D.C. United has learned its schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament, which is currently set to kick off in two weeks. United, in Group C, will play three games (all at night) before possibly having more games in the knockout stages if they can finish in one of the top two spots. Sam Stejskal of The Athletic broke the news, with MLS confirming the full slate shortly thereafter.
Should the alarming coronavirus numbers in Florida not scrap the entire event, Group C will open on July 9, with the Montreal Impact and New England Revolution playing at 8:00pm Eastern. United will enter the fray one day later, with a July 10 clash against Toronto FC at 8:00pm. That game will be broadcast on ESPN.
The Black-and-Red then get six days between games before facing the Revs on July 16, again at 8:00pm, but this time on Fox Sports 1 and TUDN. That will come one day after Group C’s other match-up, with the Impact and TFC renewing their heated rivalry at 8:00pm on July 15. Group C will conclude on July 21, with Toronto and New England meeting in a bizarre 9:00am kickoff time. That leaves United and Montreal concluding things in the group at 10:30pm.
MLS announced a small, but important format change. Initially, the top two finishers in each group were guaranteed to advance, along with the best four third-place teams. However, after multiple outlets pointed out the mathematical unfairness of that plan, the league changed course. Now, the top half of every group (i.e. still the top two in Groups B through F, and the top three in Group A) will advance, plus the top three teams from the 3rd place teams in Groups B through F and Group A’s 4th place team.
United is likely relieved to get more conventional kickoff times, with Julian Gressel openly celebrating that fact on Twitter shortly after the announcement:
United has also avoided any particularly difficult short turnaround between games, with six days and five days to recover during group play. That may change for the knockout stage, though, with the Group C runner-up on July 25 against the runner-up from Group A. Group C’s winner will play on July 27, while if the 3rd place team from the group goes through, their game could fall on July 25 or 26.