The 2014 MLS regular season schedule was released on Monday and after a day to digest all of the dates and matchups, here are five key days to circle on the calendar for Sounders FC fans.
March 8 – vs. Sporting Kansas City
This one is obvious because it is the regular season opener, but the reasons to mark this one on the schedule go well beyond the excitement of starting a new season.
Sporting Kansas City is the defending Eastern Conference champions and could be MLS Cup champions, pending the December 7 final against Real Salt Lake. Through five years, Seattle and KC have squared off in some tremendous battles, four times ending with Seattle putting a stoppage-time winner past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
On the other side, Kansas City famously won the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Sporting Park to end Seattle’s three-year reign in the tournament.
The matches between the two sides are always competitive and often heated, so it should be a great way to start the 2014 MLS season.
May 31 – vs. Real Salt Lake
If the season opener isn’t a matchup with the MLS Cup title holder, this match in May will be. Like Kansas City, RSL has a long-standing history with Sounders FC, too.
They both have knocked each other out of the MLS Cup Playoffs, with Seattle winning in 2012 and Salt Lake in 2011, and the regular season meetings have been nothing short of phenomenal chess matches between two of the better coaches in the league, not to mention the two best holding midfielders in Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman.
Additionally, this will be the last home match before players leave for the World Cup, so it will be a chance for fans to send their international stars off to Brazil.
July 13 – vs. Portland Timbers
Just hours after the World Cup is awarded to the top team in Brazil, Sounders FC and the Timbers will engage in their second match of the season and only meeting in Seattle.
It could mark the return of Seattle’s World Cup participants, but will certainly be Sounders FC’s return to CenturyLink Field after a 44-day hiatus that will include four road matches.
The Emerald City Supporters never fail to amaze with their pre-game displays and in-game excitement, bringing the rest of the crowd with them on a wild 90-minute ride, adding another incredible element to what will be a great derby match.
August 2 – at San Jose Earthquakes
This will be a historic match as it will mark the opening of the San Francisco 49ers’ new park, Levi’s Stadium, in a mid-summer match ahead of the NFL preseason.
Seattle did the same with the Sounders in 2002, drawing 25,515 to see the A-League team top the Vancouver Whitecaps, 4-1, at then-Seahawks Stadium’s opening event.
With Sounders FC and the Earthquakes involved in some heated matches over the last few years and fans traveling in droves for San Jose away trips, it is sure to be a pretty unique experience.
October 25 – vs. LA Galaxy
Any one of the three matches against the Galaxy would fit the bill, but the regular season finale between the two perennial playoff teams is bound to have postseason implications yet again.
They meet the first time on July 26 at CenturyLink Field and then again on October 19 at the StubHub Center, just six days before the finale. That road match should provide some drama in the buildup to the October 25 finale. It could also be a precursor to a Western Conference Semifinal meeting, adding even more to the potential for fireworks in the nationally televised match.
Every game has its own storyline and reason for excitement. What other games are you looking forward to?