Fans of the 17 teams not vying for MLS Cup next month, take comfort. The 2014 MLS schedule is already out.
The two MLS Cup finalists, Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, will kick off the 2014 campaign on March 8 on the road, with the Eastern Conference champion Sporting KC playing at the Seattle Sounders and West champ RSL playing at the LA Galaxy.
With the World Cup falling in the middle of the MLS season, the league will take a two-week break during the group stage, much like it did during the 2010 World Cup. The last match before the World Cup will be on June 11, the day before the World Cup begins, with the season resuming on June 25.
Here are some other items of note from the the earliest schedule release in league history:
Seattle vs. Portland
Cascadia fans won't have to wait very long to get a glimpse of the latest edition of the Sounders-Timbers rivalry, with the two locking horns on April 5 for the first time since Portland eliminated Seattle from the postseason. That meeting will take place at Jeld-Wen Field before the scene shifts to CenturyLink Field on July 13 for a night game that will cap off a day featuring the World Cup final. The season series will close out on Aug. 24 back in Portland. To nobody's surprise, all three games will be nationally televised.
Donovan vs. Dempsey
The two marquee names in American soccer will do battle three times next year, though fans will have to be patient to see them both on the field at the same time.
Landon Donovan's LA Galaxy and Clint Dempsey's Sounders will square off on July 26 in Seattle before waiting until October, when they'll meet in each team's last two games of the season. It's not new for teams to finish the season with consecutive games against one another (Colorado did so against Vancouver and New England did the same against Columbus in 2013), but the high-profile nature of both players and teams will certainly add a new wrinkle down the stretch.
Friday Night Futbol
NBC Sports Network has a dedicated time slot every Friday from June 27 through October 24. For those clamoring for a weekly Friday night game, you have your wish (for the most part).
In addition Seattle-Sporting Kansas City and LA-RSL on March 8, the rest of the opening weekend will feature:
- San Jose-Colorado
- Vancouver-New York
- Houston-New England
- FC Dallas-Montreal
- Chivas USA-Chicago (March 9)
Toronto FC begins the season on bye and will face the Sounders on March 15 in its first match of the campaign.
Red Zone Experience
NBC Sports Network debuted the MLS Breakaway, NFL-Red-Zone-style whiparound show this season, and it will continue that on a pair of occasions in 2014. The first will be Aug. 2, when San Jose plays Seattle in the San Francisco 49ers' new Levi's Stadium. The next will be Sept. 20.
RSL Respect Real Salt Lake has long gotten the shaft when it comes to national TV exposure, but the reigning Western Conference champions will appear on national broadcasts seven times in 2014 after just three national spots in 2013. Five of those games come Aug. 16 or later in the season. Fellow MLS Cup finalist Sporting KC will have 12 games aired around the country.