Football is gradually getting back to normal. Leagues have restarted and we’re now talking about championships, promotions and relegations again.
Major League Soccer will be the latest league to restart on Wednesday, however in a system that doesn’t do relegation and prides itself on not being ‘normal’ they really have outdone themselves with their plan to bring men’s soccer back to the States.
So… how are they planning to do their big return you ask?!
The ‘MLS is Back’ tournament!
A tournament with the least imaginative name in football kicks off this week and could quite possibly be the most ‘MLS’ thing that the league has ever done.
To combat teams flying across timezones for away matches, Major League Soccer has decided to send everyone to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disneyland in Florida to play a one off World Cup style competition. Scores will not only count towards points in the group stages but also to the league standings that have been on pause since Matchday 2 of the season in March.
Matches will take place on training pitches with some games kicking off at 8:30am local time.
We told you that MLS doesn’t do ‘normal’!
All the US sporting eyes will be on MLS when it becomes the first major team sport in the country to return after the COVID-19 outbreak, bosses were keen to bring some much needed attention to the biggest professional league of the fastest growing sport in North America.
However, there have been calls to cancel the competition in the days leading up to its first game. Over a quarter of clubs travelling to Orlando reportedly have had positive COVID tests within their camp, this has already led to the FC Dallas vs Vancouver Whitecaps match being postponed due to the FC Dallas squad having to quarantine themselves in their rooms at the complex.
The positive tests are not the only bad press that the set up has had in the last week. An anonymous Twitter account of a player who is staying at the base has emerged posting videos of taps falling apart in their hotel room and accusations that meals, which were meant to have been left outside their room, not being there. However, when food has been given to them it’s been in the form of a ham sandwich… yes, professional footballers are being given ham sandwiches for lunch.
When MLS started a video promoting the new season in February with the line “So… you think you know MLS?”, we can now categorically answer “no, we actually don’t!”
Despite caution from players and fans there is still excitement about Major League Soccer’s return, the competition kicks off with the first ever Florida derby as Orlando City face Inter Miami on Wednesday and will also feature other fierce derbies in the group stages including LAFC v LA Galaxy.
There is no indication yet on how the proper schedule will return once the competition has finished however for now it’s just refreshing for US and Canadian soccer fans to see their teams play again.
It’s a new format in an unfamiliar setting but MLS is back!