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LAFC will face Houston, Galaxy to take on Portland in MLS Is Back tournament openers

LAFC's Carlos Vela takes a shot during a game against the Galaxy on Aug. 25, 2019.
LAFC’s Carlos Vela takes a shot during a game against the Galaxy last season.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

LAFC will open next month’s MLS Is Back tournament on July 13 against the Houston Dynamo while the Galaxy will play the Portland Timbers in their group-play opener on the same day.

The 54-match tournament, which kicks off July 8, will be played entirely behind closed doors at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla., and will make MLS the first men’s professional league to return to play since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports in the U.S. in early March.

MLS teams were two games into their 34-game schedules when play was halted. LAFC was unbeaten with a win and a draw while the Galaxy, at 0-1-1, are winless.

The Galaxy and LAFC will face each other in their second group-play match on July 18 before finishing the first round five days later, the Galaxy playing Houston and LAFC meeting Portland. The LAFC-Portland game will be the final match of the 39-game opening stage.

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While professional soccer leagues across the country seem to think they’re done with the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus is not done with sports.

Under the competition format, each team will play three group-play games that will count in the regular-season standings. The top two teams in each of the six groups, plus the four best third-place teams, will advance to the knockout stages culminating in an Aug. 11 championship. At stake is $1.1 million in prize money and a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League for the winner.

Teams are required to arrive in Florida at least a week before their first game, meaning the Galaxy and LAFC will have to break training camp in Southern California by July 5. All 26 MLS teams will be quarantined at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin resort in Orlando, where they will undergo a vigorous COVID-19 testing protocol.

The San Jose Earthquakes, who have not been unable to train at home because of local COVID-19 restrictions, were the first team to arrive, entering the protective bubble Wednesday. If the Earthquakes reach the tournament final, their players and staff will be quarantined for seven weeks.

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The run-up to the competition comes at a time when Florida is dealing with a serve spike in COVID cases. The state reported a record 5,511 positive tests Wednesday and is one of seven states with more than 100,000 infections.

In the past two weeks Orange County, where Orlando is located, has had 2,561 people test positive for the unique coronavirus, more than 40% of them between the ages of 20-29.

The NWSL came up with a plan to become the first U.S. soccer league to return, and that landed the women’s league a spot on national TV Saturday.

MLS Is Back tournament schedule

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(all times Pacific)

First round

July 8: Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF, 5 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Nashville vs. Chicago Fire, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

July 9: New York City vs. Philadelphia Union, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution, 5 p.m. (TUDN); FC Dallas vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 7:30 p.m. (TUDN)

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July 10: Toronto vs. D.C. United, 5 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

July 11: Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls, 5 p.m. (FOX / TUDN); Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN)

July 12: Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United, 5 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

July 13: LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo, 5 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN); Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers, 7:30 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN)

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July 14: Inter Miami vs. Chicago Fire, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Philadelphia Union vs. Nashville, 5 p.m. (TUDN); Orlando City vs. New York City, 7:30 p.m. (TUDN)

July 15: Seattle Sounders vs. Dallas, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Montreal Impact vs. Toronto, 5 p.m. (TUDN); Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. (TUDN)

July 16: Atlanta United vs. Cincinnati, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); D.C. United vs. New England Revolution, 5 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN); Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN)

July 17: Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids, 5 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

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July 18: Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes); LAFC vs. Galaxy, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

July 19: New York City vs. Chicago Fire, 5 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN); Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN)

July 20: Orlando City vs. Nashville, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 5 p.m. (TUDN); Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 7:30 p.m. (TUDN)

July 21: Toronto vs. New England Revolution, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew, 5 p.m. (TUDN); Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. (TUDN)

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July 22: Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City, 6 a.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls, 5 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes); Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United FC, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

July 23: Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo, 5 p.m. (FS1 / TUDN); LAFC vs. Portland Timbers, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes)


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