MLS is Back: Just what impact will the heat have?

The MLS is Back Tournament will be hosted in Orlando, Florida during the summer heat. But just what impact will the weather have and does it really favour some teams more than others?

The 2020 Major League Soccer season will look very different from the ones that came before it. While Commissioner Don Garber still hopes to resume the regular season in some way, eventually ending in a postseason and MLS Cup, for now, major contingency plans have been put in place. The first of those kicks off in two weeks.

The MLS is Back Tournament is a carry-over. It is designed to get teams playing, to put matches on television, and to buy the league time as they look to return to home markets later in the year. In essence, it is a money-making scheme that will help fill the $1 billion hole in lost revenue, as Garber revealed earlier this year.

The plans are elaborate. It features three matches per day, a group-stage, a semi-meaningless knockout stage, and all the teams living at the Disney World Resort to self-isolate in a league-wide bubble. The entire tournament will be hosted at Orlando, in the peak of summer. And that, for some, is a major issue.

Speaking with reporters this week, Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said that he is concerned about the heat:

“That heat is going to be a big factor I think for all the teams. The ones that are training every day and getting acclimated to that, it’s a big advantage. Everybody at least has 90 minutes fitness in them by that time so they can use that to adapt and acclimate to the heat in and around the league and the different climates you’re going to. You can survive the environment because you’ve built yourself up to playing 90 minutes fit. The fact of the matter is now we don’t have 10-15 games under our belt and we’re going to be thrust into this heat.”

MLS has attempted to mitigate the heat’s impact. Games will be played at 9 AM, 8 PM and 10:30 PM local time in the hopes of avoiding the midday heat and humidity. It is expected that there will be drinks breaks midway through each half, as has been the case in the much cooler United Kingdom upon the return of the Premier League this month.

But there is only so much that can be done and some believe that the likes of Dallas, Houston, Orlando, and Miami will benefit from the tournament being played at such high temperatures. Their players have been training in this heat throughout lockdown. They have acclimatised to it, at least more so than those based further north.

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Quite what impact the heat will have, no one really knows. It is impossible to say until the games are played. But Vermes’ concern is shared across the league and teams will have to adapt accordingly.

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