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Fire schedule set, format tweaked for MLS tournament

The Fire are slated to face two expansion franchises, and the league announced their six-team group will send at least three sides to the next round.

Mauricio Pineda and the Fire learned their schedule for the upcoming MLS is Back Tournament.
Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire learned their schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament. They also got a little help from the league to make the event a little more equitable.

On Wednesday, MLS announced the tournament is scheduled to open July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, with the Fire facing Nashville SC at 9:30 p.m. Nashville SC was moved into the Eastern Conference for the tournament and at least the remainder of 2020. On July 14, the Fire will face Inter Miami, another expansion team, at 8 a.m.

The Fire will conclude the group stage at 7 p.m. on July 19 when they square off against New York City FC, which is the only team the Fire will face in their opening three matches that competed last season in MLS.

As for help from the league, that relates to qualifying for the knockout stage. The Fire’s six-team Group A will now automatically send its top three teams to the next round, instead of the two that were announced as part of the original format.

The five four-team groups still will see at least two of their sides move on.

With the format change, at least the top half of every group will move on to the knockout round. It’s also possible that the fourth-place team in Group A could grab one of the three wild-card slots for the round of 16. Those bids will go to clubs with the most points that didn’t finish in the top half of their group.

The winner of the tournament will receive a bid for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The three group-stage matches will also count toward the 2020 regular-season standings.

The Fire are scheduled to leave for Florida on Wednesday.