MLS is Back tournament updated schedule, TV channels, format & more to know about 2020 restart

Sporting News

In the days after the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the world was declared by the World Health Organization to be a global pandemic, every major sports organization in the world shut down in the hope joining the quarantine would help prevent the disease from inflicting even greater damage.

Until recently, the only elite team sport leagues that managed to successfully return have been in soccer: among them the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga in Europe, NWSL here in the United States.

Major League Soccer launched its attempt this week with the MLS is Back Tournament.

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MORE: Watch MLS action on fuboTV (free seven-day trial)

The league determined the quickest route to get its players back into action and onto the field would be to create a “bubble” in one particular location with sufficient hotel space and practice fields to accommodate all its teams. That led them to Orlando, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

However, Florida gradually (and then rapidly) became one of the hottest areas in the country relative to spread of the coronavirus, leading to concern about the ability of the officials to prevent COVID-19 from penetrating the MLS bubble.

That was not helped when multiple members of the FC Dallas squad tested positive for the virus after arriving in Orlando and several more were discovered the in succeeding days. Monday, Dallas was excused from the tournament. The league ultimately added Nashville SC to the withdrawn list, after a total of nine players tested positive and the team had to shut down training. The Colorado Rapids delayed their flight to Orlando because of two positive tests. Because of the two withdrawals, the Chicago Fire were moved from Group A to Group B, giving the tournament six four-team groups.

Overall, though, MLS has had relatively few players produce positive COVID tests and should be able to complete its tournament — so long as the bubble approach keeps the virus confined to the outside world.

All games from the tournament group stages will count toward teams’ regular-season records. MLS hopes to resume competition in home venues (with or without spectators) subsequent to completion of the MLS is Back Tournament.

When does the MLS is Back tournament start?

  • MLS restart date: July 8

The opening game was Wednesday, July 8, matching Orlando City and Inter Miami CF, one of two new franchises in the league for 2020. Both teams had played two games at the time the league shut down in early March.

Orlando City, led by longtime Manchester United regular Nani, had split its first two games. Inter has a potential league star in midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro and still is searching for its first MLS victory. Nani wound up scoring the game-winning goal in added time for a 2-1 Orlando City victory.

The first morning match, matching the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC, occurred Thursday, July 9, with the Union earning a 1-0 victory.

The first "West Coast" start, a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff, was on July 11, a Hell is Real Derby between FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew. The Crew rolled to a 4-0 victory.

MORE: FC Dallas' removal not a sign that MLS is Back tournament needs to go

MLS is Back schedule 2020

  • Group play: July 8-23

  • Round of 16: July 25-28

  • Quarterfinals: July 30-Aug. 1

  • Semifinals: Aug. 5-6

  • Championship: Aug. 11

Date

Match

Kickoff time (ET)

TV

July 8

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF

8 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 9

New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 9

Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution

8 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 10

Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes

9 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 11

Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls

8 p.m.

Fox/TUDN/TSN

July 11

FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew

10:30 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 12

Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United

8 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 12

Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids

10:30 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 13

Toronto FC vs. D.C. United

9 a.m.

ESPN2/TSN

July 13

Los Angeles FC vs. Houston Dynamo

8 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 13

LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers

10:30 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 14

Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 14

Orlando City vs. New York City FC

8 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 14

Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami CF

10:30 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 15

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC

8 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 15

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes

10:30 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 16

Atlanta United vs. FC Cincinnati

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 16

D.C. United vs. New England Revolution

8 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 16

Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls

10:30 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 17

Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids

8 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 17

Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United

10:30 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 18

Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo

8 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 18

Los Angeles FC vs. LA Galaxy

10:30 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 19

Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes

8 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 19

Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

10:30 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 20

Inter Miami CF vs. New York City FC

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 20

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City

8 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 21

Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 21

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew

8 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 21

Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United

10:30 p.m.

TUDN/TSN

July 22

Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 22

FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls

8 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 22

Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United

10:30 p.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 23

Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

9 a.m.

ESPN/TSN

July 23

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo

8 p.m.

FS1/TUDN/TSN

July 23

Los Angeles FC vs. Portland Timbers

10:30 p.m.

ESPN 2/TSN

Round of 16

Date

Time (ET)

Game

TV/live stream

July 25

8 p.m.

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact

ESPN 2 (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 25

10:30 p.m.

Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution

ESPN 2 (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 26

8:30 p.m.

Toronto FC vs. New York City FC

FS1/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 26

11 p.m.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

FS1/fubo/TV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 27

8:30 p.m.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake

FS1/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 27

11 p.m.

Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles FC

FS1/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 28

8 p.m.

Columbus Crew vs. Minnesota United

ESPN (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 28

10:30 p.m.

Portland Timbers vs. FC Cincinnati

ESPN (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

Quarterfinals

Date

Time

Game

TV

July 30

8 p.m.

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City

ESPN (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

July 31

7:30 p.m.

Orlando City vs. Los Angeles FC

FS1/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

Aug. 1

8 p.m.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United

ESPN2/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

Aug. 1

10:30 p.m.

New York City FC vs. Portland Timbers

FS1/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

Semifinals

Aug 5, 8 p.m., FS1/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

Aug. 6, 8 p.m., ESPN2/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

Final

Aug. 11, 8 p.m., ESPN/fuboTV (U.S.), TSN (CAN)

What channel are MLS games on?

  • U.S.: ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1 and TUDN

  • Canada: TSN

MLS games will be televised by the ESPN and Fox networks, along with TUDN, in the U.S., and TSN in Canada.

Games on Fox, FS1 and TUDN in the U.S. are also available to stream via fuboTV, which offers a seven-day free trial. Starting Aug. 1, games on ESPN and ESPN2 are also on fuboTV.

Explaining the MLS is Back format, groups

The MLS is Back Tournament is constructed similar to a World Cup — a 24-team World Cup.

There are 24 teams in the tournament following the departures of FC Dallas and Nashville SC, and MLS had to adjust the original format. There are six groups, with Eastern Conference teams split into groups A, C and E. Western Conference teams are in groups B, D and F, with the exception of the Chicago Fire, an Eastern team that was moved to Group B to account for the withdrawals. Each team will play three group stage matches.

The top two teams in each group advance to the 16-team knockout round.

The other four spots will be taken by the teams that finish third with the most points.

The knockout rounds begin with the Round of 16 between July 25-28, with two games contested each day. The championship game will be played Aug. 11. The winner receives automatic entry to the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.

Here are how the teams are broken down by group:

Eastern Conference

Group A

Group C

Group E

Orlando City SC

Toronto FC

Atlanta United

Inter Miami CF

New England Revolution

FC Cincinnati

New York City FC

Montreal Impact

New York Red Bulls

Philadelphia Union

D.C. United

Columbus Crew

Western Conference

Group B

Group D

Group F

Seattle Sounders

Real Salt Lake

Los Angeles FC

Chicago Fire

Sporting KC

LA Galaxy

Vancouver Whitecaps

Colorado Rapids

Houston Dynamo

San Jose Earthquakes

Minnesota United

Portland Timbers

Where is the MLS is Back tournament?

  • MLS is Back site: Orlando, Fla.

The tournament will be staged at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, which contains 17 fields that can be employed for soccer training or competition.

Disney opened the complex in 1997, and it contains a basketball fieldhouse and other courts that will be used for the NBA’s return, as well as baseball and softball fields and a track.

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