FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (June 13, 2020) — MLS announced that Inter Miami would be placed in Group A of the MLS is Back competition alongside Orlando City. It was also announced that the two teams will kick off the tournament against one another on July 8.
- All 26 MLS teams; matches at ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports
- Group stage followed by knockout rounds
- Group stage counts toward regular season
- Winner earns 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot (unless it is a Canadian team)
- Regular season continues after tournament
The announcement came approximately 90 minutes before the “random” draw for the MLS is Back tournament began.
As previously explained, the 26 MLS teams were divided into six groups, three east from the Eastern and Western Conferences. Orlando, Toronto and Atlanta were seeded teams in the eastern groups, while Seattle, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles FC were the three seeds in the west.
The oddity was that Group A, where Orlando City was seeded, has six teams, although each team will only play three matches and the fourth-place team will be automatically eliminated from the knockout stages no matter its point total.
From there, the rest of the teams in each group were decided by staging a draw. While there was always going to be some natural rivalries expected given the competition format, many have said that the groupings were fixed in advance. The draw’s unconventional format where a number was assigned to each team, combined with the lack of any independent auditor only served to increase the suspicion. The sole piece of logic that came out of it was a geographic ephipany on the part of the league by placing Nashville into the Eastern Conference.
Video of the draw did little to counter the apparent staging.
In the end, the made-for-television event got the match-ups that have the greatest potential to draw fan interest: Miami-Orlando City; New York City-Philadelphia, Los Angeles Galaxy-LAFC, Montreal-New England, Columbus-Cincinnati, Seattle-Vancouver and Salt Lake-Colorado are among the teams that will face each other in the group stage.
The complete groups and brackets can be found here.
But for the sake of transparency, it would have been better for the league’s image to simply announce the groupings along with a statement that the groups were set up to emphasize natural rivalries and maximize interest in the tournament.