The MLS Is Back Tournament (the most snoozy and literal name ever, we know) kicked off last night, meaning that, along with the NWSL’s Challenge Cup that’s already underway, it’s soccer’s time to shine. But unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the world’s most popular game.
The GIST: The MLS Is Back Tournament (the most snoozy and literal name ever, we know) kicked off last night, meaning that, along with the NWSL’s Challenge Cup that’s already underway, it’s soccer’s time to shine. But unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the world’s most popular game.
Why not?: Put simply, COVID-19. On Tuesday, FC Dallas (FC stands for Football Club) pulled out of the tournament after 10 players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, Nashville SC (SC stands for Soccer Club) announced five players tested positive and four players had inconclusive tests, leading many to wonder if they’ll be the next team to drop out.
- With FC Dallas dropping out and Nashville SC delaying games, the league had to rejig its schedule just two days before last night’s kickoff. We don’t envy that job.
- This gives us wild déjà vu. Two weeks ago, the NWSL found themselves in a similar situation after the Orlando Pride pulled out of the Challenge Cup due to multiple players and staff testing positive for COVID-19. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: maybe it’s still too soon?
What does the MLS schedule look like now?: With FC Dallas dropping out, the schedule has been adjusted to accommodate 25 teams instead of 26, but the format of the tournament — a group stage followed by a knockout stage — is staying the same (v. similar to the World Cup).
- In the group stage, Eastern Conference teams are split into groups A, C and E and Western Conference teams into B, D and F, with each team playing three group stage matches.
- After that, the top two teams in groups B to F, the top three teams from group A and the next best three teams overall will move on to the 16-team knockout round, which starts on July 25th.
Got it. So how was opening night?: Awesome. And it was made even better by every player showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
And how’s the Challenge Cup going?: Swimmingly. After two exciting games yesterday, there’s just four more left in the group stage. North Carolina Courage currently hold the top spot, with the Houston Dash, Washington Spirit, OL Reign and the hostesses with the mostesses, Utah Royals FC, all in a battle for the second seed.