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 marquee 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.
Regular season points in the group stage? Check.
A knockout-style bracket with a Concacaf Champions League berth on the line? Check.
A prize pool of $1.1 million? With all games televised nationally? Check and check.
The MLS is Back Tournament has all the makings of a high-stakes, high-profile sporting event. Clubs have something valuable to play for, whether it's the third and final group stage game or the championship match. But what makes this competition truly special?
Nothing like this has ever happened before.
An entire league's worth of teams has descended on a single location for an inside-the-bubble competition amidst a life-changing pandemic. Aside from the NWSL Challenge Cup currently unfolding in Utah, there has never been a sporting event quite like it. And beyond 2020, there may never be a spectacle like this again.
Additionally, fans starved for team sports will finally have something to feast their eyes on after several months of classic match replays. COVID-19 prompted the suspension of major professional sports leagues across the globe. In the United States, Major League Soccer will return to action before any of the country's other heavy hitters—namely the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL. This gives the league a unique opportunity to convert casual sports fans into ardent followers of MLS with unprecedented coverage on ESPN, FOX Sports and TUDN.
As MLS clubs prepare to hit the pitch at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, it's safe to say the MLS is Back Tournament has delivered a one-of-a-kind event when sports fanatics needed it most. For the players and coaches involved, it's a chance to unite in the face of global adversity and provide their supporters a source of inspiration after months of incomprehensible hardship.
For Sporting Kansas City, it's a chance to paint the wall in a way that will speak volumes, not only for what they did on the field but for how they accomplished it, and for whom—the fans cheering them on from home and the countless others adversely affected by one of the most trying times in history.
The MLS is Back Tournament is just about here. And for more reasons than one, that's a very big deal.