Good news for all soccer fans out there, as the MLS has returned to action and there are plenty of games to come in the next few weeks.
It has been a weird and unexpected season so far, for sure, Covid-19 made its appearance right when the MLS season was starting, and for a moment there, we even thought the season would have to be cancelled, due to new restrictions and protocols that had to be implemented in this and many other leagues.
However, MLS officials though a bit outside of the box, and they came up with a tournament format that would allow teams and players to remain active and in good form, it would keep the fans entertained and sports bettors busy, and they came up with the “MLS is Back Tournament” which was a competition held inside the Orlando bubble, in the ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. This tournament was held in a similar format as a FIFA World Cup, to use an example, with a 3-game group phase, and then knockout stages all the way to the final. Group stage matches counted as official games for the regular season and the tournament’s champion, which was Portland Timbers, won a straight spot to Concacaf’s Champions League 2021.
It was a good tournament, people liked and bet on it from start to finish, there were 24 teams, 51 games total and 146 goals scored, for a 2.86 goal per game average, quite a good number.
So, what happens now in the MLS?
Well, as soon as the “MLS is Back Tournament” was over, MLS regular season picked up right where it left off. Being in the bubble for a few weeks, allowed the teams to keep on playing and the restrictions to soften a little bit, so that now teams can resume with their games and are able to travel again.
Now things will advance in the usual way for an MLS season, and teams will play a total of 34 games each, two against each team in their conference, and the remaining ten will be against teams from the other conference. Remember that the MLS is divided in Eastern and Western conferences. In the East we have a total of 14 teams right now, after the recent additions of FC Cincinnati, Nashville SC and of course David Beckham’s Inter Miami FC, while in the West we have a total of 12 teams.
The leaders right now, by conference, are Columbus Crew SC, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union, and Orlando City SC, this in the Eastern Conference. Out in the West we have Sporting Kansas City right on top, followed by Seattle Sounders FC, Minnesota United FC, and Portland Timbers. Both finalists of the MLS is Back Tournament are currently fourth place in their respective conferences.
Regular season is expected to finish on October 4th, with the playoffs starting right away and the MLS Cup taking place on December 12th. Current MLS champion is Seattle Sounders FC. Will they be able to repeat, or will we have a new champion this year?