Chris Henderson represented the Seattle Sounders as he joined staff members and one fan from the other seeded teams for the MLS is Back Tournament draw on Wednesday. After the Eastern Conference teams were drawn into groups, Henderson, Freddy Juarez of Real Salt Lake, and a member of LAFC’s supporters group 3252 took turns choosing from nine balls to reveal the teams that would be in their groups.
When all was said and done, the Sounders had been drawn into a group with FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps, and the San Jose Earthquakes. Regardless of the level of fitness or the context of the games, any match against those three opponents is certain to be a challenge, and hopefully an enjoyable contest to watch. Most notably, the tournament will provide the Sounders and FC Dallas with their first meeting since the two teams squared off in a wild, back-and-forth 120 minutes at CenturyLink Field in the quarterfinals of the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Sounders came out on top, courtesy of a Jordan Morris hat trick, before ultimately advancing to and winning the MLS Cup Final. That marked the fourth time the Sounders and Dallas have met in the playoffs since 2014.
If you’ve followed the Sounders for any length of time, this group may be most notable for the status of the other three teams as almost-rivals of the Sounders. The Earthquakes and FC Dallas have both played plenty of tense matches with the Sounders in multiple different competitions. Neither team quite reaches the same level of almost-rivalry as the Vancouver Whitecaps, though. While Vancouver are one of the three Cascadia teams, competing with the Sounders and Portland Timbers for the Cascadia Cup, the fiercest rivalry is clearly between Portland and Seattle. Vancouver has failed to reach the same levels of success that the other two Cascadia clubs have enjoyed, and their match-ups with the other two sides lack the same tenacity or fervor on the field or in the stands that a Seattle vs Portland game guarantees. That’s not for a lack of trying, though.
During the Group Stage of the MLS is Back Tournament, each team will play three games, with the points from those games counting towards the 2020 MLS regular season standings. The top two sides in each group, as well as the four best third-place teams will advance to the Round of 16. In addition to earning points for the regular season during the Group stage, teams will be vying for a Concacaf Champions League berth and a $1.1 million prize purse. Regardless of what comes next, fans of each team are guaranteed to see their favorite players in at least three games, with the possibility of as many as seven games if they make it to the final.