Staged to mark the re-opening of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the competition will feature four matches in a knockout format. Houston and New York, playoff rivals in 2008, play the tournament opener Feb, 25 at 6 p.m. ET, followed by FCD and TFC at 8:30 p.m. The losers play for third place and the winners meet for the championship two days later.
The trip to Florida will be the second venture outside of New York by the Red Bulls, who head to Spain next week to play three friendlies in La Manga. As many as a dozen players have been undergoing fitness tests and other drills since last Monday, and new head coach Hans Backe said at the SuperDraft he hoped all five of the club's draft picks would be ready for the trip to La Manga, and, presumably, Florida as well.
Of the quartet, only Houston reached the playoffs last year, though both Dallas and Toronto were in contention until the final day of the season.
Los Angeles eliminated the Dynamo in the Western Conference final. TFC's playoff hopes vaporized in a humiliating 5-0 season-ending loss to New York that marked the end of interim head coach Chris Cummins' tenure. He had replaced John Carver early in the season. After the loss to New York TFC management acted quickly to hire former Chivas USA boss Preki.
MLS preseason officially opens Friday, with teams authorized to conduct their first official sessions Monday. The MLS Players' Union, which met with league officials Wednesday to continue collective bargaining agreement negotiations, has advised its players to report to their training camps.