Soccer is finally back. Major League Soccer put together a unique tournament with World Cup-style format for this 2020 season, with all teams (except FC Dallas) taking the pitch to try and become the new MLS champion.
MLS is Back tournament will go from July 8 to August 11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, and this time, judging by their schedule and some notable absences, anything can happen
Plenty of top-tier players have decided to opt-out of the tournament thus far. Either because of injury, preserve their health, or because of the tournament rules. That's why we put together a list of the top-10 players that we won't be seeing in MLS is Back.
10. Lucas Cavallini - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Canadian star Lucas Cavallini won't be attending the tournament this time. He cited personal health reasons for this decision, claiming he would love to join his teammates but that he's currently grieving the loss of two family members.
"This was an extremely difficult decision for me. I would love to be out on the field with my teammates fighting with everything I have to play for this club and community in Orlando," Cavallini said on a statement. The Whitecaps will also be missing Andy Rose, Georges Mukumbilwa, Fredy Montero, and Tosaint Ricketts.
9. Jürgen Damm - Atlanta United
Atlanta United recently announced the signing of 27-year-old Mexican star Jürgen Damm after a breakout season with UANL Tigres. However, the winger will be joining the club shortly after the tournament.
Damm made it to the MLS as a free agent and there's plenty of excitement in Georgia about the second-fastest player in the world. Sadly, their fans will have to wait a little longer before seeing him in red and black stripes.
8. Leandro González Pírez - Inter Miami CF
Leandro González Pírez will finally make his MLS comeback with Inter Miami CF after a brief hiatus. However, the former champion with Atlanta United won't be able to play in the tournament due to the league's transfer policy.
The Argentinean defender spent the past six months with Mexican side Tijuana before deciding to take his talents back to the U.S. He'll still travel and train with his team in Orlando despite not being eligible.
7. Ike Opara - Minnesota United FC
Ike Opara has made a name for being the best defender in Major League Soccer. He's already a marquee player in the league and that's why it'll be such a bummer to see him sitting out for, at least, the group stage.
The Loons will have a tough task filling in the gap Opara will leave at the center of their defense. The reigning Defender of the Year will continue his rehab with hopes of joining the team for the knockout stage.
6. Felipe Gutiérrez - Sporting Kansas City
Felipe Gutiérrez played a major part in Sporting Kansas City's plans to start the season. However, the talented Chilean midfielder has been sidelined for months now and won't be able to suit up until early 2021.
The 29-year-old underwent knee surgery one month ago and is expected to miss 7-9 months, as per the team's PR. The loss of their top goal-scorer will be quite difficult to overcome for them.
5. Robbie Robinson - Inter Miami CF
There were plenty of expectations around Robbie Robinson entering the tournament. However, he recently left the team's party in Orlando to attend 'personal situations' and won't be coming back for the tournament.
"Something came up, we discussed it, and for personal reasons Robbie decided to leave the bubble. It made more sense for him to leave the bubble and sort it out," sporting director Paul McDonough claimed.
4. Paul Arriola - DC United
Paul Arriola has been DC United's building block since joining the team in 2017. He's the one who pulls the strings of their offense and that's why it was such a major blow for them to lose him for such a long period of time.
The USMNT winger underwent surgery after suffering an ACL injury and is expected to miss around 9 months. "The trainers shoot for nine months ... but obviously I’m shooting to be back before that," he told MLS.
3. Jonathan Dos Santos - Los Angeles Galaxy
There's no doubt that Jonathan Dos Santos is one of the most talented players to ever lace them up in Major League Soccer. Sadly, Los Angeles Galaxy will miss his presence in the MLS is Back tournament.
The Mexican star announced last week that he was about to undergo minimally invasive hernia surgery that would keep him in the sidelines for, at least, 6 weeks. Galaxy will need to find someone else to anchor their defense in the center of the pitch.
2. Josef Martínez - Atlanta United
Josef Martínez, MLS's record-holder for most consecutive goals in league history won't be attending the tournament either, which is the biggest blow Frank De Boer's Atlanta United could ever think of.
The Venezuelan striker will be sidelined for a long stretch after suffering an ACL injury. Now, it'll be up to 'Pity' Martínez to finally step up and prove why he was one of the most coveted players in South America.
1. Carlos Vela - Los Angeles FC
And last, but not least, Carlos Vela - the league's reigning MVP - will also be sitting out of the tournament. According to the Mexican superstar, he'll use the time to be with his wife amid a risky pregnancy.
"It is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy. I will miss being with my teammates and coaches, but I will be cheering and supporting LAFC from a distance. I can't wait to be back on the field, playing for all of you and accomplishing great things with our club. Vamos LAFC!" Vela said.