EDITORIAL – Okay, I know this won’t be very popular with some of our readers, but no, Major League Soccer is not back. Not even close.
Now don’t get me wrong. After nearly a hundred days of being quarantined in our homes due to COVID-19, staring at replays of matches over and over again on our televisions, following our beloved team playing in a game that counts (more on that later) is something a whole lot better than the alternative.
Is It All in the Name?
As far as the tournament’s name is concerned, some weren’t too thrilled as my friend Bill Reese pointed it out on Twitter:
The brightest soccer minds in the United States and the best name they could come up with was THE MLS IS BACK TOURNAMENT.
God, we're awful…
— Bill Reese (@ReeseCommaBill) June 10, 2020
Nevertheless, Major League Soccer returns to play with an all-new tournament with regular season points and a spot in 2021 Concacaf Champions League on the line on July 8.
- All 26 MLS clubs participating; all matches in Orlando, FL
- 54 matches; group stage followed by knockout rounds
- Group stage counts toward the regular season
- Pre-tournament draw to assign groups
- Top two clubs from each group and four third place finishers advance to quarterfinals
- One champion; winner earns 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot
- MLS regular season continues after the tournament
Schedule of Matches:
- July 8: Group Stage begins
- July 25 – 28: Round of 16
- July 30 – August 1: Quarterfinals
- August 5 – 6: Semifinals
- August 11: Final
As of this writing, the New York Red Bulls have been seeded in Group E with Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew.
New-look Match Broadcasts
In addition, as part of the tournament production strategy, the telecasts will feature unique and experimental technologies, including virtual commercial displays, new camera positions, advanced audio and fan integration elements. The tournament will also showcase unprecedented access to players and coaches.
On top of the new broadcast enhancements for the tournament, MLS is also evaluating a number of technologies that will provide fans the opportunity to express their support and creativity, including interactive elements.
Now that you have all of the info, all me to explain just why I personally feel that despite the tournament with the cringe-worthy name, Major League Soccer just isn’t fully back with us just yet.
Speaking strictly as a fan, when it comes to sports, nothing beats being at the stadium live and in-person being surrounded by your fellow fans as they follow the action. And in soccer, there’s no better feeling than just being there, totally immersed in the atmosphere. During this tournament, you’ll be watching the game at home or a bar as the teams battle it out on a near-empty stadium, thousands of miles away.
But then again, that’s one man’s opinion, and I did say it might not be too popular. The good news is that when the knockout rounds begin, most if not all of the action of the European leagues will begin to die down – leaving MLS front and center for all to see. Should be interesting to see which team will wind up on top when it’s all said and done.
The bottom line is while the game we love is not where we would like it to be, it IS much, much better than the alternative, which is no games at all.