With three MLS Cup appearances in the past four years, including two titles, the defending champion Seattle Sounders are among the favorites for the MLS is Back Tournament.
The Sounders, who were 1-0-1 in MLS play when the season was suspended in March because of concerns about the coronavirus, will open the Western Conference's Group B play on Friday night against the San Jose Earthquakes near Orlando.
"We feel happy to be here. We are ready to play ... Our club, our team were the last champions, and now we play again," Sounders playmaking midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro tweeted after arriving in Florida.
While the players seemed eager to get back on the field, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer admitted some apprehension. Group B is down to three teams -- the Vancouver Whitecaps are the other -- after FC Dallas was forced to withdraw as 10 players tested positive for COVID-19.
"It wouldn't be my choice to leave," Schmetzer, a Seattle native, told a crowd of about 100 supporters who saw the team off last week. "But we're going to go play a game and do what Sounders do, which is win a soccer game."
The Earthquakes (0-1-1) were the first MLS team to arrive in Orlando, way back on June 24.
"We're excited about our draw and I think it was a big step forward for us to have a start date and to have something to look forward to," Earthquakes defender Tommy Thompson told reporters during a recent media session.
"Because for a while there, in the quarantine process, we weren't sure what was going to happen. So to finally know that you're running on your own or you're running with the team and there's a reason behind it has been such a relief. Now we're putting in work and we know why we're putting in work. I'm excited for the game against Seattle, I'm excited about the other games as well, and we're ready for anything that comes our way."
The Earthquakes are winless (0-5-4) against Seattle in nine games since June 2015, although veteran forward Chris Wondolowski has more goals (11) than any other opponent in Sounders history.
--Field Level Media