UPDATE: The MLS schedule is now out and we know the Sounders could end up playing as many as 14 matches before the end of April, even after having three byes early in the season.
One of the best things about the new CONCACAF Champions League schedule is that it will make sense. No longer will a single tournament be spread out over eight months, and span parts of two separate MLS seasons. Rather, the entire tournament will take place between late February and late April.
The flip side, of course, is that there will be as many as eight CCL matches squeezed into that time. The longest break is between the quarterfinals and semifinals, about three weeks. Otherwise, there’s about one week between each leg of a given round and the rounds come about a week after the previous one.
For the Sounders, that means their season will start as early as it ever has and will be potentially as busy as it ever has been through April (depending on how far they advance in CCL).
Here’s a quick look at their potential schedule through April 29 (when we know they’ll be visiting LAFC):
- Feb. 22: away at Santa Tecla, 7 p.m.
- March 1: home vs. Santa Tecla, 7 p.m.
- March 4: home vs. LAFC, 2 p.m.
- March 6-8: home vs. Chivas-Cibao winner
- March 10-11: bye
- March 13-15: away at Chivas-Cibao winner
- March 18: at FC Dallas, 2 p.m.
- March 24-25: bye
- March 31: home vs. Montreal Impact, 7 p.m.
- April 3-5: CCL semifinal, leg 1
- April 7-8: bye
- April 10-12: CCL semifinal, leg 2
- April 15: at Sporting Kansas City, 1 p.m.
- April 17-18: CCL final, leg 1
- April 22: home vs. Minnesota United, 1 p.m.
- April 24-26: CCL final, leg 2
- April 29: away at LAFC, 6 p.m.
There are 17 matchdays listed here, and the Sounders are scheduled for as many as 14 matches. If MLS wanted to be super helpful there could be as many as four byes in a scenario that sees the Sounders advance all the way to the CCL finals. Still, that’s 13 matches in less than 10 weeks immediately following a preseason that will formally last only a month. That doesn’t even take into account potential international call-ups that could happen from March 19-27 (when the Sounders were surely lose a few players for international duty).
To put that into perspective, the Sounders played nine matches before the end of April last year, and one of those was a friendly. The most matches the Sounders have ever played before the end of April is 10, and that includes 2013 when they advanced to the CCL semifinals (MLS gave them a pair of early season byes that year).
In addition to the added matches, the Sounders could also be adding anywhere from 6,000 to 20,000 air miles to their calendar, depending on how far they advance in CCL and who they face.
All of which is to say that it’s more important than ever for the Sounders to get their fitness and roster reasonably set by the time the season starts. Playing in CCL is a massive opportunity, but it does not come without a cost.