Due to COVID-19, the MLS won’t have a season in 2020. Each team was scheduled to play 34 regular season games, but those hopes were dashed when the coronavirus disrupted life around the world. The MLS held out hope for a return of some sort, and they announced on June 10 that they would be holding a mini tournament to determine this year’s MLS Cup. This tournament will take place over five weeks in central Florida, and there will be a whopping 54 games during that stretch. It certainly isn’t the best way to decide a winner, but it’s better than nothing and sports fans will take it after going almost four months without top tier soccer in the United States.
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Group A Preview
This is the only group that will have six teams in it instead of four. The top three teams in this group will advance to the knockout round, while the fourth-place team has the potential to advance based on its ranking compared to the third-best teams in the other groups.
New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union are the clear favorites to get out of this group. Both teams finished in the top three in the Eastern Conference last season, while Orlando City have yet to make the postseason and the Chicago Fire missed out on the playoffs too. Expansion clubs Nashville SC and Inter Miami will have a difficult time getting out of this group as they have had precious little time to build chemistry.
Group B Preview
We will have an unofficial Cascadia Cup game as the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps have been drawn into the same group. This group is the hardest one to cap though as there are serious doubts that one of the first games will be contested. FC Dallas are supposed to take on the Whitecaps next Thursday, but the Whitecaps have yet to arrive in Florida from Canada after nine players from Dallas tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Given the tight schedule, no one knows what the MLS will do if the club’s players are still positive next week.
Group C Preview
Toronto is the favorite to come out of Group C after making it to the MLS Cup in three of the last four seasons. They are in a very manageable group given the lack of scoring options on the other teams, but their older players might really struggle with the short turnaround times between matches as the tournament progresses. Fatigue shouldn’t be much of a factor in the Group Stage, but keep that in mind as the competition moves forward.
Group D Preview
This figures to be the most evenly contested of the six groups. There is no totally dominant team nor is there a doormat in Group D, but I’ll put my money on Minnesota United after seeing what the Loons did in 2019. They have more talent than any other team in the group, and Jan Gregus was excellent in the club’s first two matches of the 2020 campaign.
Group E Preview
Poor Cincinnati. The club is coming off a tough first season in the MLS, and they didn’t get a chance to really take a step forward this year given the circumstances, Any hope of this team making a run in this competition was essentially dashed when they got placed in this group as they are a clear tier behind Atlanta, Columbus, and NY Red Bulls. Atlanta and the Red Bulls should grab the top two spots in Group E with Columbus finishing third.
Group F Preview
Los Angeles FC might be odds-on favorites to win this group per the MLS betting odds. They put together the best regular season performance we’ve ever seen in this league in 2019, but they be without their talisman in this competition. Carlos Vela opted out of playing in the MLS is Back Tournament, depriving the club of the league’s best goal scorer. That has opened the door for the LA Galaxy, Portland, or Houston to claim the group.
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