MLS is Back Tournament schedule unveiled

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Fans who’ve been eager to see the Philadelphia Union return to action should block off the morning of July 9.

Major League Soccer announced the schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament this afternoon, which kicks off at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida on July 8.

The Union’s first game in Orlando will be against NYCFC on Thursday, July 9. That match is a 9 a.m. kickoff — a first in MLS history — and will be televised on ESPN.

Philadelphia next takes on Nashville SC on Tuesday, July 14 at 8:00 p.m., a match that will be on Univision Deportes. The final group stage match is against Inter Miami on Sunday, July 19, kicking off at 10:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.

Each match will also be streamed the broadcasting network’s respective app — ESPN, Fox Sports, and TUDN.  The match against Nashville will also be streamed in English on the @TUDN Twitter handle.

The Union are one of six teams in Group A, the only of the six groups with more than four teams. MLS announced a tweak to the rules today that will see the third-place finisher in Group A automatically qualify for the knockout stage, along with the top two finishers in every other group and the three teams with the next-highest point totals.

The NYCFC match is the first of seven games in the tournament that will be played at 9:00 a.m., a schedule designed to beat the scorching summer heat in Orlando. In an afternoon press conference, Union manager Jim Curtin reflected on the strangeness of matches starting early in the morning and late at night.

The Union travel to Orlando on July 2 via a charter flight. At that point, they’ll enter the MLS “bubble,” staying at the Walt Disney World Complex until their participation in the tournament ends.

That could be as soon as July 19 — or as late as the final on August 11.

Notes from Jim Curtin’s press conference
  • As of today, the Union are back at their training facilities in Chester. They’ve been at fields in Wilmington and Kirkwood, Delaware while approval to train in Pennsylvania was sorted out with the government.
  • Everyone at Union training is healthy, and no one in the squad has tested positive for COVID-19 recently.
  • Curtin seemed happy with the way his team looks in practice, noting that the level of sharpness is higher than it was in preseason.
  • The logistics of everything sound… exhausting. Curtin referred repeatedly to the documents, meetings, and Zoom calls that have been necessary to make this tournament a reality. As an example, the clubs all have to share practice fields and weight rooms while in Orlando, meaning that the teams can’t unilaterally set whatever training schedule they want in the lead-up to each match.
  • The continued spread of COVID-19, both in Florida and in different sports teams that have returned to training, remains a background issue as preparations for the tournament continue. Curtin emphasized that his team needed to work, as individuals, minimize the risk of COVID-19 being to introduced to the team. “It’s a time to not be selfish,” he noted. “It’s not hard to put on a mask.”


  1. Tim Jones says:

    While I have not charted the number of rest days for all 26 teams, it is worth noting that the Union is scheduled to play every fifth day in the group stage, which is a pace less intense by one day than a World Cup.
    That datum and the parameters released today about the USLC’s pace of play are the first substantive clues of any kind towards the MLS revised schedule’s intensity.

  2. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I swear MLS becomes more of a joke every day. Even when you think they’re gonna get everything right, they screw it all up.


    First of all, who had the brilliant idea to have 2 East Coast teams in a 10:30pm game on a SUNDAY night?? And while we’re at it, who decided to schedule the 2 best teams in the group for a Thursday morning, when many people will be at work?


    And second, what about local broadcast? I don’t get ESPN, but I get PHL and obviously the Union website. At the beginning of the year, we were told all games are available on the website, but I’ve seen no such announcement.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      Soccer is trying to catch baseball and hockey in America. If it can get itself on TV before then (as it has done), all of the other details are just details. Beyond that, I suspect the 9am game is going to be a big deal. Tens of millions of people are sitting home with nothing to do and barely anything interesting to watch. Enter: Striker Muffin and the Snakes of Philadelphia.

      • Chris Gibbons says:


        COPYRIGHT NOTICE: I own the band name “Striker Muffin and the Snakes of Philadelphia” and we will be releasing our debut album “Missing the Suuub” in late 2021.

      • Oh, Chris! Love it! LOL.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I’d be very surprised if the network for each timeslot was filled before the actual matchup was determined. If that’s the case, they could have easily made sure that all of the 10:30pm games had at least one of the 6 PDT or 2 MDT based teams.

    • In Tanner We Trust: you raise a good point. I will see if I can find out. My very poor memory from over 100 days ago MAY be that the website available was for preseason matches, but the question is nonetheless worth asking.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The brilliant idea belongs to the same people who thought it would be a good idea to have Seattle play one of those 9am games.
      Once again MLS proves it is not fan friendly and that the schedule maker is really the monkeys sitting at a typewriter figuring that if they type long enough they’ll reproduce the complete works of Charles Dickens – “It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.”

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        I think you mentioned on a previous that the 9am game is against Dallas as well? That makes it even more ridiculous. Seattle-Dallas was the 2nd best playoff game last year and they’re not giving the rematch justice.

  3. Scott of Nazareth says:

    It is sort of Uniony that the only “Primetime” game would be the one that’s broadcast on a Spanish language network requiring me to break out the laptop and HDMI cables to watch on my couch.
    Nevertheless happy to have them back!

  4. Tim Jones says:

    This is for “In Tanner We Trust.”
    I have asked sources in the organization for comment but they are VERY busy right now and may well not have time to get back to me.
    My memory says that in preseason this past February the club put all preseason matches for which there was a video feed on its website, probably announced that although five months later I have no memory of such. They were restricted by the requirements of the other side in each contest.
    The video feed was an unmanned automatic camera programmed to follow play, i.e., to detect the highest concentration of bodies on the field and follow that. The programming means that individual breakaways and really long cross field diagonals were not followed by the camera.
    I am guessing that an announcement about those broadcasts, which you could watch only if your device was receiving signals from signal towers in the immediate greater Philly area, may be what you are remembering.
    If I happen to get further clarification, I will make a new comment here.

  5. Tim Jones says:

    This is a follow-up to “In Tanner We Trust’s” question above.
    You were paying better attention than I, BUT … .
    The streaming deal is only for locally produced games. You are correct they will be streaming on the club’s website.
    But nationally televised matches will not be so streamed, and the tournament is nationally televised.
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Thank you. It doesn’t make sense to me. It feels so cold to the loyal fans who are giving MLS their $. But thanks for looking into it!

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