And if you’re looking for the biggest group-stage of the entire tournament, you won’t want to be busy on July 18 when an East Coast El Trafico will pit the LA Galaxy against the MLS’ reigning Supporters Shield winners, LAFC (7:30 PM PT; TV – ESPN/ESPN Deportes).
The Galaxy will open the tournament with a July 13 matchup against the Portland Timbers (7:30 PM PT; TV – FS1, TUDN) live from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The game will be the first matchup with the Timbers in 2020, having beaten the Timbers at Dignity Health Sports Park in 2019, but losing both matches in Portland that same season (one US Open Cup match included).
The Galaxy will play five days later against LAFC before finishing the group stage with a July 23 match against the Houston Dynamo — a team they already played (1-1 draw) in one of the two league games they completed before the Coronavirus pause.
But obviously, all eyes will be centered on the middle of July matchup with LAFC. The Galaxy won a 3-2 match against their neighbors at home in July of last year, before finishing the regular-season series with them in a 3-3 draw away. But the postseason storyline was even more significant, as LAFC defeated the Galaxy in the second round of the playoffs — their first defeat of the Galaxy in club history.
In total, 54 MLS games are now on the schedule for the tournament with every team playing three group stage games — which will count for the regular season — and the top two teams in every group advancing (FULL MLS SCHEDULE HERE)
But MLS has also tweaked their advancement formula by allowing the top three teams from Group A (the only group with six teams) and taking the next three best third-place teams to the knock-out stage.
The San Jose Earthquakes will be the first team to land in Orlando and inhabit the Swan and Dolphin Hotel, with other organizations joining shortly.
The Galaxy are scheduled to depart Los Angeles in early July. Likely arriving on July 6 — a mandated seven days before their first game — although an earlier arrival time can always be arranged and nothing official has been announced.
All knock-out round games will not count toward the regular season, just the three group-stage games. And MLS hopes to play games in home markets once the tournament concludes with the Championship Game on August 11.
But the tournament will still include 16 days of continuous soccer that starts on July 8 with Orlando City hosting Inter Miami and concludes with a July 23 match between LAFC and the Portland Timbers.
How that season will navigate the ongoing Global Pandemic is an entirely different question?
Florida COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, with the number of cases, the percentage of positive tests, and hospitalizations all reaching records. And just recently, the Orlando Pride of the NWSL had to withdraw from their tournament with six players, and four staff members tested positive for the virus.
And questions about player safety within the MLS bubble are still being sorted out by the league and the teams.