Major League Soccer

FC Dallas withdraws from MLS is Back
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FC Dallas withdrawn from MLS is Back tourney; Vela to sit out

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Carlos Vela’s decision to sit out the MLS is Back tournament has been one-upped by reports that MLS has pulled an entire team out of the fray in Florida.

Vela, considered by many to be the league’s top player, is opting out of representing LAFC and choosing to spend time with his pregnant wife and children.

The Mexican star, 31, said he would love to play but the coronavirus pandemic means missing out is in “the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy.”

[ MORE: Mourinho, Lloris react to Son spat ]

LAFC released a statement supporting Vela’s “difficult decision,” which will not help the West’s top side in its bid to outlast the Galaxy, Houston, and Portland in Group F, should the tournament go forward as planned.

Meanwhile, FC Dallas’ bad month has gotten much worse. Six players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 last week and reports grew to include 10 players and one coach.

The side’s opening match against Vancouver was postponed on Saturday. Now FC Dallas says it is supporting an MLS decision to take the team out of the tournament. FC Dallas says it will take every precaution to make sure its return to Texas “minimizes risk of exposure to all parties involved.”

Dallas was drawn into Group B with Seattle, Vancouver, and San Jose. Two of the teams were set to advance to the knockout rounds.

Here is MLS’ statement on FC Dallas’ withdrawal:

“Major League Soccer announced today that FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament due to 10 players and one member of the technical staff confirmed positive for COVID-19. Each of these positive tests either occurred upon the club’s arrival or within a few days of arrival. The decision was made in the best interest of the health of all players and staff participating in the tournament, and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts.
“’Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,’ said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. ‘The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.’
Of the 557 players currently in Orlando, Fla. 13 total players have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, 10 of those being FC Dallas players and the remaining three from two other clubs.”

MLS schedule for Orlando tournament; How to watch

MLS schedule, how to watch Orlando
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Here is your MLS schedule for the Orlando tournament in July with details on how to watch the action, as well as full details for their ‘MLS is Back’ tournament in Orlando in July, with all 26 teams taking part at the Wide World of Sports complex at the Disney resort.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The tournament will kick off on July 8 with a group stage, then the Round of 16 will take place on July 25-28, the quarterfinals on July 30-August 1, semifinals on August 5-6 and the final on August 11.

Check out the MLS schedule for the Orlando tournament in full below, with MLS how to watch details too as this competition will see MLS return after four months off.

Essentially, this is a World Cup tournament between the 26 MLS teams, as the league also revealed that the regular season would continue at home MLS stadiums after the tournament as strict protocols to deal with the coronavirus pandemic will be in place.

Here are some key details on the “MLS is back” tournament and how to watch MLS, as how teams perform will be rewarded with CCL spots, prize money and more:

  • All 26 MLS clubs participating; all matches in Orlando
  • Group stage followed by knockout rounds
  • Group stage games which end in a draw will have penalty shootout
  • Teams will play a minimum of three games, maximum of seven
  • Each of the 39 group-stage games will count for points toward the 2020 regular-season standings
  • Winner earns 2021 CONCACAF Champions League spot
  • Players can earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool
  • Pre-tournament draw to assign groups
  • Regular season continues after tournament

MLS commissioner Don Garber also revealed that the league will honor George Floyd and they are deeply committed to addressing issues of racial injustice, violence against the black community and inequality.

“The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play,” Garber said. “We also recognize that the death of George Floyd and others has focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women. Together with our owners, players and staff, the League and its Clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programs to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long.”

The 26 MLS teams will be split into six groups, with Orlando City, Atlanta United, Los Angeles Football Club, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake listed as top seeds (the four MLS Cup semifinalists from last season, plus hosts Orlando City and RSL where the next-highest points finisher from last season). Nashville will be moved into the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season to make this format possible.

Here are some more details on dates and specifics for the tournament, with how to watch the MLS games as the draw for the group stage and bracket is above and the MLS schedule in Orlando is below in full.

MLS tournament details

  • June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
  • July 8: MLS is Back Tournament group stage begins
  • July 25-28: Round of 16 begins
  • July 30- Aug. 1: Tournament Quarterfinals
  • August 5-6: Tournament Semifinals
  • August 11: MLS is Back Tournament Final
  • Tournament date: July 8 – August 11
  • 54 matches (39 group stage; 15 knockout round)
  • 26 matchdays
  • Format: Group Stage, Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Championship
  • Minimum Matches: Three per club
  • Maximum Matches: Seven per finalist
  • 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.

