Major League Soccer has announced it will resume its season on July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament involving all 26 of its teams.
The league suspended its season in March due to the threat of COVID-19, becoming one of many sports leagues abruptly unplugged during the pandemic.
As with the NBA, whose season is resuming July 31, MLS games will be played without fans at ESPN Wide World of Sports, a large area within the Disney World Resort in Florida. ESPN has TV rights to the MLS, along with Fox and Univision. The TV pacts, which run through 2022, generates about $90 million per season for the MLS.
As in the World Cup, the tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day. Games will begin at 9AM, 8PM and 10:30PM ET. Most matches will be played in the evening.
The restart of Germany’s Bundesliga and the UK’s Premiere League have offered a framework for the MLS.
After Group Stage play starts on July 8, the round of 16 will be July 25 to 28, with quarterfinal and semifinal rounds over subsequent weeks. The final will be played August 11.
“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.
His statement continued, “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.”