FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There will be no shortage of incentives when the MLS is Back Tournament kicks off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort on July 8.
Group stage matches will count towards the regular season standings. The tournament winner will earn a berth in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. Oh, and players will be vying for a piece of a $1.1 million pool of prize money based on results.
But that’s not the only motivation the players will find in Florida, according to New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell, who noted that personal pride will also be on the line – with a unique twist.
With all 26 Major League Soccer teams housed at the same hotel – Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort – there will be no way to avoid a ribbing should your team end up on the wrong side of a result.
“It’s going to be all teams in the same location,” Farrell said. “It’s going to be fun and interesting, and I think even more competitive than league games because everyone’s going to be staying in the same spot, so you don’t want to be losing and seeing everybody else in the same location.”
That’s one of several aspects of the MLS is Back Tournament that will make this month-long competition a once-in-a-lifetime experience, including the fact that matches are slated to kick off at 9 a.m., 8 p.m., and 10:30 p.m. ET to avoid the oppressive summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms prevalent in Florida.
There will be challenges, but players are taking everything in stride and eagerly anticipating their opportunity to get back onto the field after a four-month suspension of league play.
“It’s a different format – a very exciting format, like a type of World Cup,” said midfielder Wilfried Zahibo. “It’s very exciting. We have to be ready when we get there, and I think the team is very excited to get back and working very hard.”