High School Sports

Tournament to highlight MLS preseason at Bradenton's IMG Academy

MANATEE -- Major League Soccer spring training will have a different look at IMG Academy this year with a new tournament.

IMG and MLS are bringing a greater mix of international teams and MLS clubs on a rolling basis from Jan. 25 to Feb. 15 followed by the first-ever IMG Suncoast Pro Classic Feb. 18-28.

A community kickoff will be held Feb. 16 on Lakewood Ranch Main Street with player appearances from participating teams with a schedule of activities to be released later.

Last year's partnership between IMG and MLS formed a spring training East Coast hub for the league and -- after feedback from clubs -- this season has more of an international flair because teams wanted a chance to play non-MLS teams, IMG and tourism officials have said at Tourist Development Council meetings.

Pre-season friendlies will also return and this year will be the first chance for Florida soccer fans to see the expansion team Orlando City FC in action as an MLS team, moving up from the USL Pro Division.

The tournament will feature a round robin competition format with the top two teams from each bracket moving on to the championship match. Bracket 1 includes Toronto FC (MLS), New York Red Bulls (MLS), HB Koge (Denmark; Danish First Division) and Oklahoma City Energy FC (USL PRO). Bracket 2 includes the Philadelphia Union (MLS), Columbus Crew (MLS), TP Mazembe (Democratic Republic of the Congo; Linafoot League) and the Costa Rica U23 Men's National Team.

Here is the tentative tournament schedule:

Feb. 18

Noon- Columbus Crew vs. TP Mazembe (Field 1)

2:30 p.m. - Philadelphia Union vs. Costa Rica U23 (Field 1)

5 p.m. - New York Red Bulls vs. HB Koge (IMG Academy Stadium)

7:30 p.m. - Toronto FC vs. Oklahoma City Energy (IMG Academy Stadium)

Feb. 21

Noon - Toronto FC vs. HB Koge (Field 1)

2:30 p.m. - New York Red Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Energy (Field 1)

5 p.m. - Columbus Crew vs. Costa Rica U23 (IMG Academy Stadium)

7:30 p.m. - TP Mazembe vs. Philadelphia Union (IMG Academy Stadium)

Feb. 25

Noon - Costa Rica U23 vs. TP Mazembe (Field 1)

2:30 p.m. - Oklahoma City Energy vs. HB Koge (Field 1)

5 p.m. - Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew (IMG Academy Stadium)

7:30 p.m. - Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls (IMG Academy Stadium)

Feb. 28

Noon - Consolation match (Field 1)

2:30 p.m. - Consolation match (Field 1)

5 p.m. - Third place match (IMG Academy Stadium)

7:30 p.m. - Championship Final (IMG Academy Stadium)

Pre-season friendlies

Teams participating in pre-season training and friendlies include MLS teams D.C. United (Jan. 24 - Feb. 6) and FC Dallas (Feb. 1- 8), as well as Swedish clubs Malmö FF (Allsvenskan; Feb. 2 - 13) and Jönköpings Södra IF (Superettan; Feb. 2 - 9).

Here is the tentative schedule for the friendlies:

Jan. 30 - D.C. United vs. Orlando City SC (MLS), 7 p.m.

Feb. 3 - D.C. United vs. Jönköpings Södra IF, 7 p.m.

Feb. 6 - D.C. United vs. Malmö FF, Noon

Feb. 7 - FC Dallas vs. Jönköpings Södra IF, 7 p.m.

Feb. 12 - Malmö FF vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies , 7 p.m.

All match times are subject to change and will be updated at www.imgsuncoastproclassic.com, where tickets can be purchased as well.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck.

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