After another grueling regular season and two-year-month postseason, the 2017 MLS season will end just as it predecessor, the 2016 campaign, did: with Toronto FC hosting the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field.
Saturday’s MLS Cup final (4 p.m. ET) features two sides which were widely considered the “best” in their respective conferences on the whole of a 34-game regular season and ensuing playoffs run. As it’s a rematch of last year’s final, two very distinct narratives have prevailed: will it be a final for revenge, or a repeat?
Road to revenge
For TFC, the quest to reach — and ultimately, host — back-to-back MLS Cup finals began with keeping together the core of the most expensive team in MLS history, and then adding another Best XI-caliber star to the bunch. That’s the $18.5-million trio of Sebastian Giovinco ($7.1 million per year), Michael Bradley ($6.5 million) and Jozy Altidore ($4.9), before adding Victor Vazquez (8 goals, 16 assists — a goal or assist ever 99.25 minutes he played this year), a silky smooth no. 10 who opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the Reds this season, for the bargainsteal highway-robbery price of $700,000.
If you’re looking for a story of adversity and perseverance en route to proving an entire world full of naysayers wrong, please immediately begin looking elsewhere. Far and away the worst stretch of TFC’s 2017 season came from the outset: just one win from their first five games, but an unbeaten start nonetheless. Game no. 6 saw TFC lose for the first time this year, but was quickly followed by six straight wins and not another defeat until June had begun.
The Gold Cup cost them a handful of points, as Bradley and Altidore were with the U.S. national team, both in mind and body for much of the early summer. An 11-game unbeaten run from early July to mid-September solidified their place as the Supporters’ Shield winners-elect, and put them in a position to set a new regular-season points record, which they did on the final of the season.
The playoff run
Playing at home, or going on the road — none of it made much difference to TFC in the regular season (though, they lost just once at BMO Field). A 2-1 win away to the New York Red Bulls all but secured progression into the Eastern Conference finals, which they pushed to the limits with a 1-0 defeat in the second leg. Thanks to the away goals, though, they marched on as the rest of the East’s favorites — New York City FC and Atlanta United — fell in the wake of of Columbus Crew SC, whom TFC would battle ever so tightly for 180 minutes in the East finals. After a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Columbus, it was Altidore who bagged the only goal of the tie with only 30 minutes remaining before a trip to extra-time.
Favorites for revenge?
It would be unwise to look past TFC — for all of the above reasons, and for the fact that despite losing last year’s final, they completely dominated the game from beginning to end. Seattle failed to register a single shot on target over 120 minutes. It’s a hugely different side they’ll line up against on Saturday — as we’ll outline in just a moment — but they’ve already done everything necessary, with the exception of beating an indomitable Stefan Frei, to lift the Cup.
Road to repeat
For Seattle, the biggest roster moves of 2017 came with far less fanfare — and a fair bit less money. First things first, the one that came from within: head coach Brian Schmetzer — whether by design or as a result of circumstances — turned the keys over to 22-year-old midfielder Cristian Roldan. Osvaldo Alonso played the third-fewest games (26) of his MLS career, including none of the last three during the regular season and none of Seattle’s four playoff games thus far. He has been ruled out for Saturday’s final, and that will do a great deal for Seattle’s continuity. When paired with Gustav Svensson, a steal of a signing ($170,000) still getting call-ups to the Swedish national team, Seattle have one of the best, most functional double-pivots in the league.
The other impact signing of 2017: Kelvin Leerdam ($455,000), a 27-year-old Dutch right back, was correctly identified as the perfect puzzle piece missing in Seattle. Following his arrival in mid-July, Seattle lost just two of their final 15 games (Leerdam started the final 14) as they climbed the Western Conference standings and finished second.
As it turns out, Schmetzer knew exactly what he was doing back in March, April and May, when the Sounders had won just two of their first 11 games and looked legitimately lost and spiraling out of control — to the outside world. In reality, Schmetzer had two very important early-season objectives: 1) experiment with different combinations — particularly figuring out where/how to use Clint Dempsey upon his return from an irregular heartbeat that cost him the entire 2016 MLS Cup run; and, 2) maintaining a slow boil for a largely veteran team which was afforded just over a full month of downtime last winter.
Warmer weather arrived, and so did a familiar run of red-hot results: following those early-season struggles, Seattle lost just four of their final 23 games between mid-May and the end of October.
The playoff run
TFC head coach Greg Vanney made a few pointed remarks concerning the level of competition — or, lack thereof — which Seattle has faced thus far in the playoffs, and it’s tough to invalidate anything he said without taking away from a dominant run by the Rave Green. The Vancouver Whitecaps had become a shell of their best, former selves by season’s end; they fell easily in the Western Conference semifinals, 2-0. The Houston Dynamo, whom Seattle throttled to the tune of 5-0 in the East finals, finished neither with 11 men and played a combined 85 minutes with a man disadvantage.
Favorites for a repeat?
