Florida teams set to open MLS return tournament in Orlando

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GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / Patrick Smith Major League Soccer balls such as this one will be kicked by league players in games again starting July 8 when Orlando City and Inter Miami start the MLS is Back Tournament” in Orlando, Florida

Orlando City and Inter Miami will kick off Major League Soccer’s 26-team tournament on July 8 when the league returns from a four-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The North American league conducted its group draw Thursday for the “MLS is Back Tournament” that will crown a champion August 11 at the Walt Disney World Resort sports complex in Orlando, Florida.

The event, closed to spectators, will feature three group-stage matches for every team that will count toward the MLS regular season, which went on hiatus in March after only two weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Miami, the new MLS club owned by retired England star David Beckham that has yet to play a home match, will join Orlando in Group A along with New York City FC, the Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union and Nashville SC.

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The defending champion Seattle Sounders are joined by FC Dallas, the Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes in Group B.

Group C consists of Canadian rivals Toronto FC and Montreal Impact as well as the New England Revolution and DC United.

Group D comprises Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United.

Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew make up Group E while Group F consists of Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers.

Each team will play three matches in the group stage. The top two teams in each group and four top third-place finishers advance to the knockout round of 16, which runs from July 25-28.

The quarter-finals (July 30-August 1) and semi-finals (August 5-6) will set up the championship game on August 11.

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