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Details emerge on plan to restart MLS season

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Teams would be split into four groups, play at least five games in Orlando then hopefully continue regular season at home stadiums, according to a report in The Athletic.

Jeremiah Oshan / Sounder at Heart

Despite increasingly vocal concerns from players, details of Major League Soccer’s plan to restart the season with some sort of tournament are coming into focus.

As previously reported, MLS hopes to bring all 26 teams to Orlando in early June, allow them to train for several weeks and then hold a tournament starting around July 3. Players would effectively be quarantined for about two months.

These are the new details, as first reported by The Athletic:

  • Teams being split into four groups, with three of them containing six teams and one of them containing eight teams.
  • Two groups would be made up of Western Conference teams with the MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders in one and Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC in the other.
  • The other two groups would be made up of Eastern Conference teams with the addition of Nashville SC, who would apparently temporarily switch conferences for the rest of 2020. One of those groups would contain Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC and it sounds as if the other would have host Orlando City SC.
  • The teams would all play five “group stage” games against one another. Those games would count toward the regular-season standings. The top two teams from each group would advance to an eight-team knockout round.
  • At the conclusion of the tournament, the hope is that teams could return to their home markets to finish out an abbreviated regular season in which they would only play intra-conference opponents.
  • The season would then conclude with an expanded 18-team playoff, presumably with the 8 and 9 seeds effectively playing into the field.

This would all hinge on buy-in from the players, who have publicly and privately expressed some serious skepticism. The players’ union apparently forwarded a list of about 100 questions they’d like answered before moving forward. Primary among the concerns is being asked to leave families in the middle of a pandemic for two months, especially when hotel staff will reportedly not be quarantined (calling the entire effort into question).