The Fire's path to the MLS is Back Tournament crown became a bit clearer on Wednesday afternoon, as Major League Soccer announced the competition's match and broadcast schedule.
With the Fire's Group A matchups against New York City FC and 2020 expansion sides Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF previously announced, here's when those matches will take place and how fans can tune in:
- Weds., July 8: Fire vs. Nashville SC, 9:30 p.m. CT | ESPN
- Tues., July 14: Fire vs. Inter Miami CF, 8:00 a.m. CT | ESPN
- Sun., July 19: Fire vs. New York City FC, 7:00 p.m. CT | FS1
Outside of the match and broadcast schedule, here are a few other quick takeaways from today's announcement:
Opening Night Showdown
The Fire's tournament opener against Nashville SC will cap the first day of the competition on July 8. Orlando City and Inter Miami will kick start the tournament with a Sunshine State rivalry match at 8 p.m. CT in the other half of the league's opening day doubleheader.
In addition to today's schedule announcement, MLS confirmed a change to the tournament’s competition structure. The top three teams from Group A will now advance to the Knockout Stage. Those three teams will be joined by the top two teams from the remaining five groups, as well as the next three highest ranked teams from the Group Stage based on points, goal difference, goals for, fair play points. That means the fourth-placed team in Group A is additionally eligible now to advance.
16 Straight Days of ⚽️
The MLS is Back tournament Group Stage will consist of 16 days of consecutive match dates. All group stage match results will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings, as well as toward qualification to the tournament Knockout Stage, set to begin on July 25.
Rest & Recovery
According to the League announcement, all clubs will have at least four full days of rest between matches. The Fire will get five days between their first and second group stage matches, and four between their second and third matches. Should head coach Raphael Wicky and his men advance out of Group A, they would have at least five days of recovery prior to the July 25 start of the tournament's Knockout Round.
Seven matches will take place at 8 a.m. CT, all of which will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada. Clubs will participate in no more than one morning match during the tournament. The Fire's sole morning matchup will be their first-ever meeting with Inter Miami CF on Tuesday, July 14 at 8 a.m. CT.
Get Out of the Group
The tournament will continue in the Knockout Stage with eight Round-of-16 matches, played as doubleheaders on four consecutive evenings (July 25-28). Four quarterfinal matches will follow (July 30-Aug 1), as will two semifinal games (Aug. 5-6) and the MLS is Back Tournament Final on August 11 at 7 p.m. CT (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/TSN).
The tournament champion will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.