(Reuters) – Rivalries highlight the ‘MLS is Back Tournament’ after a draw on Thursday pitted regional foes against each other in a return to action following a three-month coronavirus hiatus.
All 26 MLS teams will congregate at Disney World resort in Orlando for a tournament without spectators that will start on July 8 and crown a winner on Aug. 11.
In a World Cup-type format, the clubs were drawn into six groups that will see the top two from each and the four best third-place finishers advance to a knockout round.
All group stage matches will count toward the MLS regular season standings with the tournament champion earning a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The draw produced some enticing matchups with Los Angeles FC and LA Galaxy renewing their El Trafico rivalry in Group F, which also includes Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers.
Canadian rivals Toronto FC, the MLS Cup runnersup last season, will go against Montreal Impact in Group C, which will also have D.C. United and the New England Revolution.
“We have a tough group and the three matches will be important and have value for not only the tournament but also for the regular season,” said Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney in a statement. “The league and players have done a nice job of making the most of a difficult situation by getting this tournament off of the ground, and there’s no better way to re-engage our fan base than a meaningful match against Montreal.”
In Group B, MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders will renew their cross-border grudge with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The group also includes FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes.
Group A, which will feature six teams, has Orlando City SC and David Beckham’s club Inter Miami along with New York City FC, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire and Nashville SC.
One hot rivalry that didn’t materialize was New York Red Bulls and New York City FC.
The Red Bulls were drawn into Group E with Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew.
Group D is made up of Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United.
New York City FC
San Jose Earthquakes
New England Revolution
Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City
New York Red Bulls
Los Angeles FC
Los Angeles Galaxy
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Tom Brown)