Five conclusions of the MLS is the launch of the tournament schedule Back | Greg Seltzer

The schedule for the MLS Is Back tournament has decreased, giving everyone a look at the winding roads that will lead to the final of August 11.

There would always be a few quirks on the schedule given the unique setup for this tournament, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg “oh that’s interesting” when it comes to looking at the match list.

What were my initial conclusions when looking at the schedule? Well, since you asked …

Table snacks

Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls have played struggling games in recent years | Pictures of USA Today Sports

We already knew that Inter Miami and Orlando City would kick off the competition with their first derby tilt. A juicy match, to be sure, but basically it’s just a Amuse bouche for the tasting menu which is the first round of group games.

Looking through all the opening matches of the tournament, there is definitely something for everyone. Hungry for more fighting between bitter rivals? Prepare to dig into Colorado-Real Salt Lake and a Hell Is Real match between Columbus and FC Cincinnati.

How about some quick rivalries? New York City FC vs. Philadelphia, Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United are also in the first course of MLS Is Back. Add other meaty games like DC United-Toronto FC, LA Galaxy-Portland, and San Jose-Seattle, and everyone is sure to be happy about football just a few days after the tournament.

Morning affairs

New York City FC and Philadelphia Union face off in a tasty morning showdown. The | Pictures of USA Today Sports

When it comes to breakfast, the choice often comes down to tasty or sweet. However, MLS fans should probably also get ready for some morning salinity.

Just the thought of waking up to home football was fun enough, but now the calendar has revealed some really delightful AM matchups. The NYCFC-Philadelphia game mentioned above will take place in the morning slot, as will the entertaining matchup between FC Dallas and Seattle and a matchup between long distance rivals Real Salt Lake-Sporting KC.

Of course, these will likely be double espresso games for fans in Salt Lake and Seattle, as their clubs are the only ones in the Mountain or Pacific time zones that play this morning slot.

Time bandits

Most teams will have 11 days to complete the group stage schedule, and a handful of clubs will have 12 days. The only exceptions are Montreal and Orlando City, who will make the trip in 13 days after playing in both the first and last games in their respective groups. After four months on ice, these extra days between group games could be something Impact and Lions can take advantage of.

Short straws

Sometimes the luck of the draw is good, and sometimes, well, not so much. This is about the not so much side. Using six groups creates an imbalance in the round of 16, which means that two group winners must start the knockouts against the second place finalists, while the other four teams face enemies that finished no better than the third .

Who should take on these theoretically more difficult tasks in Sweet Sixteen? They would be the winners of Groups E and F. In fact, each of the top two finalists in Group F is set to draw a second place in the Round of 16, leaving that table player short in two ways (at least in paper before the fact).

Instant Dark Horse?

Robert Beric and Fire FC may have a favorable route to advance out of the group stage | Pictures of USA Today Sports

A great way to organize the advance to knockouts in any tournament modeled after a World Cup is to win your first two group games. The third group game can be a pressure free opportunity to rotate some regulars. This strategy should be the easy goal for any team that has drawn what should easily be considered their toughest group game by the end.

This time, the obvious choice to shoot knockouts this way is Chicago. The Fire will face expansion sides Nashville SC and Inter Miami first, before closing with the power of Group A NYCFC. The Windy City crew is being ignored as a potential sleeper, but the draw has given them a favorable path to the Round of 16.