Reaching the knockout round of the MLS Is Back tournament just got a bit easier for New York City FC, without it playing a game.
Major League Soccer Thursday confirmed a change to the tournament’s competition structure. The top three teams from Group A, the six-team group which includes New York City FC, will advance to the knockout stage, instead of the previously announced two teams.
Those three teams from Group A will be joined by the top two teams from the remaining five groups, as well as the next three highest ranked teams from the group stage (the fourth-placed team in Group A is eligible to advance) based on points, goal difference, goals for, fair play points.
It had been announced that the top two finishers in each group along with the four best 3rd-place teams would move on to the knockout stage, which kicks off with the Round of 16 irrespective of their group and number of teams.
The league also released the knockout bracket, which revealed potential pairings for the knockout stages.
NYCFC travels to Orlando Saturday and will take on FC Dallas in a pre-tournament friendly on Sunday, July 4.
City was drawn into Group A alongside Orlando City SC, Inter Miami, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire and Nashville SC.
The team will open the competition on Thursday, July 9 vs. Philadelphia Union at 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/TSN).
The match will be the first 9 a.m. kickoff of the competition and will be the first of three games taking place on the second day of competition at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
NYCFC will face off against Orlando City in its group match on Tuesday, July 14 with a 10:30 p.m. ET (TUDN/TSN) start, before rounding off the group stages against Chicago Fire in an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday, July 19 (FS1 / TUDN / TSN).
The group stage will consist of 16 consecutive days of games with each MLS club playing three matches against teams within their drawn groups. All group stage match results will count in the MLS regular season standings, as well as toward qualification to the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stage.
The restart to MLS’ 25th season begins July 8 with a doubleheader on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN and TVA Sports, as Orlando City SC face Inter Miami CF at 8 p.m. EDT followed by Chicago Fire FC taking on Nashville SC at 10:30 p.m. ET.