Major League Soccer is set to return with the MLS is Back Tournament next month, which will be held between July 8 and August 11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Bay Lake, Florida.
The league’s governing body have decided to host the one-off tournament in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has meant that the regular 2020 season has been scrapped.
A full schedule has yet to be released but it has already been confirmed that hosts Orlando City will take on local rivals Inter Miami during the opening game on July 8.
Group A will have six teams while the remaining five groups will consist of four clubs. Each side won’t play more than three group stage games in the 26-team tournament.
Here are three key matches to watch out for:
Orlando City vs Inter Miami: After a break of nearly four months, Orlando will take on Inter in the first MLS game. Orlando were seeded first as the hosts and Inter were placed alongside them prior to the draw. Orlando don’t grab much attention from the widespread audience when compared to some elite MLS teams and they are yet to qualify for the play-offs. In comparison, newly-formed franchise Inter are attracting more headlines, given they are co-owned by iconic footballer David Beckham. Inter made a poor start to their maiden season with back-to-back defeats before the lockdown, but they will be hoping for a change of fortunes after an extended break. This will be the first Florida derby in MLS since Tampa Bay and Miami Fusion faced each other in 2001.
Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact: Toronto will go into the tournament as one of the favourites. The Canadian outfit finished runners-up to Seattle Sounders for the MLS Cup last year despite dominating vast parts of the contest. They will be bolstered by the return of captain Michael Bradley after a long-term hamstring injury and the arrival of Pablo Piatti as a Designated Player should only increase the quality in the attack which includes Alejandro Pozuelo. Montreal, on the other hand, don’t have similar star players in their ranks, but they have legendary footballer Thierry Henry as their head coach. Victor Wanyama was added to the squad earlier this year to add quality to the midfield but there needs an improvement on the defensive scheme of things. Toronto are definitely the favourites for the encounter, but it remains to be seen whether Henry and co. can surprise them.
Los Angeles FC vs LA Galaxy: The El Trafico has become the derby to watch out for since Los Angeles’ inception into MLS. Last year, they were the best team as they topped the Western Conference with a 16-point lead and a staggering 46-goal difference over Seattle Sounders. Still, they were unable to win the MLS Cup as they were eliminated by Seattle in the Conference semi-finals. LA Galaxy, meanwhile, have lost their charm from the Beckham playing days, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic made them exciting in recent seasons as he went head-to-head with Carlos Vela in the scoring charts. There have been six meetings between the sides with Los Angeles winning two compared to Galaxy’s one. An average of five goals have been scored in each game. Javier Hernandez replaced Ibrahimovic earlier this year and it will be interesting to see whether he can take up the scoring mantle and challenge compatriot Vela, who has bagged 57 goals and 23 assists in just 71 outings for Los Angeles.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
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