Chicago Fire grouped with expansion teams in MLS tournament

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Seattle Sounders defender Miguel Ibarra leaps to head the ball against the Chicago Fire during the first half of the March 1 game in Seattle.

    Seattle Sounders defender Miguel Ibarra leaps to head the ball against the Chicago Fire during the first half of the March 1 game in Seattle. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/11/2020 6:59 PM

The Chicago Fire will open the MLS is Back Tournament with games against the league's two expansion teams and New York City FC.

The Fire was drawn into a group with league newcomers Inter Miami and Nashville SC. The Philadelphia Union, Orlando City and New York City FC also are in Group A, an Eastern Conference group.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The tournament is organized like the World Cup, but Group A has six teams while the other groups have four apiece. Nashville is a Western Conference club moved to the East for this tournament and the rest of the season.

The tournament, to be played in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, is slated to begin July 8. The 2020 MLS season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each team will get at least three games. Orlando City is the top seed in the group as the host. NYCFC and Philadelphia also appear to be strong candidates to advance.

After group play, the top two teams in each group and two third-place teams in each conference will advance to elimination play in the Round of 16.

The final is Aug. 11. Teams will be allowed five substitutions a game instead of the normal three. The tournament will be played under strict medical protocols because of the pandemic.

The Fire was 0-1-1 when the season was suspended. Tournament games will count toward the regular-season standings. MLS hopes to resume the regular season after the Aug. 11 tournament final.

The teams will begin reporting to Orlando on June 24. The Fire began training in small groups June 5 at its facility at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

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