The MLS is Back Tournament is coming to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida in early July. That much we knew. We also knew the groups for the tournament, with Columbus Crew SC in Group E along with Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and the New York Red Bulls. What we didn’t know is who plays when in Major League Soccer’s return-to-play format.
On Wednesday, Sam Stejskal of The Athletic reported the full schedule from the MLS is Back Tournament, including all of the Crew group stage games. Already MLS has made changes to the schedule and the format, as Massive Report reported earlier this month that the Black & Gold would play their first game on Sunday, July 12. That has now been changed to Saturday, July 11. Massive Report can confirm this schedule
On that Saturday, according to Stejskal, the Crew will face in-state rivals Cincinnati. That game is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Columbus’ next game will come against the New York Red Bulls on Thursday, July 16. This game will also air on FOX Sports 1 at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Crew’s final group stage match will take place on Tuesday, July 21 at 8 p.m. ET on TUDN, formerly Univision.
The knockout stages for the MLS is Back Tournament will begin on July 25 with the Round of 16, which will run through July 28. The quarterfinals will take place on Thursday, July 30, Friday July 31 (one game each day) and Saturday, Aug. 1 (two games), The semifinals are set to take place on Wednesday, Aug. 5 and Thursday, Aug. 6 with the final of the MLS is Back Tournament scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 11.
One change in format to note is that top three teams in Group A, which is the only group with six teams, will advance to the Knockout Round. The top two teams from the other groups and the three third place finishers will advance as well. The group stage games will count toward the MLS standings for 2020 while the winner of the MLS is Back Tournament will receive over $1 million in prize money and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
MLS plans to return to play in home cities following the MLS is Back Tournament, hopefully with fans in the stadiums. The league is planning for an 18-22 game resumption of the 2020 season, which saw just two games played by each team before the coronavirus pandemic caused the league to postpone its young season.