For the first time since match play was suspended March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Soccer action will resume July 8 with the historic and unprecedented MLS is Back Tournament. This one-of-a-kind competition will see all 26 clubs descend on ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, marking the emphatic return of men's professional soccer in the United States after a near four-month hiatus.
As the opening match approaches, SportingKC.com is presenting a 20-day preview of the World-Cup style tournament from June 18 through July 7 called Countdown to MLS is Back presented by Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center.
Sporting Kansas City will kick off their Group D campaign on July 12 against rivals Minnesota United FC before facing the Colorado Rapids on July 17 and Real Salt Lake on July 22, with all three games shown live nationally on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app. To visit the series homepage as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/MLSisBack.
The devastating impacts COVID-19 has been felt across the globe, affecting countries in unprecedented and innumerable ways. Played in the backdrop of a life-changing pandemic, we can safely say that the concept of "ordinary" will never apply to Major League Soccer's 2020 season.
Less than four months have elapsed since the campaign kicked off on the final day of February, and the stunning developments of late winter and springtime have set the stage for a summer unlike any other. If Sporting Kansas City and MLS have lacked for matches, they certainly haven't lacked for headlines.
In the space below, we lay out the current timeline of a wild 2020 season.
Jan. 19, 2020: Sporting holds its first preseason training session in Arizona, having acquired the likes of Mexican striker Alan Pulido, forward Khiry Shelton and center back Roberto Puncec during the offseason. Israeli midfielder Gadi Kinda joins the group a few days later as another new signing.
Feb. 29, 2020: Sporting opens the season with an impressive 3-1 road win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Pulido and Kinda score on their debuts, while Erik Hurtado strikes against his former club in stoppage time to seal the victory.
March 7, 2020: Sporting throttles the Houston Dynamo 4-0 in an electric Children's Mercy Park home opener, receiving goals from Pulido, Kinda, Shelton and Roger Espinoza. Pulido, Kinda and Manager Peter Vermes land MLS Team of the Week honors two days later.
March 11, 2020: Sporting's away match at the San Jose Earthquakes, scheduled for March 21, is postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
March 12, 2020: Major League Soccer suspends the 2020 regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A league-wide training moratorium also begins.
May 1, 2020: MLS announces that teams may begin holding voluntary individual player workouts at club training facilities beginning May 6, with Vermes and Sporting playing a major role in the development of the individual player workout protocol.
May 6, 2020: After almost eight weeks of quarantine workouts at their respective homes, Sporting players return to Compass Minerals National Performance Center for the start of voluntary individual workouts.
May 19, 2020: MLS announces the cancellation of the 2020 All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup.
May 28, 2020: MLS announces that clubs may begin to use outdoor team training fields for small group training sessions. Sporting begins voluntary small group training the following week.
June 4, 2020: In a momentous breakthrough, MLS and the MLS Players Association complete a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a plan to resume the 2020 season with a tournament in Orlando.
June 6, 2020: Manager Peter Vermes makes his first public remarks condemning racism and social injustice in the United States, calling for much-needed change.
June 7, 2020: Sporting receives approval to resume mandatory full-team training at Compass Minerals National Development Center.
June 10, 2020: MLS announces plans for the MLS is Back Tournament, taking place from July 8 to Aug. 11 at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
June 11, 2020: In the MLS is Back Tournament draw, Sporting joins Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake, Minnesota United FC and the Colorado Rapids in Group D.
MLS is Back Tournament Dates
Late June: Sporting to learn match dates and broadcast details for the group stage.
Early July: Sporting to depart for Orlando.
July 8: Tournament to kickoff with match between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF.
July 8-23: Group stage takes place with all 26 clubs playing three matches each that count toward the 2020 regular season standings.
July 25-28: Round of 16
July 30 - Aug. 1: Quarterfinals
Aug. 5-6: Semifinals
Aug. 11: Championship
Upon completion of the MLS is Back 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. The final number of matches and the revised schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season will be released at a later date.