I want to preface this blog by saying that I don’t know if the MLS will be back. It’s Monday, the MLS Bubble is a hunk of garbage, more players are testing positive, and now Carlos Vela, the best player in the league, is sitting out due to concerns over health/safety. However, I hope I am wrong and that we get MLS back. Assuming we do get the MLS back, here’s a breakdown for the Group Stages.
The MLS is making it’s much awaited return on Wednesday, and with a format that I think will change the league for the better. Also, I love the MLS not beading around the bush with a fancy tournament name. Deciding on the the name “MLS is Back Tournament” is how I like my soccer, straight to business.
The MLS will play a significantly reduced schedule, but this new World Cup esque style of competition will be exciting, even for the non-MLS fan. Group stage action starts July 8th, with the top 2 teams from each group advancing, along with the best four 3rd place clubs. The Knockout Round of 16 will run from the 25th-28th, the Quarterfinals from the June 30th-August 1st, Semi’s on the 5th and the 6th, and the final will take place on August 11th. I love the MLS just saying screw a full season, let’s get the people buzzing with a month long tournament, simply beautiful.
OOO boy do I love me some group stage footy. Let’s break down these groups, Barney Brackets style.
May sound a tad (very) biased, but the Philadelphia Union are my lock to win Group A. I know we only saw 2 games of regular season play, but this team has the offense, and the goalkeeping to make it out of this group. Newcomers Miami and Nashville will likely fall to the bottom, along with Chicago. NYCFC are a heavy favorite in this group, but they are my #2 in the group. Orlando is the wild card in this group, but I think they’ll be in the hunt for one of the final 3rd place spots in the next round.
Toronto wishes they got put into either Group A or Group E, especially Group A, so they could have a cake-walk to the finals. Toronto is a +800 favorite (3rd best in MLS) to win the MLS Cup, and I think they’ll have a strong chance to win once they advance out of the group stage. The battle for 2nd place between Montreal and the Revolution is what I’m looking forward to watching in this group. Give me the two Canadian clubs to advance onto the knockout stage, but expect the Revolution to be one of the four 3rd place teams that moves on as well.
Another squad lucking out in the draw format is the champs from 2 years ago in Atlanta United. FC Cincy and Columbus will be stingy sides, but not enough to seriously test Atlanta. The NY Red Bulls will be the 2nd team out of of the group. Just can’t see either Ohio side having the talent to pull out wins, especially in this group. Columbus could sneak into the last 3rd place spot in the Knockout Round, but that’s something the other groups in the East will determine.
Seattle and Dallas take this group in a landslide, and I don’t think Vancouver or San Jose will qualify for the knockout rounds. It’s a toss up between Seattle and Dallas for the #1 spot, but I’d have to lean towards FC Dallas. Historically speaking, Seattle has the best environment in soccer, but without that crowd, they aren’t as dangerous as the lads from Dallas.
This group is a yawnfest for me. Maybe it’s cause I tend to watch more Eastern Conference soccer, but none of these teams make me want to jump for joy. Minnesota and Sporting KC are pretty high favorites for an MLS Cup victory, but I don’t think either has the depth to knock off the bigger clubs in the West like LAFC and Seattle. Taking Minnesota to come in 1st, Sporting KC in 2nd, and neither Colorado nor RSL will make it past the group stage.
This is the best group in the entire tournament, aka the Group of Death. It sucks not having Carlos Vela, but even without him, these games are going to be wild. Everyone is looking at both LA clubs to advance, and I think they ultimately will. LAFC in 1st, the Galaxy in 2nd, and Portland will advance as one of the best four 3rd place teams.
I know that was a long read (longest thing I’ve ever written), but it’s about time we got the MLS back. Buckle up America, team sports are back. Kick it easy, and grow the game by sharing Barney’s MLS Group Stage Breakdown with family, friends, and all those who love footy.