MLS isn’t wasting any time, following up yesterday’s announcement of the MLS is Back Tournament with the group stage draw this afternoon at 3:30 pm (streaming on MLSsoccer.com, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube). We’ll have a live breakdown of the draw from me, Jenny, and Miguel on Orlando City social media platforms, along with reaction from Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja, as the teams are slotted.
But how will the draw work? And who can Orlando City potentially face?
MLS has a handy explainer of the draw process here. Orlando City, as the “host” club, are already slotted into Group A, which is unique among the groups in that it will have six teams instead of four. This means that Orlando City will not face all five teams they are drawn against–only three will actually play the Lions in the group stage, which will count towards the regular season standings.
Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi, alternating with representatives from fellow seeds Atlanta United and Toronto FC, will select numbers between 1 and 11, which will correspond to balls with team names randomly placed inside. This process will continue until all 11 unseeded Eastern Conference teams are drawn into a group.
Orlando City cannot face Atlanta or Toronto in the group stage, as they represent the other seeded teams in the East. The Lions will also avoid all Western Conference teams in the draw, as they will be placed into their own groups.
However, Nashville SC has been moved to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season. Led by Orlando native Dax McCarty in midfield, the new boys on the block are eligible to face Orlando City.
We could also see the revival of the Florida Derby in the MLS is Back group stage, as Inter Miami are in the pot for Orlando City. David Beckham’s project, led by Mexican international star Rudolfo Pizarro, were originally scheduled to face Orlando at Exploria Stadium in July, so perhaps the two teams could meet in similar, though slightly altered, circumstances.
Other teams Orlando City could face include original rivals New York City FC; MLS originals DC United, Columbus Crew SC, and New England Revolution; 2019 playoff teams New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union; or freshly re-made squads Montreal Impact, Chicago Fire FC, and FC Cincinnati.