Major League Soccer officially holds the Guinness World Record for the largest single location professional soccer tournament.
The recognition comes as the MLS is Back Tournament winds down at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., with the Final presented by Well Fargo set for Tuesday (8:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVAS2 in Canada). The Portland Timbers and Orlando City meet in the highly-anticipated championship match.
The criteria for this record were straightforward: All of the teams needed to be pro soccer teams, all the games needed to follow standard FIFA rules and the event had to follow a traditional tournament structure. The Guinness records management team did the research on other pro soccer tournaments and set the minimum number of teams for this specific record title.
The job of verifying the tournament met the criteria set forth and making sure the matches actually took place fell to adjudicator Christina Conlon. She told MLSsoccer.com that the work took a “bit more than a typical record title,” but as a Philly native and supporter of the Union, she wasn’t complaining.
“I am a soccer fan,” Conlon said. "I personally found my niche in sports fandom studying abroad in London in 2006 during the World Cup. So since then I’ve been a soccer fan ... Being assigned this particular record title is something I was extremely excited to be a part of and I think my favorite part of the verification is actually going through and watching the videos of the different matches. Also, getting to see the Union do such an incredible job and advance through the bracket and play loose and hard and do amazing made me so proud of my city and my team.”
The MLS is Back Tournament was staged during the COVID-19 pandemic, and allowed for the 2020 season to restart July 8. In all, 51 matches were held across 45 days as approximately 750 players and nearly 500 staff participated in the tournament. From mid-July onwards, there were zero newly-confirmed positive tests among those in the bubble.
“We award new record titles every day across all of our various territories,” Conlon said. “What we really love about this new record title is that this is a large group or person event which is typically the sort of record title we would see when the world is not so crazy. But the fact that MLS was able to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and form this bubble to keep everyone safe is something that’s both incredible and officially amazing.
“There are very few people and organizations in the world who are able to actually receive that printed piece [record certification] that proves that you really have actually achieved something that is officially amazing.”
The record will be noted on the Guinness web site immediately and will remain there until it's broken. Beginning next year, it will also be a part of the annual Guinness publication released every September. MLS already is in the Guinness record books for several categories—for example, Carlos Vela's single-season goals mark and Chris Wondolowski's all-time goals record. The league is also credited with the record for greatest number of penalties scored consecutively during an event organized in Times Square in New York.
MLS is Back matches have been played without fans, leading to virtual fan parties and viewing parties in home markets. The championship match will see a professional artist representing each team create a unique mural, and clubs are working with their supporters to design a virtual tifo that will be displayed on the videoboards.
“This World Record will forever be remembered because of the incredible teamwork of everyone involved in the MLS is Back Tournament. During a uniquely challenging time, MLS was able to bring soccer back safely,” said Mark Abbott, MLS President and Deputy Commissioner. “We are one game away from concluding this historic competition, yet we have already made history in many ways. Thank you to our entire soccer community for their commitment to this ambitious project, and thank you to Guinness World Records for the recognition of this achievement.”