By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Dec 22, 2022) US Soccer Players – Major League Soccer’s 2023 regular season schedule is now set, and supporters of all 29 teams can firm up their plans for the matchdays ahead. It’s not hard to predict that perennially entertaining matchups like Seattle vs Portland, Toronto vs Montreal, and New York Red Bulls vs New York City FC will continue to be destination viewing. Aside from one such occasion in a location both old and new on opening day, we’re looking a little further afield in search of other games that might serve up high quality, new history or perhaps even a rivalry.
Rose Bowl, February 25, 9:30pm ET: El Trafico goes big
One of the first weekend’s marquee fixtures is LA Galaxy vs LAFC. It will mark the 17th edition of this cross-Los Angeles matchup. Considering that LAFC only took the field in 2018, that high number tells us something about how much this matchup matters. Most of these games have lived up to the substantial hype around them, and then some. Now it will open the new year with an unprecedented twist.
This first of three regular-season meetings will take place at the venerable Rose Bowl, the Galaxy’s first home and still the proverbial granddaddy of them all. With capacity for some 92,000 spectators, this offers the chance to take aim at the league’s standalone attendance record, currently the 74,479 fans who attended Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match back in the spring. A crowd of that size would be something, though even a half-full Rose Bowl would be twice as big as any El Trafico to date.
Citypark, March 4, 8:30pm ET: St Louis housewarming
The league’s newest member club will play its inaugural game at Austin FC on opening weekend. The City SC date being more widely circled is the home debut a week later, when Charlotte FC will visit Citypark for the first MLS match at the promising new soccer-specific stadium in the heart of downtown St Louis.
Besides the general excitement that always surrounds new teams and new venues, there are rich historical and emotional threads in play here. This is a city that can justifiably claim to be American soccer’s ancestral cradle. It supplied many members of the 1950 US World Cup team that shocked the world in Brazil. Over the decades, it’s continued to produce an incredibly steady stream of future professionals and internationals like Steve Ralston, Taylor Twellman, Brad Davis, and current USMNTers Tim Ream and Josh Sargent.
The pro game has often struggled to put down deep roots to match. In the 21st century alone, St Louis Athletica (WPS), AC St Louis (NASL), and Saint Louis FC (USL) have come and gone, with stability usually in short supply. Now City SC aims to show that the region’s vibrant soccer culture can support a top-flight side. Sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel and head coach Bradley Carnell are building a ‘team is the star’-type identity marked by an up-tempo high-pressing system.
Citypark, May 20, 9:30pm ET: A new rivalry is born
St Louis City gets another moment in a broader spotlight here as Sporting Kansas City visits for the first of three 2023 regular-season meetings between the two Midwest clubs. It’s also City SC’s first nationally televised game (FS1), a slot that’s grown harder to come by under the massive new broadcast deal with Apple TV.
This matchup also kicks off Rivalry Week. It’s a four-hour drive or slightly less than six hours by train between KC and StL and that fuels hopes of some extra heat when these two teams meet. Baseball’s Cardinals and Royals have had a bit of that over the years, highlighted by the 1985 World Series and now-annual meetings in interleague play. The NFL saw a fleeting derby of sorts, dubbed the Missouri Governor’s Cup, between the Chiefs and Rams when the Rams resided in St Louis.
There’s still no escaping the high value given to the rivalry concept in North American pro soccer. Sporting KC has carved out an engaging relationship with Minnesota United dubbed “the nicest rivalry in sports” by fans in a cheeky nod to regional politeness. Yet room probably remains for a bit of cross-Missouri banter and bragging rights.
Audi Field, May 31, 7:30pm ET and Stade Saputo, September 2, 7:30pm ET: Visiting your old club
Forgive us for cheating a bit here, but we’re doubling up in light of the offseason developments at CF Montreal. First the club had to bid farewell to respected head coach Wilfried Nancy, as he and his closest assistants departed to take over the Columbus Crew after leading the Quebecois to their best-ever MLS season. Then just this week, CF Montreal announced former DC United boss Hernan Losada as Nancy’s replacement.
All that adds to the narrative for Losada’s first trip back to Washington in charge of Montreal, set for the last day of May, a Wednesday evening. And perhaps even more so when Nancy returns to Montreal over Labor Day weekend, this time as an opposing coach.
Subaru Park, July 15, 7:30pm ET: Beasts of the East meet again
In terms of sheer performance, it’s hard to rank anyone in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Philadelphia Union and NYCFC right now. The East’s representatives in the last two MLS Cups also faced off at the conference final stage of the playoffs these last two years. That’s produced a couple of memorably dramatic battles in Chester, Pennsylvania, their stark contrast in playing styles adding to the spectacle.
Both sides have proven themselves as well-operated franchises and consistent contenders for trophies. So it’s worth circling the calendar whenever they collide, even if the regular season doesn’t always create the circumstances for maximum intensity.
Their first meeting is at Citi Field, NYCFC’s part-time home in Queens, over Memorial Day Weekend. We’re circling the second, though, because it takes place at Subaru Park and later in the campaign when the race for the postseason will have a bit more shape to it. It’s also worth noting that this midsummer match happens on the last weekend of MLS play before a month-long pause for the newly expanded Leagues Cup in partnership with Liga MX.
More from Charles Boehm:
- Working through a marquee World Cup final
- What to watch for as World Cup 2022 approaches its conclusion
- USMNT sees “great opportunity” in round of 16 clash with the Netherlands
- Preview: England vs USMNT stresses familiarity
Photo by Douglas Zimmerman – ISIPhotos.com