The Columbus Crew are getting an early start to their offseason duties. Already gone are ten players and, now, the Crew are lining up preseason games in preparation for 2013.
Today, the team announced their participation in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic that will run from February 9-23 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. The Crew played three preseason games in Florida last February at the IMG Sports Academy in Brandenton with varied success.
Along with Columbus, the MLS sides of D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Philadelphia Union will do battle with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL (second division) and Orlando City FC of the USL Pro (third division).
This will be the fourth edition of the Pro Soccer Classic. Past winners of the tournament include the Vancouver Whitecaps (2012), FC Dallas (2011), and the New York Red Bulls (2010).
Columbus will be able to get a sneak peek at some of the main competitors in their conference, as the other five MLS teams are all from the East. The lower-division teams will also prove to be a tough challenge. The Rowdies finished in second during the 2012 NASL regular season and went on to win the Soccer Bowl, the NASL’s version of MLS Cup. Meanwhile, Orlando City blew away the rest of the USL Pro during the regular season, ending up sixteen points above second place and winning the Commissioner’s Cup for the second consecutive year (USL Pro’s version of the Supporters’ Shield) only to be knocked out in their first playoff game.
The Pro Soccer Classic will provide Crew players with a great opportunity to get match fit and fight for playing time right before the regular season. MLS First Kick begins on March 2nd, a week after the tournament concludes.