For the first time in three months, we know exactly where the next Columbus Crew SC game will be played and who they will be playing. MLS is back! The league will return to play in early July with a World Cup-style tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida.
The draw for the group stage occurred on Thursday afternooon. The Black & Gold were drawn into Group E with in-state rivals FC Cincinnati, 2018 MLS Cup champions Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls for the MLS is Back Tournament. The fulls groups are as follows:
Group A: Orlando City, Inter Miami, New York City FC, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire, Nashville SC
Group B: Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps, San Jose Earthquakes
Group C: Toronto FC, New England Revolution, Montreal Impact, D.C. United
Group D: Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United
Group E: Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew
Group F: Los Angeles Football Club C, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, Portland Timbers
The draw has given us some major MLS rivalry matches for the group stage in July. The tournament will begin with the first Florida Derby between Orlando City and expansion side Inter Miami. Fans will see another Hell is Real clash between Columbus and Cincinnati. El Trafico will write another chapter, with LAFC against the Galaxy. Finally, there will be a Cascadia Cup game between Seattle and Vancouver in Group B.
Columbus will travel to Orlando in early to continue preparations for the team’s three group games against Atlanta, Cincinnati and New York. The Crew began individual training last month before recently progressing to group sessions. The Black & Gold await approval to begin full-team training, which should be approved late next week.
The group stage matches will determine which sides advance to the Round of 16 of the tournament, as well as award regular season points when the 2020 resumes at an undetermined later date. MLS hopes to begin regular season games in home markets shortly after the MLS is Back Tournament is complete.
The points system will be identical to the regular season: three points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. Even if the Crew are not among the top-two teams in Group E, which automatically qualify for the knockout round, Columbus can still advance to the Round of 16 if the team is among the best four third-placed teams. In the knockout round, any matches that result in a draw will go straight to a penalty shootout.
The full tournament schedule will be released later. Come back to Massive Reports for more updates as we get closed to MLS play returning.