An in-depth look at the MLS is Back Tournament

In one week, MLS will return to play in the unique MLS is Back Tournament. This tournament is set up like an international tournament with a group stage and knockout round to determine a winner. The 26 MLS Clubs were drawn into six different groups and games will take place in Orlando, Fla at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. This tournament format is unusual for pro sports in America, but it is really intriguing and has the potential to get crazy.

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What is at Stake?

The MLS is Back Tournament begins July 8th with Inter Miami CF take on Orlando City SC in their first-ever match against one another. This will kick off the group stage that is meaningful in a few ways.

The winner of this tournament will receive $1.1 million in prize money as well as a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League! This is a huge opportunity as both the US Open Cup and Canadian Cup competitions were canceled for the 2020 season. Now, the clubs will have to win this tournament for a shot to make the champions league competition next season.

While these matches are important for the hopes of the teams in the tournament setting it is also important for when the regular season starts back up.

For each team, the three group stage matches count toward the 2020 MLS regular season. Remember way back in March when the season was two matches old before the pandemic hit? The goal is for the league to resume their regular season once the tournament ends. So teams that do well in this tournament’s group stage may not only advance to the knockout rounds but also have more points when getting back to regular season play.

Now that this base of information is established let’s take a look at the six groups that will partake in the group stage of the tournament.

Group Stage

This tournament format is interesting in that there are five groups of four; these groups will be traditional in that they will each play their three other teams to decide which two teams make it out of their group. Then there is the unconventional group A with six teams. The teams in this group will still play three matches and will allow for the top three teams to make it to knockout stages.

The group stage will be run off points accumulation; where a win is worth three points a draw is worth one point and a loss is worth no points. The top three teams from group A and the top two teams from groups B-F will automatically move to the knockout rounds, but that leaves three more places open for the knockout rounds.

The top three teams that finish in third-place (or fourth-place from group A) will also advance to the knockout rounds as well! Once the bracket is set for the knockout rounds the sudden death matches will take place, and they may be more interesting than one might think.

Unique Knockout Rounds

In the traditional US Open Cup, and Canadian Championship tournaments, there was a stale feeling about matchups. In those open-style tournaments, it was almost always MLS teams that went into the deeper rounds. While that is to be expected, what was even more tiresome were the constant regional matchups. This made it so it was always eastern conference teams and wester conference teams grouped together for matches until the final where there was overlap. In the MLS is Back Tournament this is not the case.

While the groups are all comprised of teams from the same conference, the knockout rounds allow for an overlap of the teams. This starts in the first round of the knockouts, the round of 16! While this may not seem important it could produce some very interesting matchups that we don’t often see in a tournament setting until the final!

This tournament is set to have some great matches, in the group stage, and in the knockout matches, and you’ll be able to catch all the action!

Playing Times and TV Coverage

There will be at least two matches every day in the MLS is back tournament starting on July 8th until July 23rd for the group stage matches! This is a lot of soccer, but being that the tournament is taking place in hot and humid Orlando Fla. there are interesting game times. Matches are set to take place either at 9:00 am EST, 8:00 pm EST, or 10:30 pm EST.

This will take some getting used to for fans and teams alike, but it is a better alternative than roasting in the heat. Luckily for the fans, they will be able to catch every single match on television!

All 56 matches of the tournament will be broadcasted on either ESPN, Fox or the Univision family of networks.

ESPN 28 matches of the matches. They are the flagship broadcaster as games are being played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Fox will have 19 matches as will TUDN, the new name for Univision Deportes. These two networks will be working with the feed from ESPN. Some of the matches will be broadcasted on big Fox, like the Atlanta United FC vs New York Red Bulls match on July 11th, while the rest will be seen on the Fox Sports stations.

When it comes to TUDN, you can hit the SAP button to switch to the English-language version if you wish. Also, if you don’t have that station you can still catch the action, as their English broadcasts will be live-streamed on Twitter!

Now that the tournament is a week away, it’s time to get hype with all the ways you can follow the tournament on this here website!

