Wednesday's soccer news starts with Major League Soccer's clubs continuing to push forward to next month's MLS is Back tournament. With the pandemic issues in Florida, safety remains a primary concern for the unique restart to the season. The bubble approach is not unique to MLS, but it's also not anybody's idea of a normal way to operate a league.
For 10 teams, this will be a way to get three games that count in the standings before returning to their home markets. For the 16 that advance, it's each of them deciding the relative worth of tournament soccer after playing those three games that count. How big a divide that creates will be the competitive story of the tournament.
A couple of weeks out, how a team prepares for MLS is Back is an interesting question. Should MLS be able to restart the season in its markets on a regular schedule, three games could be important. That's worth underlining in a league where even the contenders can drop four games in a row without ruining their seasons. Three games that count are important, but are they that important? MLS is a forgiving league, and overstressing the group stage in Orlando may not work for all the clubs involved.
It's easy enough to look at what happens over the group stage as a way to get all teams to five games played before returning to closer to normal. That's games in home stadiums behind closed doors like in Europe. It also buys the league time to see if that's possible across its markets.
Then there's the problem with tournament soccer. Those 10 teams that don't advance end up in another waiting game. The group stage ends on August 23. Half of the round of 16 joins them by August 28. By the end of the day on August 1, all but four teams will be heading home with the final not until August 11.
After months without soccer, the last thing any of the teams involved should want is another start/stop scenario this season. That's another competitive hurdle. What happened over the opening two weeks of the season in late February and early March may not have much bearing on July in Orlando. MLS is Back may not mean much for what happens over whatever version of the regular season ends up in place.
MLS knew that when they opted for their tournament model. It's a chance at getting games in over an odd situation for all the clubs involved. It's still worth asking why MLS didn't just schedule a run of league games in Orlando, with all teams playing an equal amount. That's the pragmatic response to a situation that's as much a schedule constraint issue as anything else.
Also in the soccer news, Erik Palmer-Brown subbed on at halftime for Austria Vienna's 2-0 win at Admira Wacker Modling. Dominik Fitz scored in the 11th minute with Christoph Monschein converting a 50th minute penalty. Brown saw yellow in the 79th minute.
The Ringer's Ryan Hunn explains the oddity of seeing a closed door Bundesliga game from the press section. Bundesliga Fanatic's Josh Henwood asks if Eintracht not qualifying for Europe is a good thing. ESPN's Julien Laurens talks to Ligue 1 personnel about their season ending.
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