ORLANDO, Fla. — The Five Stripes are back.
Major League Soccer announced Wednesday it will resume its season July 8 with a tournament in Orlando. It will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.
Atlanta United only played two games before the season shut down on March 12 because of coronavirus pandemic. Teams will start arriving in Orlando on June 24.
After the tournament, the league plans to continue the regular season.
“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “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. 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."
Channel 2′s Alison Mastrangelo spoke with Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan. He said the biggest question is what happens when a player tests positive for COVID-19.
“I don’t think we are going to get the full scope of it until we get down there. I think that is just going to be reality," Guzan said. “Others have talked about the comment from league officials about taking a leap of faith. When you’re taking the health of 2,000 and putting them into a hotel, there has to be a lot of trust.”
The tournament will work in a group format with all 26 teams playing three group matches. The group stage will happen over 16 days with games counting toward the regular season standings.
Sixteen teams will advance to the knockout round July 25-28 with the quarterfinals July 30 and Aug. 1. Semifinals are Aug. 5 and Aug. 6 before the Aug. 11 championship.
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The winner of the tournament receives a $1.1 million prize pool and qualifies for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
Atlanta United’s communications coordinator says the team will be the top seed in Group C or Group E. The draw will be Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
The tournament has been in the works for weeks. But the season couldn’t resume until the players and league agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement.
They agreed to one last week but a few Atlanta United players didn’t hold back their thoughts about the negotiations.
Channel 2 sports director Zach Klein spoke with Jeff Larentowicz.
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