Jonathan Mensah - 3.1.20 - Fans

MLS is Back Tournament Format | A guide on how the tournament works

Tournament Structure

Group Stage format:

  • The 26 teams will be split into six groups.
  • The Eastern Conference will have three groups, one of six teams and two with four teams each.
  • The Western Conference will have three groups, each consisting of four teams.
  • Each team will play three group stage matches over the course of 16 consecutive days.
  • The top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage, beginning with the Round of 16.
  • If two or more clubs are tied on points in the group stage, MLS regular season tiebreaking procedures are used.
  • The tiebreakers for determining the four 3rd-placed clubs are: (1) points, (2) goal differential, (3) goals scored, (4) fewest disciplinary points.

What's at stake?

  • Regular Season points: Each of the 39 group-stage games will count for points toward the 2020 regular-season standings.
  • Concacaf Champions League spot: In a one-time change to MLS berths to the annual Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, the MLS is Back Tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, regardless of whether it is a U.S. or Canadian club. This berth replaces the one traditionally awarded to the regular-season conference leader that did not win the Supporters’ Shield.
  • Prize Money: In addition to matches that count in the regular-season standings and competing for bragging rights, the MLS is Back Tournament will give players the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.

General competition rules

  • Substitutions: Clubs can make up to 5 substitutions per match per the new protocol set by the IFAB, but each club will have a maximum of three opportunities to make those 5 subs in every match. Subs made at halftime will not count toward one of the three opportunities.
  • Matchday rosters: Teams will also be able to name a matchday roster featuring up to 23 players.
  • Video Review: As is the case during regular MLS play, the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) will have access to Video Review for all games.
  • Delays & postponements: Match delays and postponements will be handled as per the 2020 MLS regular season rules. Any group stage match may be considered final should it reach the 60th minute and it is determined that the match cannot continue.

Disciplinary procedures

  • All discipline received from the first two matches of the 2020 regular season will carry over to the MLS is Back tournament.
  • All group stage discipline will be reset before the start of the knockout stage except for red cards (and second yellows) and other Disciplinary Committee action which will carry over to the knockout stage.
  • There will be no yellow card accumulation policy for the knockout stage.
  • Any group stage discipline that has not been served prior to the end of the group stage will be applied to the next 2020 regular season match following the completion of the tournament (Note: Group stage matches count toward regular season standings).
  • If a player receives a second yellow card in the final group stage match but the first yellow card was also his 5th yellow card of the regular season, the player will be suspended for the first knockout stage competition match (due to red card suspension) AND for his first regular season match following the Tournament (for yellow card accumulation).
  • Red cards (and second yellows) and Disciplinary Committee action in any player’s final knockout stage match will carry over to the regular season. All other knockout stage discipline that has not been fully served prior to the conclusion of the knockout stage will not carry over to the regular season following the tournament.

What happens after the tournament?

  • Upon completion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.
  • The schedule will be developed at a later date.
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