MLS to resume season with Florida tournament starting July 8

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2020, file photo, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks during the leagues 25th Season kickoff event in New York. Major League Soccer and its players' union reached an agreement that paves the way for a summer tournament in Florida after the season was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic.  The deal was announced by the Major League Soccer Players Association early Wednesday, June 3, 2020, following tense talks that led to some players skipping voluntary workouts and the league threatening a lockout.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2020, file photo, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks during the leagues 25th Season kickoff event in New York. Major League Soccer and its players' union reached an agreement that paves the way for a summer tournament in Florida after the season was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic. The deal was announced by the Major League Soccer Players Association early Wednesday, June 3, 2020, following tense talks that led to some players skipping voluntary workouts and the league threatening a lockout.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Major League Soccer is resuming its season amid the coronavirus pandemic on July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament in Florida that won't include fans in the stands.

The league's 26 teams will be divided into six groups for the opening round of the tournament at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.

Sixteen teams will advance to the knockout round, with the winner earning a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The group matches will count toward the regular season, the league said.

Teams had played just two games to start the season when the league suspended play March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While in Florida, players will be sequestered in a resort and be subject to a rigorous testing protocol. Each team will have three group matches, played over 16 consecutive days with multiple games a day. Games will be played in the morning and the evening to avoid the heat.

Players will be tested for COVID-19 before they leave for Orlando and when they arrive, as well as during the competition. Staffs will also be tested.

Commissioner Don Garber noted on a conference call with reporters Wednesday that it will be impossible to test everyone who might come in contact with players, like hotel staffs.

“We do need to manage social distancing. We will have that in place. We will need to manage facemasks and other PPE. For anybody that is involved in this project, we will have sanitizing and other things like temperature checks and the like for those that are involved in hotels and involved in housekeeping and the like. But those are not our employees,” Garber said. “We’re confident, having gone through this protocol, both with our own infectious disease doctor but also in sharing that with the MLSPA’s infectious disease adviser, and also with the state authorities."