PSN’s Coverage of the Tournament

As always, the PSN-Union crew will be your one-stop-shop for coverage of this tournament. We’ll have preview articles on each group and on the Union’s preparation and position battles heading into the tournament this coming week!

We’ll also have Youtube videos from the boy, El Parcero Philly on all of the groups, and on the Union’s position battles as well! Be sure to make your way to the PSN Youtube channel to catch those!

There will be special DOOP By The River Podcasts to preview each of the Union’s group stage matches! Be sure to subscribe to not miss a minute of those!

Once the tournament starts, there will be daily articles recapping the events from every match. There will multiple articles each week preview, recapping the Union matches along with our normal feature pieces we produce.

There will also be weekly recap videos on the Philly Sports Network Youtube channel where El Parcero Philly will recap all the action!

Last, but not least, we may be able to do our Livestream watch parties for each match with the founder of Philly Sports Network, Liam Jenkins! We started doing these at the being of the 2020 season and they did not disappoint! Be on the lookout for those throughout this tournament!

This concludes our deep dive into the MLS is Back Tournament! Be on the lookout for more content from PSN on the tournament! We’ll leave you with the full schedule of matches to look over to get you even more ready for the return of MLS!

MLS is Back Tournament Schedule:

Group Stage: 

  • July 8
    • Orlando vs. Miami, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Nashville vs. Chicago, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 9
    • New York City FC vs. Philadelphia, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Montreal vs. New England, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
    • Dallas vs. Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
  • July 10
    • Toronto vs. D.C. 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Seattle vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 11
    • Atlanta vs. New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m. (FOX, TUDN)
    • Cincinnati vs. Columbus, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • July 12th
    • Sporting KC vs. Minnesota, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 13th
    • LAFC vs. Houston, 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
    • LA Galaxy vs. Portland, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • July 14th
    • Miami vs. Chicago, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, TSN)
    • Philadelphia vs. Nashville, 8 p.m. (TUDN, Also live streaming on Twitter)
    • Orlando vs. New York City FC, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
  • July 15th
    • Seattle vs. Dallas, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Montreal vs. Toronto, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
    • Vancouver vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
  • July 16th
    • Atlanta vs. Cincinnati, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • D.C. vs. New England, 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
    • Columbus vs. New York Red Bulls, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • July 17th
    • Sporting KC vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 18th
    • Portland vs. Houston, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
    • LA Galaxy vs. LAFC, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 19th
    • New York City FC vs. Chicago, 8 p.m (FS1, TUDN).
    • Miami vs. Philadelphia, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • July 20th
    • Orlando vs. Nashville, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Dallas vs. San Jose, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
    • Seattle vs. Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
  • July 21st
    • Toronto vs. New England, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Atlanta vs. Columbus, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
    • Montreal vs. D.C., 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
  • July 22nd
    • Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • Colorado vs. Minnesota, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 23rd
    • LA Galaxy vs. Houston, 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
    • Portland vs. LAFC, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)

Round of 16 

  • July 25th
    • 1st place Group A vs. 3rd place (B/C/D/E), 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
    • 2nd place Group A vs. 2nd place Group C, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 26
    • 1st place Group B vs. 3rd place Group A, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
    • 1st place Group D vs. 3rd place (B/C/E/F), 11 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • July 27
    • 1st place Group C vs. 3rd place (B/D/F) -or- 4th place Group A, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
    • 2nd place Group B vs. 2nd place Group F, 11 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • July 28
    • 1st place Group E vs. 2nd place Group D, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
    • 1st place Group F vs. 2nd place Group E, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)


  • July 30th
    • Winner R16 (2) vs. Winner R16 (4), 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
  • July 31st
    • Winner R16 (1) vs. Winner R16 (6), 7:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • August 1st
    • Winner R16 (3) vs. Winner R16 (8), 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
    • Winner R16 (5) vs. Winner R16 (7), 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)


  • August 5th
    • Winner QF (1) vs. Winner QF (4), 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
  • August 6, 2020
    • Winner QF (2) vs. Winner QF (3), 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)

MLS is Back Tournament Final

  • August 11th
    • Winner SF (1) vs. Winner SF (2), 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)

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