With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe, the world took a pause to look on. Sports of all kinds, including football, had to go on an enforced hiatus for an indefinite period, which meant all kinds of tournaments had to be cancelled. The Olympic Games in Tokyo and what would have been the 100th anniversary of the European Championship were the postponed headliners. With football back in full swing for most major European countries,, the MLS is one football league that is now just making their competitive return. Kicking off July 8, Major League Soccer (MLS) returns with the MLS is Back Tournament set for the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort.
For many Jamaicans, especially the ones who consider the MLS to be “bush league”, here’s a quick refresher on the usual setup of the league.
The MLS season traditionally runs from March through to December; with the regular season concluding in October. The league normally takes a conference style, regular/postseason format akin to the NBA, where teams are separated in Eastern and Western Conferences. Teams (ordinarily) play their conference rivals twice (home and away) and play their non-conference opposition once. The scheduling of those games can sometimes throw the unwitting spectator for a loop. With the MLS being played in such a large country (two actually with 3 Canadian teams also involved) the scheduling can be a hassle with all the traveling and expenses involved. It then becomes easier to play up to three games within a specified region of the country before moving on to play out another string of fixtures in a different region.
This year’s MLS season has a new look, which may very well result in many more fans watching the league from countries outside the US. There is a definitely a European Championship feel to the new MLS setup, this should bring more excitement from the league to the more genuine football fans.
This new tournament style MLS season would make it easier to follow for even the non-MLS fan. The tournament, set for Orlando, has four groups of 4 teams and one group of 6 teams (which will be Group A). The top 3 teams from Group A and the top 2 teams from the other groups will automatically advance for the next round. The next best 3 teams will also advance to complete the Round of 16. From there, it’s a straight knockout; with winning teams progressing to the quarterfinals onwards. The group stages will constitute the ‘regular season’ for the 2020 season in the records of the league. And as usual the winner of the MLS Cup will be in the CONCACAF Champions League for the following season.
The tournament runs from July 8 through to the finals on August 11. For all the Jamaican football fans that claim that the MLS is not an attractive professional league to follow, this is your best chance yet to see the MLS at its most intense.
Group A (Eastern Conference)
1. Orlando City SC
2. Inter Miami CF
3. New York City FC
4. Philadelphia Union
5. Chicago Fire FC
6. Nashville SC
Group B (Western Conference) 1. Seattle Sounders FC
2. FC Dallas – withdrawn
3. Vancouver Whitecaps
4. San Jose Earthquakes
Group C (Eastern Conference) 1. Toronto FC
2. New England Revolution
3. Montreal Impact
4. D.C. United
Group D (Western Conference) 1. Real Salt Lake
2. Sporting Kansas City 3. Colorado Rapids 4. Minnesota United FC
Group E (Eastern Conference) 1. Atlanta United FC
2. FC Cincinnati
3. New York Red Bulls
4. Columbus Crew SC
Group F (Western Conference) 1. LAFC
2. LA Galaxy
3. Houston Dynamo
4. Portland Timbers