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MLS to join NBA in Walt Disney World

The US’s top football league, Major League Soccer (MLS), has announced plans to return in July with a month-long ‘World Cup-style’ tournament.

Following in the footsteps of the NBA, the ‘MLS is Back’ tournament will be played in its entirety at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida without fans in attendance.

Group stage matches will count in the MLS regular season standings and the tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. All 26 teams in the MLS will compete.

Broadcast on Disney’s ESPN networks, the tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day, with games beginning at 9 am, 8 pm. and 10:30 pm. EDT.  Each team will play three group stage matches, and, after 16 consecutive days of group stage matches, the top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage. The knockout stage will include a Round-of-16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and the Championship match will take place on August 11.

The tournament will take place between July 8-August 11, with hopes that it can then resume the regular season – which was stopped after two weeks due to the ongoing pandemic.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said: “We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer. The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play.

“We also recognize that the death of George Floyd and others has focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women. Together with our owners, players and staff, the League and its Clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long.”

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro said: “Sports have the power to unify and inspire, particularly during challenging times and we’re looking forward to bringing this exciting sport back to millions of fans, while prioritising the health and well-being of the players, coaches and support staff as well as our cast members.”

While this tournament is going on, the NBA will look to wrap up its 2019-20 season in the same facility from July 31. This will be a 22-team, eight-game wrap-up to the regular season followed by a possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed and playoffs.