T&T senior footballers Alvin Jones of Real Salt Lake FC and Minnesota United duo, Kevin Molino and Canadian-born Gregory Ranjitsingh, will likely come up against each other in the unique World Cup-style tournament featuring all 26 US Major League Soccer (MLS) carded to begin on July 8.
This after their clubs were drawn in the same Western Conference group on Thursday for the “MLS is Back Tournament" which will be played at ESPN Wide World Sports Complex, Walt Disney Resort in Florida.
The tournament will see 54 matches being played over 26 match days and at stake will be regular-season points and a Concacaf Champions League berth. This will replace the automatic spot previously awarded to the MLS regular-season points leader in the conference opposite of the 2020 Supporters’ Shield winner.
However, it is a one-time exception to the rules for the Concacaf Champions League berth and following this year, the normal format for earning a spot in the competition will resume. As an added incentive, players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a US $1.1 million prize pool.
When the draw was conducted the 26 MLS teams were drawn into six groups with the 14-team Eastern Conference divided into three groups, one of six teams and two with four teams each, while the 12-team Western Conference was divided into three groups, each consisting of four teams.
The 25-year-old central defender Alvin Jones and Real Salt Lake earned one of the six group seedings, based on having the next highest points total in the West Conference during last season, outside of the four Audi MLS Cup semifinalists and were drawn to head Group D where they will face Minnesota United FC, Sporting Kansas City, and Colorado Rapids.
It will not be an easy task for Real Salt Lake as Minnesota United started the season by winning both their matches while Colorado Rapids and Sporting KC, one of the league's best teams through two games in 2020, are its two main rivals.
Commenting on the draw, Real Salt Lake head coach Freddy Juarez was quick to point out that his team was drawn in a tough group.
"Rivalries with Colorado and with Sporting. And Minnesota is a very, very good group,” Juarez said. "A lot of respect there. We’re a competitive group, a tight-knit group and improving every year the last four years. We know what we have, we know what we are and we have a chip on our shoulder that we want to go out and compete against anyone in MLS. That’s the mindset of the whole group.”
The older of the Jones brothers, Joevin, 28, and defending MLS champions Seattle Sounders, also a top seed for the Western Conference after reaching last year’s Audi MLS Cup semifinals have been drawn in Group B and will face FC Dallas in a rematch of their 2019 memorable playoff series, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and San Jose Earthquakes.
The other Western Conference series, Group F comprises both LA FC and LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers FC.
The Eastern Conference Groups are Group A - Orlando City SC, Miami CF, New York City FC, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire FC, Nashville SC; Group C - Toronto FC, New England Revolution, Montreal Impact, DC United; and Group E - Atlanta United FC, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew SC.
Overall, the tastiest matchup of the competition, though, might come in Group F, where the LA Galaxy was the first selection in the group after LAFC, meaning 'El Trafico' will also be making an appearance in Orlando.
With MLS restarting the season in the state of Florida, the "MLS is Back Tournament" will kick off with a matchup of the two Florida-based teams, Orlando City SC vs Inter Miami CF.
June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
July 8: MLS is Back Tournament group stage begins
July 25-28: Round-of-16
July 30- Aug. 1: Quarterfinals
August 5-6: Semifinals
August 11: Final
Eastern Conference Groups:
Group A: *Orlando City SC, Miami CF, New York City FC, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire FC, Nashville SC.
Group C: *Toronto FC, New England Revolution, Montreal Impact, DC United.
Group E: *Atlanta United FC, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew SC.
Western Conference Groups:
Group B: *Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, San Jose Earthquakes
Group D: *Real Salta Lake, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United FC
Group F: *Los Angeles FC, Los Angeles Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, Portland Timbers FC.
(NB: * indicates seeded team)