Report: MLS outlines details for Orlando tournament in letter to teams

Guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. in 2019. (John Raoux/AP)

Major League Soccer has sent a letter to teams outlining plans for a 26-team tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Jeff Rueter of The Athletic reports.

“The document, dated May 20th, outlines key logistical details of the proposed tournament, including safety protocols, the size of each club’s delegation and the competition format,” Rueter reports.

The tournament would feature four groups and five round-robin games. Three of the groups would contain six teams while one Eastern Conference group would contain eight. The top two teams in each group would advance into a knockout round, featuring quarterfinals, semifinals and a championship. Round-robin games will count towards the active MLS standings and the league has not ruled out a full return to regular season play later in the year. It’s unclear what trophy will be awarded to the winner of the tournament.

The first seed in each group would include host Orlando, as well as the four 2019 playoff finalists: Toronto, Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles FC. To accommodate Orlando, a random draw between Atlanta and Toronto would put one of those teams as the second seed in Orlando’s group.

To accommodate all teams, each team will be limited to 45-47 personal deemed “club delegates.”

“Each club must bring three goalkeepers (and no more than 30 players total), one team administrator, two athletic trainers, one equipment manager, one public relations officer and one ‘content producer.’ Any club delegate must spend at least five calendar days in their club’s market before travelling to Orlando,” Rueter reports, adding injured players and those deemed high risk to serious illness can decline to attend.

As for testing, procedures would begin 72 hours before teams travel to Orlando. Each delegate attending, including game officials and Disney staff, would have to “complete two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests 24 hours apart and a single serology (antibody test),” Rueter reports. Any delegate that tests positive would not be permitted to travel.

Once arriving in Orlando, all delegates will be required to quarantine in hotels for seven days. Restrictions on individual workouts would be in place and daily screening questionnaires and temperature checks would be enforced. Finally, players will be tested for COVID-19 one day before their first match. If they test positive, they will be automatically directed to self-quarantine.

Rules for games would stay the same, with the exception of expanded roster sizes. Teams would be permitted to dress 23 players for a game and substitutions would be expanded to five from three. VAR and other rules related to gameplay would remain enforced, including tiebreaks if two teams finish with identical records. Any knockout round match tied after 90 minutes would immediately go to penalty kicks and not 30 minutes of extra time.

Rueter adds that many questions remain unanswered including “potential player wage adjustments and how to handle if a player needs to leave Orlando during the tournament for personal reasons.” Additionally, no timeline for when the tournament would be held was given, including how many games per day would be played or how many days off between games teams would have.

MLS put its season on pause on March 12 after only three weeks of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since May 6, players have been allowed to hold individual workouts in team facilities in jurisdictions that permit it.

MLS isn’t the only league looking to Disney World as a site for a possible return. The NBA is also reportedly considering the resort as a location to finish the post-season.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been very open about welcoming pro sports to his state.

“If you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said on May 13, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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