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MLS sends clubs plan for 26-team playoff scenario in Orlando

MLS is looking to hold a World Cup-style tournament involving all 26 teams. We break down the latest as the league has sent a document to teams with pertinent details.

A general view of the playing field prior to a MLS soccer match between New York City FC and Orlando City SC at Orlando City Stadium on March 2, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Major League Soccer is developing a plan to restart their season with a 26-team playoff, and The Athletic has obtained a document sent to each club explaining how it will work.

The league would move all 26 teams to Orlando for a World Cup-style, round-robin tournament. Teams would be split into four groups, with last year’s playoff semifinalists getting the top position in three of the groups, and host Orlando City getting the top spot in the fourth. The second spot in Orlando’s group would go to either Atlanta or Toronto pending a random draw, and the other team would get the top spot in the remaining group alongside LAFC and Seattle.

The document goes into the extensive role Covid-19 testing will require. Testing would begin 72 hours before teams travel to Orlando, with players that test positive being put into a two week quarantine. During subsequent testing, if a player tests positive more than 60 minutes before a game, he could be replaced on the roster, but if it is within an hour of a game, he could not be replaced.

There is extensive detail about social distancing in between matches at the central hotel. Additionally, matches would run at 9 a.m., 8 p.m., and 10:30 p.m. to avoid the mid-day heat of Florida in the summer. Teams could carry an extra five players on their roster. In the knockout stage, matches that are tied through 90 minutes would go directly to a standard penalty kick shootout rather than extra time.

The plan requires sign-off by the players. The Athletic is reporting the MLS Players Association submitted a list of roughly 100 questions and the league has yet to respond. The plan reportedly involves using the Coronado Springs Resort, and players have asked if hotel staff would be quarantined along with the MLS personnel.

Multiple sources said that the league has yet to provide an answer on that question, though the belief among several club and player sources is that hotel staff will not be quarantined at the resort. That expectation has raised further concerns for the MLSPA and players, who question why they need to be locked down without their families if the staff who will be preparing their food, cleaning their rooms and performing other tasks around them will be free to come and go.

MLS wants to get players into Orlando by the first week of June, and the league is targeting July 3rd as the start date for the start of matches, per The Athletic.