FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There will be a lot on the line when the MLS is Back Tournament kicks off in less than three weeks, beginning July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
Each team will compete in three group stage matches that count towards league play, and sides that advance to the knockout rounds will vie to be crowned champions, earning a berth to the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. To sweeten the pot, the players will also be contesting for a piece of a $1.1 million pool of prize money based on results.
The stage has been set for the initial matchups, and the New England Revolution have been placed in Group C with three Eastern Conference foes: Toronto FC, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.
“They’re three teams that we know well,” said Carles Gil via translator. “They’re from our conference. I think Toronto is possibly the toughest opponent, but at the end of the day they’re tough games that’ll be difficult to win.
“But we’re poised to earn those nine points. We know those first three games count toward qualifying for the playoffs.”
Following the group stage, the top two teams in each group and four-best third-place teams will advance onto the Round of 16, followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.
The Revs squad, including MLS newcomer Adam Buksa, is embracing this new style of MLS competition.
“I really like the style of the tournament,” said Buksa. “I think as a soccer player you always play for competing in this kind of tournament. Obviously, it’s not a World Cup, but it is a similar style to a World Cup format.
“It is going to be exciting because all games will be very important – we have a lot to lose but a lot to win, as well. We have to be focusing on every game and that brings fun to players and to fans who will be watching this tournament on TV.”
Antonio Delamea expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s going to be my first World Cup,” Delamea said with a chuckle. “We are all very happy to finally be back doing what we do best, playing soccer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tournament or a friendly game, we are looking forward to it and we need to be ready for the tough environment that’s waiting down there, but we will be ready.”
The neutral venue, high stakes and strong Eastern Conference opposition are all factors that will contribute to this tough environment.
Looking at the opponents, Group C will be competitive. Three of the four teams (Toronto, D.C. United and New England) qualified for the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and all teams are eager to get back to action in the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament.
“Each opponent in this league is tough to play with,” said Delamea. “It’s just every game is going to be unique, tough, and we just need to be prepared. It all starts out here on the training field.”
The Revs continue to work diligently in full-team training in Foxborough as they gear up to kick off in the MLS is Back Tournament.