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Major League Soccer to resume season with Florida tournament starting July 8

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The NBA won't be the only game taking over the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in July. Major League Soccer has announced its return with a 26-team tournament in Orlando, after teams played just two games before pausing for the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The MLS Is Back Tournament will get underway July 8, MLS tweeted Wednesday. It will include a group stage followed by knockout rounds, and the winner of the tourney will earn a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League. The results of the group stage will count toward the regular season, which the league hopes to resume with teams playing in their home cities following the tournament.

Here is the schedule of the tournament:

  • July 8: Group Stage begins
  • July 25-28: Round of 16
  • July 30-August 1: Quarterfinals
  • August 5-6: Semifinals
  • August 11: Final

"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," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a press release announcing the league's return. "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."

The MLS website said health protocols will be in place and players will be tested for COVID-19 before they leave for Orlando; clubs will begin arriving there as early as June 24 for preseason training.

"We do need to manage social distancing. We will have that in place. We will need to manage facemasks and other PPE. For anybody that is involved in this project, we will have sanitizing and other things like temperature checks and the like for those that are involved in hotels and involved in housekeeping and the like. But those are not our employees," Garber said. "We're confident, having gone through this protocol, both with our own infectious disease doctor but also in sharing that with the MLSPA's infectious disease adviser, and also with the state authorities."

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