Mark the cal­en­dar

League re­leases its sched­ule for 2020: Here are the 10 most in­trigu­ing games of sea­son

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS FRIDAY - By Joe Tansey

MLS

The 2020 Ma­jor League Soc­cer sched­ule dropped Thurs­day, giv­ing fans a chance to dis­sect the best matchups.

As usual, the league’s top clubs re­ceived the high­est spots on the mar­quee, in­clud­ing At­lanta United, which will play 18 times on na­tional tele­vi­sion.

Be­low is a look at some of the most in­trigu­ing matches spread from March to Oc­to­ber listed chrono­log­i­cally.

Min­nesota United at Port­land Tim­bers

One of the most in­trigu­ing matchups of open­ing week­end takes place at Prov­i­dence Park.

Min­nesota United is com­ing off their best sea­son in fran­chise his­tory, and they are ex­pected to build off of it right away.

Port­land is still among the best teams in the Western Con­fer­ence, but it needs to get younger with Diego Chara and Diego Va­leri get­ting older.

Al­though most fans will tune in on March 1 for LAFC ver­sus In­ter Mi­ami CF, this game should pack a big­ger punch from a com­pet­i­tive stand­point due to how many stars both teams bring back.

D.C. United at San Jose Earth­quakes

D.C. United and the San Jose Earth­quakes will com­mem­o­rate the league’s first game at Avaya Sta­dium on April 11.

The in­au­gu­ral MLS match oc­curred April 6, 1996, and this edi­tion of the se­ries will be broad­cast on ESPN.

How both sides are set up by mid-April will be in­trigu­ing. D.C. is go­ing through a tran­si­tional phase with Wayne Rooney gone and Lu­ciano Acosta on his way out. Ma­tias Alm­e­dya, mean­while, is build­ing a strong ros­ter for his sec­ond sea­son in charge of the Quakes.

In­ter Mi­ami CF at Nashville SC

The ini­tial clash be­tween ex­pan­sion sides In­ter Mi­ami CF and Nashville SC should show us a stark con­trast in ros­ter-build­ing strate­gies.

Be­fore it was rec­og­nized as an MLS club, In­ter Mi­ami was linked with the world’s big­gest stars, and it is dip­ping into South Amer­ica to bring some young play­mak­ers to the league.

Nashville is con­ser­va­tively mak­ing moves by adding MLS vet­er­ans and some less rec­og­niz­able names from Europe and South Amer­ica.

Two months into the sea­son, we should have an idea how each side will fare in its first sea­son.

LA Gal­axy at Los An­ge­les FC

The first El Trafico with­out Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic will have a dif­fer­ent feel to it.

No mat­ter who the LA Gal­axy bring in dur­ing the off­sea­son, LAFC will come into this match with more ex­pec­ta­tions and pres­sure.

Bob Bradley’s side is load­ing up for a shot at an MLS Cup in 2020, and it has not beaten the Gal­axy in a reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ing.

LAFC earned its first vic­tory in the ri­valry in the 2019 post­sea­son dur­ing an epic 5-3 af­fair.

In­ter Mi­ami CF at Orlando City

Orlando City hasn’t been suc­cess­ful dur­ing its ri­valry with At­lanta United, but the Lions have a chance to earn the up­per hand when they host In­ter Mi­ami

CF on July 10.

Mi­ami is ex­pected to join MLS with the same bang as At­lanta United, and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see which of the other two south­east teams the ex­pan­sion side grav­i­tates to­ward as its main ri­val.

The game is in the mid­dle of a key home stretch for new Orlando City coach Ós­car Pareja’s side, with the Lions push­ing to earn their first play­off berth. The Lions have two other con­tests at Ex­plo­ria Sta­dium in July to take ad­van­tage of the Florida heat wear­ing down on op­po­nents .

Seat­tle Sounders at Toronto FC

The 2019 MLS Cup re­match oc­curs at a tough time for the Seat­tle Sounders.

The trip to BMO Field will mark a third road con­test in 10 days. Seat­tle vis­its the New York Red Bulls on July 8 and At­lanta United on July 12.

Af­ter vis­it­ing On­tario, Brian Sch­met­zer’s side has to go home to play Hous­ton on short rest and then play LAFC in back-to­back games.

Toronto does not play a mid­week game in July, so it should be rested fully for the re­match with the Sounders.

Colum­bus Crew at FC Cincin­nati

The sec­ond sea­son of “Hell is Real” in MLS should be much more en­ter­tain­ing than the first two in 2019.

By July, Caleb Porter should have the Colum­bus Crew hum­ming at full speed and back in con­tention for an Eastern Con­fer­ence play­off spot.

FC Cincin­nati has nowhere to go but up dur­ing Ron Jans’ first full sea­son in charge, and no mat­ter what form the club is in, it will be ready for the ri­valry in front of a rau­cous Nip­pert Sta­dium crowd.

Los An­ge­les FC at At­lanta United

LAFC and At­lanta United could be at, or near, the top of the Sup­port­ers’ Shield stand­ings by the time they meet at MercedesBe­nz Sta­dium.

In 2019, the two new con­tenders in MLS en­ter­tained dur­ing a seven-goal match at Banc of Cal­i­for­nia Sta­dium.

By this point, both teams should be sharp­en­ing their ap­proach with the play­offs loom­ing.

New York City FC at New York Red Bulls

Dur­ing the past two years, the Hud­son River Derby has lev­eled out, with New York City FC win­ning two of the four matches.

By the time 2020 Ri­valry Week rolls around, the sec­ond meet­ing of New York clubs in New Jersey will be dif­fer­ent than most in the ri­valry’s his­tory.

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles are among the key fig­ures gone from the Red Bulls, and by Au­gust, the Red Bulls should have fig­ured out their iden­tity with younger play­ers.

NYCFC is still with­out a head coach and could have a dif­fer­ent feel to its style of play, de­pend­ing on who is hired.

D.C. United at New York City FC

The fi­nal of four NYCFC games played at Citi Field could have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the Eastern Con­fer­ence play­off race.

Af­ter Sept. 1, last year’s No. 1 seed in the East plays one game in­side the shorter con­fines of Yan­kee Sta­dium, which could make it vul­ner­a­ble if it is in­volved in a tight play­off race.

Just like Yan­kee Sta­dium, Citi Field’s grass will be torn apart by base­ball sea­son at this junc­ture, and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how it holds up for a game of high mag­ni­tude.

USA TO­DAY SPORTS FILE

At­lanta United for­ward Josef Martinez and the Five Stripes will be show­cased dur­ing mul­ti­ple high-pro­file matchups dur­ing the 2020 sea­son.

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