Paxton Pomykal: MLS is Back Tournament puts a lot on the line

Paxton Pomykal - FC Dallas - tight shot

FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal knows the stakes are high when the MLS is Back Tournament kicks off July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

To be precise, all 26 teams will be vying for a Concacaf Champions League spot, group-stage games will count towards the regular-season standings and $1.1 million in bonuses are available.

“There’s a lot on the line,” Pomykal said during a recent CBS Sports HQ interview. “I know the first games count towards the league, as well as a Champions League berth slot. So, it’ll be really important to go there and show out. It would be pretty cool to win a tournament, because there’s normally not a tournament in mid-July.”

Pomykal is coming off a breakout year for FC Dallas, one where he was named an MLS All-Star and made his US men’s national team debut during a friendly against Uruguay. It led to Pomykal earning a new long-term deal last October that runs through 2023 with a team option for 2024.

To keep that momentum going, the 20-year-old will have to adjust to a unique set of circumstances. Chief among them are comprehensive testing and playing without fans – two measures that are introduced to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to be a different atmosphere to find that motivation yourself and not have a 12th guy to cheer you on and be loud every time you tackle or score,” Pomykal said. “And celebrations, when we score a goal it’s going to be weird with no fans cheering you on, but at the end of the day I think all of the guys on the team are motivated enough. It’ll be a good time.”

For more from Pomykal on his goals during the 2020 campaign, avoiding another injury setback and that mustache, check out the full interview here.