UPDATE: Following today's live draw, the Portland Timbers were placed in Group F along with LAFC, LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo. Full schedule and kickoff times to follow at a later date.
Yesterday, Major League Soccer announced a return to play for the 2020 season with the MLS is Back Tournament – a competition involving all 26 teams playing in a World Cup-style structure in Orlando, Fla. at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex.
Today, at 12:30pm PT, there will be a live draw of the teams to see what groups they'll play in. For more on the tournament, check out Richard Farley's MLS is Back 101 piece and then watch the round live here on Timbers.com.
How today's draw will work
Former MLS and U.S. Men's National Team star Charlie Davies and Susannah Collins will host the event and representatives from each of the six seeded clubs will participate in the draw: Carlos Bocanegra (Atlanta United technical director), Ali Curtis (Toronto FC general manager), Chris Henderson (Seattle sporting director), Freddy Juarez (RSL head coach), Luiz Muzzi (Orlando City EVP Soccer Ops) and Mark Rojas (LAFC supporter).
The 26 MLS teams will be drawn into six groups (Groups A-F). The top two finishers in each group along with the four best 3rd-place teams will move on to the Knockout stage which kicks off with the Round of 16. Get all the tournament details.
- Eastern Conference: The 14 East teams will be split into three groups, one of six teams (Group A) and two with four teams each (Group C & Group E). Note: For the remainder of the 2020 season, Nashville SC will move to the Eastern Conference.
- Western Conference: The 12 West teams will also be divided into three groups, each consisting of four teams each (Group B, Group D, Group F).
Group Stage Matchups
Each MLS club will play three group stage matches which will count toward the overall 2020 regular season standings (win = 3 points, draw = 1 point, loss = 0 points).
In the case of the four-team groups (Groups B-F), each team will face off against the other three. For Group A, which will be made up of six teams, the following will be the three matchups for each:
- Team A1 (Orlando City): vs. A2, A3, A6
- Team A2 (Inter Miami): vs. A1, A4, A5
- Team A3: vs. A1, A4, A5
- Team A4: vs. A2, A3, A6
- Team A5: vs. A2, A3, A6
- Team A6: vs. A1, A4, A5
Each of the six groups will feature a seeded team and the draw will first determine the group for each of the seeds.
As the “host” team, Orlando City SC will automatically be designated as the top seed of six-team Group A (“A1”). Here's the full list of seeds:
- East: Orlando City (hosts)
- East: Atlanta United (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- East: Toronto FC (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- West: LAFC (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- West: Seattle Sounders (2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs semifinalist)
- West: Real Salt Lake (next highest points total in the Western Conference from 2019 season)
- The names of the remaining two East seeds (Atlanta & Toronto) are each placed in a ball and those two balls mixed together in a pot.
- A ball is randomly selected by the host and that East team will be designated as Group C seed ("C1"). The remaining ball in the pot is the Group E seed ("E1").
- Similarly, the names of the three West seeds (LAFC, RSL, Seattle) are each placed in a ball and those three balls are mixed together in a pot.
- A ball is randomly selected by the host and that West team is assigned as Group B seed ("B1"). The next selection by the host will be the Group D seed ("D1"). And the remaining ball will be designated as Group F seed ("F1").
With MLS restarting the season in the state of Florida, the MLS is Back Tournament will kick off with a matchup of the two Florida-based teams, Orlando City SC vs. Inter Miami CF. That matchup sees Inter Miami designated as team “A2” prior to the draw.
The 10 remaining unseeded East teams and the 9 unseeded West teams will be assigned to groups according to the following procedure, beginning with the Eastern Conference:
- The names of the 10 remaining unseeded East teams are each placed in an unmarked ball and the 10 balls are mixed up in a pot.
- The 10 balls are then numbered "1" through "10".
- With Inter Miami already designated as “A2,” a representative from the seeded team in Group C picks a number at random between 1 and 10. The team name in the corresponding ball is assigned to Group C as "C2". The designated representative of the Group E seed will then take a turn to do the same for team "E2". The sequence of turns resumes with Group A seed Orlando City (followed by Group C and Group E seeds) and it is repeated until every unseeded East team is assigned a group slot.
- The names of the 9 unseeded West teams are each placed in an unmarked ball and the 9 balls are mixed up in a pot.
- The 9 balls are then numbered "1" through "9".
- Representatives from each of the Group B, Group D and Group F seeds take turns picking a number at random between 1 and 9. The team name in the corresponding numbered ball is assigned to that seed's group in the next available position (B2, D2 and F2 followed by B3, D3 and F3, etc.). The sequence is repeated until every unseeded West team is assigned a group.
- Orlando City SC
- Inter Miami CF
- New York City FC
- Philadelphia Union
- Chicago Fire
- Nashville SC
- Seattle Sounders
- FC Dallas
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Toronto FC
- New England Revolution
- Montreal Impact
- D.C. United
- Real Salt Lake
- Sporting Kansas City
- Colorado Rapids
- Minnesota United FC
- Atlanta United
- FC Cincinnati
- New York Red Bulls
- Columbus Crew SC
- LA Galaxy
- Houston Dynamo
- Portland Timbers