth. Players will also have opportunities to earn bonuses from a $1.1 million prize pool.
Inter Miami fans can expect a yet-to-be-determined regular season calendar.
The revised plans call for no inter-conference play which cuts down on travel and makes it possible for teams only to compete against teams from their side of the league. The final number of matches and the schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season will be announced in the coming weeks. Per prior reports, the goal ideally is to complete the season prior to December 31, 2020.
Will Inter Miami players and staff be safe?
To answer this question, please consult your crystal ball.
Seriously though, MLS says the safety of all involved is of utmost importance. The league has a detailed protocol in an effort to ensure the safety of players and staff.
PCR tests will be administered twice and a Serology test once for each travelling member of the Club prior to departure. PCR tests will also be administered upon arrival (Day 1) followed by full team training. Testing will continue every other day during the first two weeks, and continue regularly once matches begin (including the day before a match), and temperature screening and completion of standardized screening questionnaires will be required for all individuals traveling to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or providing services at the hotel and convention center where MLS league and club personnel will be staying. A positive response to the daily questionnaire or a temperature check above 100.3 degrees must be reported and the individual in question will be isolated immediately and PCR testing will be performed.
What does this mean for ticket holders?
Right now, there are no plans to have games with fans in attendance in 2020.
Inter Miami says ticket holders for the 2020 season will be contacted directly by their account representative in the coming days.
If there are no games with fans in attendance in 2020, Inter Miami will most likely want to apply monies paid to next season’s ticket packages, although fans have the right to request a refund. Fans should speak with their ticket representative.
League-wide details on the tournament can be found here.