Major League Soccer returns to action on July 8th with their “MLS Is Back Tournament” in Orlando. The tournament will feature six groups, five of which will have four teams and one will have six teams. After pool play, the Round of 16 will start on July 25 with the top four teams and the four best third place finishers. There will be four rounds of knockout play with the tournament winner claiming the league’s CONCACAF Champions League berth.
As the host city, Orlando City SC was placed atop the six-team Group A. Additionally, Inter Miami CF was included and those two squads will square off to open the tournament on the 8th.
The league held the draw, and it felt a little like maybe the fix was in once the top team in each group started selecting its teams. The top team in each group included Orlando City SC, the four semifinalists from last year’s MLS Cup Playoffs, and Real Salt Lake with the next highest points total in the Western Conference from the 2019 season.
The top teams were randomly assigned to different groups, and then they got to pick from numbered balls for determining the teams in their group. A person could say “W7” and that ball was opened for them and the team assigned to their group. They made it appear random, but quite a few rivalries were assigned to each group. They were not all loaded with their rivals, but it was enough to leave us scratching our heads.
That being said, it’s a made-for-TV tournament to get the season started, and it’s probably better that they find as many rivalries as they could. This will hopefully boost the viewing audience above and beyond the diehards. Below are the full list of group assignments.