New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila, center, congratulates...

New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila, center, congratulates captain Alexander Ring, right, after NYCFC defeated San Carlos 1-0 in a CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Harrison, N.J.  Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

Victory can’t be claimed from a simple group draw, but New York City FC came as close as possible Thursday.

NYCFC will enter the upcoming MLS is Back Tournament in Group A, a collection of six clubs that includes two expansion franchises and just one other playoff team from a season ago. That follows a live draw to establish the schedule for the league’s return beginning July 8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

Group A also includes hosts Orlando City SC, new clubs Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC, the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire FC. It is the only group of six teams, with the other five groups consisting of four each.

Despite extra clubs in Group A, each team still will play just three matches, with NYCFC facing Orlando, Philadelphia and Chicago during the stage. Against those opponents, City was unbeaten in MLS play last year (3-0-3), including two wins over Philadelphia, the only other team in the group to reach the postseason.

NYCFC coach Ronny Deila, who took over ahead of the 2020 season, said he expects City to open its slate July 9, giving the club less than a month to prepare despite restrictions still keeping it from starting full training at its Orangeburg facility.

“This season is going to be a special season whatever happens,” Deila said. “It’s about being ready for the unexpected all the time. We have a tournament, that’s good, it’s the option we have to start playing games, and I don’t think any team will have a perfect buildup to this tournament. So, it’s about who does it best, and we’ll do everything we can to be as ready as possible.”

Across the Hudson, the Red Bulls enter the tournament in Group E, which features top seed Atlanta United, as well as FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC. Last season, the Red Bulls were 3-1-2 in MLS play against their groupmates.

Group matches will count toward the 2020 MLS regular season as the league expects to fully resume play later this year. The top two teams from each group will advance along with the four best third-place finishers to a 16-team single-elimination bracket. The tournament winners receive a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League, while players will be eligible for bonuses from a $1.1 million prize pool.

MLS is Back Tournament Groups

Group A (Eastern Conference)

Orlando City SC

Inter Miami CF

New York City FC

Philadelphia Union

Chicago Fire FC

Nashville SC

Group B (Western Conference)

Seattle Sounders FC

FC Dallas

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

San Jose Earthquakes

Group C (Eastern Conference)

Toronto FC

New England Revolution

Montreal Impact

D.C. United

Group D (Western Conference)

Real Salt Lake

Sporting Kansas City

Colorado Rapids

Minnesota United FC

Group E (Eastern Conference)

Atlanta United FC

FC Cincinnati

Red Bulls

Columbus Crew SC

Group F (Western Conference)


LA Galaxy

Houston Dynamo

Portland Timbers FC

More soccer news


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.