MLS schedule Orlando tournament

Wednesday, 8 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Orlando City SC Inter Miami CF Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Nashville SC Chicago Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Thursday, 9 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET New York City FC Philadelphia Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET Montreal New England Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET FC Dallas Vancouver Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Friday, 10 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Toronto FC D.C. Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Seattle San Jose Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Saturday, 11 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Atlanta New York Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET FC Cincinnati Columbus Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Sunday, 12 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Sporting KC Minnesota Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Real Salt Lake Colorado Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Monday, 13 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Los Angeles FC Houston Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Los Angeles Portland Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET Inter Miami CF Chicago Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET Philadelphia Nashville SC Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Orlando City SC New York City FC Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET Seattle FC Dallas Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET Montreal Toronto FC Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Vancouver San Jose Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Thursday, 16 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET Atlanta FC Cincinnati Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET D.C. New England Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Columbus New York Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Friday, 17 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Sporting KC Colorado Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Real Salt Lake Minnesota Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Saturday, 18 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Portland Houston Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Los Angeles FC Los Angeles Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Sunday, 19 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET New York City FC Chicago Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Philadelphia Inter Miami CF Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Monday, 20 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET Orlando City SC Nashville SC Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET FC Dallas San Jose Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Seattle Vancouver Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Tuesday, 21 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET Toronto FC New England Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET Atlanta Columbus Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Montreal D.C. Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Wednesday, 22 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
9:00 AM ET Real Salt Lake Sporting KC Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
8:00 PM ET FC Cincinnati New York Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Colorado Minnesota Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Thursday, 23 July 2020
Time/Result Home Away Venue
8:00 PM ET Los Angeles Houston Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
10:30 PM ET Los Angeles FC Portland Disney Wide World of Sports Complex

How to watch MLS

Tournament: MLS is Back tournament in Orlando
Channels: ESPN, Fox Sports
Dates: July 8 to August 11

Report: Rangers sell one-time USMNT player Polster to New England

Matt Polster Rangers
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An American abroad is coming home after an uneven time in Scotland.

Former Southern Illinois and Chicago Fire mainstay Matt Polster will return to Major League Soccer this summer with the New England Revolution.

Bruce Arena’s Revs will reportedly pony up about $375,000 to buy Polster from Rangers, where he signed on a free transfer in January 2019 following three-plus MLS seasons that saw him earn a USMNT cap.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]

He was called up to two January camps for the U.S., going 90 minutes at right back against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018. Polster was also a contributor to the U.S. Olympic qualification push in 2015.

Polster, 27, finishes his time with 10 appearances and an assist Steven Gerrard’s Glaswegian set, getting Scottish Premiership and Europa League experience this season.

A defensive midfielder and right back in MLS, Polster played only the latter with Rangers thanks to Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack, Steven Davis, and Glen Kamara chewing up minutes in the middle of the park.

Six FC Dallas players test positive for COVID-19 in Florida

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Six players with FC Dallas have tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire team has been quarantined ahead of the MLS Is Back tournament.

The club confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the players tested positive upon arrival in Florida for the month-long tournament starting next week.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The team said all players and staff tested negative for coronavirus before leaving for the tournament on Saturday. Upon arrival, two players tested positive. Four more positive tests were uncovered in subsequent testing.

“In consultation with MLS medical officials, FC Dallas took proactive steps to isolate the newly affected players as well as all FC Dallas players and staff in Orlando out of an abundance of caution. All members of the club delegation are following MLS health and safety protocols and will remain quarantined in their hotel rooms pending the results of further COVID-19 testing,” the team said in a statement.

The names of the players were not released.

The league said that no other team has been in contact with the FC Dallas delegation since its arrival.

All of the league’s 26 teams are sequestered in hotels in advance of the tournament played without fans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World. The tournament opens Wednesday.

MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had played two games.

The league said on Sunday that 18 players and six staff members had tested positive for the virus before teams departed for Orlando.

League protocol requires players and staff to be tested every two days upon arrival in Florida. Teams began traveling last week in advance of the tournament.

FC Dallas is scheduled to open the tournament with a group stage match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 9.

Black MLS players form coalition to fight systemic racism

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A group of Black MLS players coalition to address systematic racism in their communities and bring about change within the league has been formed.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The coalition is the result of an Instagram group that began after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which spawned a wave of nationwide protests against racism and policy brutality.

Started by Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow, the group grew to some 70 MLS players, who formed the Black Players Coalition of MLS.

Morrow said players were already under stress because of the new coronavirus when were threatened with a lockout in contract talks. The league suspended play March 12 because of the pandemic.

“And then on top of that charge, George Floyd is killed. And so it kind of felt like my world was crumbling. And when I reached out to my my black soccer player peers, they all felt the same way,” Morrow said. “When we came together on that call, it was the most hopeful thing in one of the darkest weeks of my entire life.

Morrow said the conversations centered on whether players felt supported by the league. The players concluded it would be best to form an organization.

There were three goals, Morrow said: To give black players a voice in the league; to encourage black representation in the players’ association and higher levels of MLS; and to help local communities.

“We’ve already come to the table with Major League Soccer and had conversations with them about things that we’d like to see changed,” Morrow said during a video conference call. “We want to see action: These slogans, these statements are no longer enough. We want real change. So what is that going to look like in Major League Soccer? What is that going to look like in our communities? And how are we going about that?”

Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse, Chicago’s CJ Sapong, Nashville’s Jalil Anibaba, NYCFC’s Sean Johnson and Colorado’s Kei Kamara are among some of the other players involved.

The coalition has proposed training to promote cultural education and combat implicit bias. It also wants to hire a chief diversity officer. The group has discussed developing the game in black communities and partnering with charities. The group has already secured $75,000 in charitable contributions by the MLS Players Association.

“Major League Soccer proudly recognizes and supports the Black Players Coalition of MLS — a group of players who today, on Juneteenth, have established themselves as influential change leaders,” MLS said in a statement. “The league looks forward to continued and longstanding collaborations.”