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MLS outlines plans for 26-team Orlando event: reports

New York (AFP) – Major League Soccer has outlined plans for a 26-team tournament in Orlando to resume matches after the coronavoirus pandemic halted its season in March, according to multiple reports.

MLS would put its clubs into three groups of six teams and another of eight for the event at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Florida’s Disney World, according to ESPN and The Athletic website.

MLS sent teams a plan including safety protocols, delegation limits of 45-47 people per club and a format that would send the two top squads from each group into an eight-team tournament knockout round.

Details have yet to be finalized, according to the reports, with the league and its players union needing to agree on the details for the event to be staged, without spectators and for television cameras.

Players could be quarantined and secluded in the Orlando complex, which is also being eyed by the NBA for hopes of completing its campaign.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has welcomed professional sports teams to come to his state after easing coronavirus lockdown rules earlier this month.

Teams would likely arrive in mid-June to start training with matches beginning in July, if players back the league proposal.

Reigning MLS champion Seattle and Los Angeles FC, last year’s top regular season squad, would be top seeds in Western Conference six-team groups.

Host Orlando and 2019 US Open Cup winner Atlanta United or Toronto would be top seeds in the Eastern Conference, which would have one collection of eight teams, Nashville moving from West to East to create groups with an even number to clubs.

Each team would play at least five round-robin matches that would be counted in the standings of the MLS season, which was halted by the deadly virus after only two weeks. MLS officials have not given up the idea of resuming the season later this year if possible.

Knockout stage matches would not factor into the MLS season.

Testing would begin three days before people depart for Orlando, with those testing positive not allowed to make the trip. Teams would be quarantined in a hotel for a week with health questions and temperature checks ahead of tests before the first match, with anyone positive directed into quarantine.

ESPN reported players are concerned about the firmness of the “bubble” with hotel workers and aren’t thrilled at potentially being away from families for 10 weeks.

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