Major League Soccer announced opening dates for all 19 clubs on Tuesday.
First kick (the earliest one yet) happens March 2 with six contests. Here are the notable matches over the first two MLS weekends:
Saturday, March 2
Eastern Conference regular season champion Sporting Kansas City opens in at PPL Park (pictured) in Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Union. Coaches and players in Philly will want to put 2012 behind them, while this will be a first look at Benny Feilhaber in SKC’s midfield.
Houston hosts D.C. United at BBVA Compass Stadium in Texas in a rematch of the Eastern Conference final series. United, you may remember – and D.C. United fans almost certainly do – has never won in Houston. Ouch!
Biggest crowd on opening weekend? Well, where else? In Seattle, of course! The Sounders host Montreal at CenturyLink, where the only question will be how many seats the club chooses to open up in the upper reaches of its downtown ground.
Sunday, March 3
The champion L.A. Galaxy opens at home against Chicago. This has the potential to be a very different Galaxy team, definitely without David Beckham and perhaps without several other starters from the bunch that just successfully defended its MLS Cup title.
Speaking of new looks, the reconfigured New York Red Bulls, under new management, will be at Jeld-Wen Field to face Portland. Those Timbers will have a new sheen, too, now under Caleb Porter and presumably equipped with a different roster to go with a much different style.
Saturday, March 9
RFK Stadium regained some of its hope and groove in 2012, and D.C. United’s first home contest comes against Real Salt Lake and its fortified roster. Those big crowds returning to RFK Stadium late last year really were nice, weren’t they?
Please, please, please … let the good fans of Toronto FC have something better to cheer for when the Reds open their home season against Sporting Kansas City.