Major League Soccer today announced the complete schedules of the 24 North American franchises set to contest the 2019 regular season.
As previously announced, the Boys in Blue will kick off the season away to Orlando City for the third time in five seasons and will host D.C. United in the Home Opener at Yankee Stadium.
There’s plenty more to go at when all the points are on the board, so let’s take a look at five key points from today’s announcement…
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM
Start how you intend to finish.
After another season opener against the purple team from Central Florida, the Boys in Blue will return to the Bronx for a couple of marquee matchups against Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United in the Home Opener and Los Angeles Football Club’s first-ever visit to Yankee Stadium a week later.
From there, we touch road to Toronto to take on a hungry Reds side that missed out on the last season’s playoffs but hired former New York Red Bulls GM Ali Curtis to replace Tim Bezbatchenko, who has moved on to Columbus Crew.
A visit from the returning Ignacio Piatti and the Montreal Impact round out the first five in Season 5.
Even with the consistent addition of expansion teams and changes to the format, one thing remains the same, Major League Soccer teams need to start hitting that stride in the summer months ahead of the run in to the playoffs if they want to lift silverware.
Slow starters will find solace in teams from the past like the 2016 Seattle Sounders who lost seven matches before the calendar hit June and then lost only six the rest of the way into the playoffs on their way to a first MLS Cup championship.
NYCFC’s summer of soccer will be staged in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium. Starting on Thursday June 6, NYC will host four consecutive home games, starting with Cincinnati’s first ever visit to NY, followed by Philadelphia Union on June 29, Seattle Sounders on July 3, and Portland Timbers on July 7th before crossing the river for the first Hudson River Derby of the season in New Jersey on July 14.
Something to note: the shifting schedule means only two regular season New York derbies. Maybe this is the season the fans get that magical playoffs matchup…
THE NEW GUYS
There will be two matchups vs. top division upstarts FC Cincinnati. The first falling on Thursday, June 6 in the Bronx, and the first-ever away trip to The Queen City coming later in the season on Saturday, August 17 at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.
GOING AT THE KING PEACH
If you are going for the king, you best not miss. And we do not intend to.
The Five Stripes will enter the 2019 regular season with a target on their backs having lifted the MLS Cup in 2019 on the backs of a record setting regular season that saw United’s striker Josef Martinez break the MLS scoring record.
One of the league’s most anticipated matchups since 2017 should have a bit of different tactical twist with Frank De Boer replacing the outgoing Tata Martino at the ATL helm.
City will head down south to take on the defending champs in a nationally televised matchup on Sunday, August 11th (ESPN), and we will welcome them back to the BX on Wednesday, September 25th in a match that could be vital in terms of playoff seedings.
MLS introduced a new playoff format shortly after the 2018 playoffs, and the tradition of “Decision Day” should only continue to grow in stature with the new changes.
A 14 team, fixed-bracket, single-elimination format with the higher seed hosting every match will commence on October 9th. The playoffs will also conclude earlier than in previous years, with the entirety of the competition being played out between the October and November FIFA international breaks.
Only one team per conference will be given a first-round bye – with the idea being to emphasize regular season excellence even more.
With no reseeding as well, home field advantage will be of paramount importance heading into the post-season.
Let’s get it! #ForTheCity