The 2019 Major League Soccer schedule is out with a number of matches sure to excite. Here are 10 matches not to be missed.
March 17: FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers
While FC Cincinnati will be two games into its first MLS season, the first time playing in front of the home fans will feel like the franchise's true beginning. The fans in Cincy brought the goods to Nippert Stadium while the team was competing in the USL, averaging more than 21,000 fans in 2017 and more than 25,000 in 2018. It'll surely be electric for the city's first ever MLS match.
April 13: Minnesota United vs. New York City FC (ESPN2)
New stadiums in MLS seem to get better with each year, and Minnesota United looks to have set the bar very high with Allianz Field. Gone are the football lines and University of Minnesota markings at TCF Bank Stadium, an eyesore for many viewers. Star striker Darwin Quintero should feel right at home, beginning with the opener against a David Villa-less NYCFC.
May 19: New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United
This encounter at Red Bull Arena marks their first meeting since last season's Eastern Conference final, when Atlanta topped the Red Bulls 3-1 on aggregate. Atlanta earned the headlines for winning MLS Cup, but it was the Red Bulls who took home Supporters' Shield honors, nipping Atlanta on the last day of the regular season. This meeting could be the difference between another trophy come season's end. No doubt NYRB have this one circled on their calendars.
June 29: San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy
The California Clasico is always worth watching, but this year's first meeting will have an Argentine Superclasico flavor to it as former River Plate player and manager Matias Almeyda's Quakes face former Boca Juniors player and manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto's Galaxy. Their spells as River and Boca coaches, respectively, never coincided, but Barros Schelotto's Lanus did win both meetings against Almeyda's Banfield back in 2014-15. Needless to say, folks in Argentina will be watching this one.
July 19: LA Galaxy vs. LAFC (ESPN)
There was no shortage of drama in the first three installations of El Trafico and with many of the same protagonists back in the fold, plenty of fireworks are sure to come in 2019. Like last season, the Galaxy host the first meeting between the crosstown opponents. Bob Bradley's LAFC has yet to win in this short but already exciting derby, while Barros Schelotto knows all too well the perils of losing to your biggest rival.
July 21: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
It's never dull between the Sounders and Timbers, and this July meeting will be the first between the two in Seattle since last fall's epic Western Conference semifinal second leg in which the Timbers advanced via a penalty shootout. You have to go back to 2014 to find the last time Seattle or Portland was not playing in an MLS Cup, and many times these midsummer rivalry games act as a catalyst for an MLS Cup run.
Aug. 10: Columbus Crew SC vs. FC Cincinnati
A first ever Ohio derby! It is not being talked about a lot, but Columbus vs. Cincinnati has all the makings for one of the most hostile rivalries in the league. Less than two hours separate the two cities along Interstate 71, which means there will be ample opportunity for FC Cincinnati's fired-up fan base to make the quick trip to the state capital and invade Mapfre Stadium.
Aug. 11: D.C. United vs. LA Galaxy
It'll be reunion weekend at Audi Field when D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney welcomes Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy. Each player made a profound impact upon arriving in MLS in 2018, and now these former Manchester United teammates will get a crack at each other for the first time in MLS play. It's not crazy to think that this could be a potential MLS Cup preview, too.
Aug. 18: Portland Timbers vs. Atlanta United
MLS Cup rematches are always intriguing. Players and coaches tend to downplay the significance, but it is hard to believe that the Timbers won't have a little extra zip in their step and crunch in their tackles when they see Atlanta for the first time since last month's 2-0 loss in the final. If anything, Portland coach Giovanni Savarese's distaste for the refereeing in MLS Cup 2018 will make sure this one has an edge.
Aug. 24: Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact
Toronto FC and Montreal really don't like each other, which is great for the rest of us, as it makes for some compelling soccer. Postseason ramifications are always on the table when the two Canadian teams meet, and this is likely to be the last time that Ignacio Piatti, who's in the final year of his contract with Montreal, will suit up against TFC. Enjoy this magnificent player while you can.