Atlanta United gets tough draw in MLS tournament

March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United defender Fernando Meza (left) and Ezequiel Barco celebrate a 2-1 victory over FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Atlanta United drew a tough group for the MLS tournament that will restart the season in Orlando in July.

The Five Stripes were joined by Cincinnati, the New York Red Bulls and Columbus in the draw held Thursday. The tournament schedule will be announced within a few days.

The tournament will be played at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando. The group stage games will start July 8. The round of 16 will be held July 25-28, the quarterfinals July 30-August 1, the semifinals Aug. 5-6 and the championship will be Aug. 11.

The two teams with the most points in each group, and four remaining teams with the most points, will advance to the knockout stage.

The champion of the tournament will receive an automatic bid to the 2021 Champions League tournament. Group stage results will count in the league standings.

“We are just excited to get back playing soccer,” Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said.

Atlanta United was 2-0-0, including a 2-1 win against Cincinnati, when the season was suspended March 12 because of COVID-19. Cincinnati includes former Atlanta United players Greg Garza and Brandon Vazquez.

Atlanta United has a history with two teams in its group.

Atlanta United was knocked out of the 2017 playoffs by Columbus, and Designated Player Ezequiel Barco suffered a knee injury after a hard tackle by a Columbus player in the 2019 U.S. Open. Columbus features former Atlanta United player Darlington Nagbe.

Atlanta United has had numerous tough games against the Red Bulls, including losing to them its first-ever game in 2017.  Atlanta United eliminated the Red Bulls from the MLS playoffs in 2018 on its way to winning the MLS Cup. The Five Stripes have yet to defeat Red Bulls in a regular-season game, though.

There should be tantalizing games in the other groups as well.

Orlando and expansion club Inter Miami will meet for the first time in the tournament’s first game July 8. Also in the group at rivals NYCFC and Philadelphia.

Group B features Cascadia rivals Seattle, the reigning MLS Cup holders, and Vancouver.

Group C features Toronto and Montreal, as well as two of the league’s original teams, New England and D.C. United.

Group D features rivals Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake and Colorado.

Group E features LAFC and the L.A. Galaxy, as well as Portland.

MLS is Back tournament groups

GROUP A 

Eastern Conference 

1. Orlando City SC*

2. Inter Miami CF

3. NYCFC

4. Philadelphia

5. Chicago

6. Nashville

GROUP B 

Western Conference 

1. Seattle *

2. Dallas

3. Vancouver

4. San Jose

GROUP C 

Eastern Conference 

1. Toronto *

2. New England

3. Montreal

4. D.C. United

GROUP D 

Western Conference 

1. Real Salt Lake*

2. Sporting KC

3. Colorado

4. Minnesota

GROUP E 

Eastern Conference 

1. Atlanta United*

2. Cincinnati

3. New York Red Bulls

4. Columbus

GROUP F 

Western Conference 

1. LAFC*

2. L.A. Galaxy

3. Houston

4. Portland

* Seeded club

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