Seattle aren’t favorites, per se, but here’s the case for a repeat: they’re probably a better overall team than they were exactly 12 months ago. Here’s the flip side to that, though, and what could ultimately prove to be their downfall: while the floor has risen considerably, so has the ceiling, due to a less than stellar season from Nicolas Lodeiro, last year’s unquestioned difference maker, and a defense which is inevitably another year older and slower. From an entertainment perspective, the best thing that can happen on Saturday is an early TFC goal, forcing Seattle to chase an equalizer and opening the game up with at least an hour to play.
Remember: you can watch all 380 Premier League games across NBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and Peacock. We’ve got you covered.
Will Manchester City win yet another Premier League title? Can Arsenal push them all the way? Will Chelsea and Liverpool recover to finish in the top four? Can Manchester United’s new-look side surge into the title race? What about Tottenham? How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When will the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
2:45pm: AFC Bournemouth v Brighton
2:45pm: Leeds v Nottingham Forest
2:45pm: Leicester vs Aston Villa
3pm: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Wednesday 5 April
3pm: Man United v Brentford
3pm: West Ham v Newcastle
Saturday 8 April
7:30am: Man Utd v Everton
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
Brentford v Newcastle
Fulham v West Ham
Leicester v AFC Bournemouth
Spurs v Brighton
Wolves v Chelsea
12:30pm: Southampton v Man City
Sunday 9 April
9am: Leeds v Crystal Palace
11:30am: Liverpool v Arsenal
Saturday 15 April
7:30am: Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Brighton
Everton v Fulham
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Spurs v AFC Bournemouth
Wolves v Brentford
12:30pm: Man City v Leicester
Sunday 16 April
9am: West Ham v Arsenal
11:30am: Nottingham Forest v Man Utd
Monday 17 April
3pm: Leeds v Liverpool
Friday 21 April
3pm: Arsenal v Southampton
Saturday 22 April
7:30am: Fulham v Leeds
Brentford v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Everton
Leicester v Wolves
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Sunday 23 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
9am: Newcastle v Spurs
Postponed due to European action
Man Utd v Chelsea
Brighton v Man City
Tuesday 25 April
2:30pm: Wolves v Crystal Palace
2:45pm: Aston Villa v Fulham
2:45pm: Leeds v Leicester
Wednesday 26 April
2:30pm: Nottingham Forest v Brighton
2:45pm: Chelsea v Brentford
2:45pm: West Ham v Liverpool
3pm: Man City v Arsenal
Thursday 27 April
2:45pm: Everton v Newcastle
2:45pm: Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
3:15pm: Spurs v Man Utd
Saturday 29 April
7:30am: Crystal Palace v West Ham
Brentford v Nottingham Forest
Brighton v Wolves
12:30pm: Arsenal v Chelsea
Sunday 30 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v Leeds
9am: Fulham v Man City
9am: Man Utd v Aston Villa
9am: Newcastle v Southampton
11:30am: Liverpool v Spurs
Monday 1 May
3pm: Leicester v Everton
Wednesday 3 May
3pm: Liverpool v Fulham
3pm: Man City v West Ham
Thursday 4 May
3pm: Brighton v Man Utd
Saturday 6 May
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea
Spurs v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Aston Villa
12:30pm: Liverpool v Brentford
Sunday 7 May
9am: Man City v Leeds* subject to possible Champions League schedule
11:30am: Newcastle v Arsenal
2pm: West Ham v Man Utd
Monday 8 May
10am: Fulham v Leicester
12:30pm: Brighton v Everton
3pm: Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Saturday 13 May
Arsenal v Brighton
Aston Villa v Spurs
Brentford v West Ham
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Everton v Man City
Leeds v Newcastle
Leicester v Liverpool
Man Utd v Wolves
Southampton v Fulham
Saturday 20 May
AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd
Brighton v Southampton
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Man City v Chelsea
Newcastle v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Spurs v Brentford
West Ham v Leeds
Wolves v Everton
Sunday 28 May
16:00 Arsenal v Wolves
16:00 Aston Villa v Brighton
16:00 Brentford v Man City
16:00 Chelsea v Newcastle
16:00 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
16:00 Everton v AFC Bournemouth
16:00 Leeds v Spurs
16:00 Leicester v West Ham
16:00 Man Utd v Fulham
16:00 Southampton v Liverpool
Now, England U21 boss Lee Carsley has revealed that the Three Lions setup will hold talks with Balogun about his future next week, as they will travel to Reims in France where he is currently on loan from Arsenal.
“He’s going to have to make a decision, so all we can do is tell him how much we rate him. The rest is down to him,” Carsley said via the London Evening Standard. Balogun has scored seven goals in 13 U21 games for England.
However, USMNT interim head coach Anthony Hudson last week confirmed that Balogun and U.S. Soccer had held talks over his future.
“We’ve had a dialogue. He is out here [in Orlando] having a bit of a break and training. We’ve had some discussions. It’s now just about him enjoying the rest of his trip… It has been an opportunity for us to share about our program, and that’s it. I hope we speak again,” Hudson said.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Balogun is a man in demand as England, the USMNT and Nigeria all push for him to represent them as he continues to assess his options.
Balogun, 21, has scored 17 goals in France’s top-flight for Reims this season as his loan spell from Arsenal has gone incredibly well and only Jonathan David and Kylian Mbappe have scored more goals than him in Ligue 1 so far in 2022-23.
