Endorsing Orlando as a safe travel destination, the NBA and MLS restarted their seasons exclusively in the Theme Park Capital of the World, and we have details on the league-wide tournaments.


Sports-fans rejoice: The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) have relaunched their seasons, starting with action-packed tournaments exclusively in Orlando! Thanks in part to the destination’s enhanced safety measures and unparalleled infrastructure, both organizations launched historic, league-wide tournaments at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex® at Walt Disney World® Resort — solidifying our reputation not just as a premier sports town, but as a leader when it comes to healthy travel.

Learn more: Orlando Healthy Travel & What’s Open

Here’s your guide to the exciting soccer and basketball action that took place in Orlando, including the MLS Is Back Tournament that started July 8 and the NBA Restart that launched July 31. It’s go time!

Keeping Participants Healthy & Safe

Basketball jump ball

The NBA and MLS went to great lengths to keep players, coaches, officials and other staff healthy and safe during their respective tournaments. Developed in conjunction with medical experts, the protocols included:

  • Regular testing of players, coaches and staff before teams departed their home cities, after their arrival in Orlando and throughout the tournaments’ runs;
  • On-site medical staff at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex;
  • Insulating “bubbles” that required participating players, coaches and staff to stay at specific hotels either on Disney property (in the case of the NBA) or at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, which is operated by Marriott International (in the case of MLS);
  • Required quarantines for any players, coaches or staff who left the “bubble” of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or their host hotels, with quarantines lasting at least 10 days; and,
  • Immediate quarantines for any players, coaches or staff who tested positive at any point before or during their tournaments, with quarantines lasting until a negative test result was achieved.

Despite some positive tests during its run, the MLS Is Back Tournament finished as scheduled, with the Portland Timbers earning the championship title. Similarly, the NBA Restart is going strong and will come to a close later this year. Accordingly, both have helped prove that it’s possible to host sports games and other large, in-person events in a safe manner — especially in Orlando!

NBA Restart in Orlando: July 31 – October 11, 2020

a basketball laying on the court
The NBA Restart in Orlando

The NBA Restart started July 31 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Conference Finals started September 15, with the Los Angeles Lakers willing the Finals.

The Orlando Magic were among the 22 teams returning to play, encompassing 16 teams that were in playoff positions and six teams that were six games or fewer behind the eight seed in their respective conferences. Games were played without attendees, but you could catch all the action on TV.

How Does the NBA Restart Work?

The NBA Restart started with eight “seeding games” for each returning team. Depending on the teams’ combined records across regular-season and seeding games, the competition also included the chance of a play-in tournament for the Eastern and Western conferences’ final playoff seeds.

After the 16-team playoff field was set, the NBA Playoffs proceeded in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals, which ended Oct. 12, determined the champion.

Which Teams Played in the NBA Restart?

The following teams competed in the NBA Restart:

Eastern Conference

  • Orlando Magic
  • Boston Celtics
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Washington Wizards

Western Conference

  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Houston Rockets
  • LA Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Utah Jazz
  • Sacramento Kings
  • San Antonio Spurs

For complete details on the NBA Restart, visit NBA.com.

MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando: July 8 – August 11, 2020

Orlando City Soccer Club Nani celebrating goal
Nani of Orlando City Soccer Club

On July 8, Major League Soccer kicked off its 25th season with the MLS Is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Running through Aug. 11, the event featured 24 MLS teams — including our hometown favorites, Orlando City Soccer Club! With the safety of fans, players, coaches and staff top of mind, matches were played without attendees, but games were televised.

Learn more: Places to Watch Sports in Orlando

“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play.”

How Did the MLS Is Back Tournament Work?

Taking a page from the FIFA World Cup playbook, the MLS Is Back Tournament boasted a continuous schedule of matches, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET almost daily. Each team played three group-stage matches, with those results counting in the 2020 MLS regular-season standings.

After a marathon 16 days of group-stage matches, the top two organizations from each group advanced to the knockout stage, as did the top four third-place finishers. The knockout stage included Round-of-16, Quarterfinals and Semifinals, culminating with the Championship match. (A penalty-kick shootout would have settled any ties.)

What’s more, MLS worked with U.S. Soccer, Canada Soccer and Concacaf to institute a one-time change to MLS berths for the annual Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (SCCL). As a result, the winner of the MLS Is Back Tournament — the Portland Timbers — earned a spot in the SCCL’s 2021 competition.

How Were Teams Grouped in the MLS Is Back Tournament?

The MLS Is Back Tournament was grouped as follows:

Group A

  • Orlando City Soccer Club
  • Inter Miami CF
  • New York City FC
  • Philadelphia Union

Group B

  • Chicago Fire
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Seattle Sounders
  • Vancouver Whitecaps

Group C

  • D.C. United
  • Montreal Impact
  • New England Revolution
  • Toronto FC

Group D

  • Colorado Rapids
  • Minnesota United
  • Real Salt Lake
  • Sporting KC

Group E

  • Atlanta United FC
  • Columbus Crew
  • FC Cincinnati
  • New York Red Bulls

Group F

  • Houston Dynamo
  • Los Angeles FC
  • LA Galaxy
  • Portland Timbers — Tournament Champion

Visit MLSSoccer.com for complete details on the MLS Is Back Tournament.


Stay Connected to Orlando!
Never miss a second of what happens in Orlando! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for the latest offers, exclusive tips and live feeds from our newest attractions and fun events, and subscribe to our eNewsletter for more information from Orlando: Theme Park Capital of the World.