Highlights of the 2019 MLS Season Schedule
Atlanta United lifted the MLS Cup trophy a month ago, but the league is moving full steam ahead on the 2019 season after unveiling the schedule for the year ahead on Monday.
With 24 teams in the league following the inclusion of expansion side FC Cincinnati, there will be a balanced schedule in the sense that all of the teams will play the others in their conference twice and the 12 in the opposite conference once to make up the 34-game slate.
As announced previously, the league is turning its playoffs into a more rapid, single-elimination bracket, with the top seeds in each conference enjoying a bye. MLS Cup will be held on Nov. 10–almost a whole month earlier than a season ago–and prior to the November FIFA international dates that have for so long been an impediment to the flow of the postseason.
The 2019 regular season will end on Oct. 6, with all 24 teams in action and 12 simultaneous matches making up Decision Day. The playoffs will kick off on Oct. 19, following the October FIFA international window, making for a three-week sprint to the title.
The full schedule–and each team's schedule–can be seen via the league's official website, but here are some of the other highlights for the year ahead:
- FC Cincinnati will have its inaugural match away from home against the Seattle Sounders on March 2. Its first home match will take place March 17 at Nippert Stadium against the Portland Timbers. Its two matches against local rival Columbus will be in quick succession–the first on Aug. 10 in Columbus and the second on Aug. 25 in a nationally televised match in Cincinnati.
- Atlanta United begins its title defense at D.C. United on March 3. Its first home match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a week later against FC Cincinnati, and its MLS Cup rematch against the Portland Timbers will be Aug. 18 at Providence Park. Atlanta has the most nationally televised games in the USA, with 17–half of its total–available around the country. LAFC is next with 16, followed by the LA Galaxy (15), Portland Timbers (14) and D.C. United (13).
- Speaking of Providence Park, the Timbers will be on the road for the first 12 games of the season while renovations to the stadium are completed. Their first match at the new-and-improved venue will be June 1 against LAFC. Portland will have 17 of its last 22 matches at home, including a stretch of 10 straight from Aug. 10 to Sept. 25.
- While Portland's stadium is getting a facelift, Minnesota United is getting a new home altogether. Allianz Field's first match will pit Minnesota against NYCFC on April 13.
- Rivalries are all the rage in MLS, and its anointed Rivalry Week will take place from Aug. 21 to 25. It includes eight matches: D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls and LAFC vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 21; Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United on Aug. 22; Orlando City vs. Atlanta United and Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders on Aug. 23; NYCFC vs. New York Red Bulls on Aug. 24; and FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew and LAFC vs. LA Galaxy on Aug. 25.
- The MLS All-Star Game against a to-be-named opponent will be July 31 at Orlando City Stadium.
- New coaches against their former squads: Caleb Porter, now in charge of the Columbus Crew, will face his old side, Portland, on April 20 in Columbus–the site of his MLS Cup triumph in 2015 with the Timbers. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, now coaching the LA Galaxy, will face the side he was an MLS Cup MVP for in 2008, Columbus, on May 8, also at Mapfre Stadium.
- In the final four Sundays of the season (Sept. 15 to Oct. 6), MLS will operate with flex scheduling for its matches on U.S. carriers ESPN and FS1.