Internationally he is eligible to play for the USA, England and Nigeria and he has represented England’s youth teams in recent years and has previously played for the USA at U18 level.
Balogun was expected to play for the Three Lions during this international break as he is England’s main goalscoring threat at U21 level and Carsley wants him to represent them this summer at the U21 European Championships.
The talented striker used an unexpected window of opportunity to fly to Orlando to meet with U.S. Soccer reps to discuss his potential future with the USMNT. So, will he switch his international allegiance?
Arsenal teammate and USMNT’s starting goalkeeper Matt Turner had this to say when asked about Balogun.
“Yeah, he’d be a great addition to our national team. I think he’s done really well, obviously, for his club on loan, and we’ll see. The decision has to come from the heart, because it’s not necessarily an easy task always, to come and play in these CONCACAF games, and it’s a tough region at times. So for us, we’d be really grateful to have him, but his heart needs to be in it,” Turner said.
Balogun has spoken about this topic before as Pro Soccer Talk asked him about his international future in an interview at the start of last season.
We asked Balogun if other Arsenal academy graduates like Yunus Musah and Bukayo Saka being in similar situations has led to them discussing how they made their decision on which country to represent and if that would help him to decide who he plays for internationally.
“I haven’t spoken to any of them about the nationality situation,” Balogun said. “Even from just the way I’ve known them, it is not something they have put a lot of pressure on themselves about. I think it is a decision that comes naturally to them.
“I think I’m going to do the same and hopefully something will just come to me and then I will make a decision… I don’t want to put too much pressure on the situation. It is just something that will just come to me.”
Maybe that feeling came to him while he was in the Orlando area with the USMNT.
Pep Guardiola’s Man City can momentarily cut the gap to leaders Arsenal to five points but there are question marks swirling around the fitness of goalscoring machine Erling Haaland heading into this game. City are looking for a three-peat of Premier League titles and five in the last six seasons, but Arsenal don’t look like they’re going to slip up anytime soon. So City can’t afford to either. They’ve won six in a row in all competitions, scoring 23 and conceding once in that run. We all know they love to kick on at this point of the campaign, so let’s see if they can do it again.
As for Liverpool, well, it has been one step forward and one step back pretty much all season long for Jurgen Klopp’s side. After their 7-0 shellacking of Manchester United, they then lost at Bournemouth to infuriate Klopp and their fans further. The front three of Salah, Nunez and Gakpo are all clicking through the gears nicely but Liverpool have to become more consistent and dominant games in midfield if they’re going to close the gap to the current top four. They’ve had success against City in recent years as their contrasting style of play match up well but this seems like a different, more fragile, Liverpool this season.
How to watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
The fitness of Haaland is obviously a huge concern for City as he suffered a groin issue and did not play for Norway over the international break and returned to Manchester for treatment. If he isn’t fit to start then expect Julian Alvarez to come in. Elsewhere, City are flying with Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gunodgan having a big role to play with Phil Foden out following his Appendectomy. As always, Kevin de Bruyne is the main man and will relish this chance to cut Arsenal’s lead atop the table.
Liverpool just can’t find consistency right now. They have improved defensively but they are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of that and showed his frustration after their defeat at Bournemouth, which was their last Premier League game and was way back on March 11. He’s had a few weeks to stew over that loss and it will be intriguing to see what plan he has come up with. For this game as earlier this season Liverpool beat Man City 1-0 at Anfield by playing a front four which pinned City in.
Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options
QUESTIONABLE: Erling Haaland (groin) | OUT: Phil Foden (appendix removed)
Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Calvin Ramsay (knee), Stefan Bajcetic (groin) | QUESTIONABLE: Luis Diaz (knee), Darwin Nunez (ankle), Kostas Tsimikas (rib), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Joe Gomez (undisclosed)
He has scored 42 (yes, forty two) goals in all competitions for Man City this season.
However, Pep Guardiola and Man City now face an anxious wait as an injury to Erling Haaland is the last thing they wanted before a pivotal final few months of the season as they chase the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.
Norway’s team doctor, Ola Sand, gave an update on Haaland’s injury.
“We hoped that this was just a familiarity that would carry over to Saturday, but after doing tests and examinations yesterday it became clear that he will not make it to the games against Spain and Georgia,” Sand said. “It is better that he receives medical follow-up at the club.”
Norway face Spain on Saturday and Georgia next Tuesday, so it seems like Haaland is in a race to be fit for Man City’s games after the international break.
Which games could he miss?
After the international break Man City are playing in the first game of the weekend as they host Liverpool on Saturday, Apr. 1 at the Etihad Stadium.
It seems like Haaland could be struggling to be fully fit for that game, and maybe even the trip to Southampton on Apr. 8, so Pep Guardiola may choose to rest him for their massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Bayern Munich on Apr. 11.
Given the form Haaland is in right now, it will be a blow for City if he does miss the next few games but the last thing they want is any long-term damage. Plus, it’s helpful to have the likes of World Cup winner Julian Alvarez in reserve to step in for Haaland.