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Watch: Crew fans send off team to MLS is Back Tournament

Black & Gold supporters came out in droves

Sam Fahmi

Columbus Crew SC is on its way to Orlando, Florida to take part in the MLS is Back Tournament. Major League Soccer’s return-to-play format, after the coronavirus pandemic, is set to begin on July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament.

On Sunday, the Black & Gold players, coaches and team staff departed for what will be at least a three-week trip and could extend more than a month depending on the team’s performance. The team met at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take buses to the airport to fly to Orlando.

As they pulled out, at least 100 Crew fans greeted the team on Silver Dr., working through the chants and songs the supporters haven’t been able to use since MLS went on hiatus in mid-March. Head coach Caleb Porter and club captain Jonathan Mensah each got out of the bus to wave to the fans and thank them for coming out and supporting.

Prior to the break, Columbus went 1-0-1 in the first two games of the 2020 MLS season with and win against New York City FC at home and a draw against the Seattle Sounders on the road. The Crew will have a chance to improve on that record in the MLS is Back Tournament, where the group stage games will count toward the regular season standings.

Columbus was drawn into Group E along with Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and the New York Red Bulls.

If the Black & Gold can advance to the knockout round of the tournament, more than $1 million in prize money and a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The Crew have a unique approach to the tournament, viewing the group stage games as the regular season, with a focus on the MLS Cup, and the knockout round similarly to the U.S. Open Cup.

Columbus begins the MLS is Back Tournament on Saturday, July 11 against Hell is Real rivals Cincinnati.