KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The schedule is set. Major League Soccer will open its World Cup-style return tournament in Florida on July 8 with a double header.
Orlando City will play expansion Inter Miami in the first match, followed by a game between the Chicago Fire and Nashville SC.
The games will be the first time the league has been in action since play was shut down on March 12 because of the coronavirus. The MLS Is Back Tournament schedule was released Wednesday.
The all-Florida opener is a nod to the tournament’s host state. All games will be played without fans in attendance at the sports complex at Walt Disney World.
As for Kansas City’s favorite team, Sporting KC takes the field for the first time in months at 7 p.m. (CST) July 12 against Minnesota United FC.
They’ll also play the Colorado Rapids at 7 p.m. July 17 and Real Salt Lake at 8 a.m. July 22 for their Group D play.
That 8 a.m. game is the earliest kickoff Sporting KC has ever had, according to the club. Teams are playing early in the morning and late at night due to the Orlando heat.
The 26 MLS teams will be divided into six groups for the opening round of the tournament, which will be played over 16 consecutive days.
Group matches will count toward the regular-season standings. Sporting KC started the season off with a perfect 2-0-0.
In a news release, Sporting said they’ll announce watch party details for tournament matches in the near future.
Sixteen teams will advance to the knockout round, which begins July 25. The winner of the title game on Aug. 11 earning a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
The teams and select staff members will be sequestered during the tournament at two Disney resorts for the duration of the tournament.
After the tournament, MLS plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.
MLS will be the second professional sports league in the United States to return to the field. The National Women’s Soccer League will play a tournament in Utah starting Saturday.