Major League Soccer has released the schedule for every team’s home opener of the 2019 season. The Seattle Sounders will kick off the season hosting expansion side, FC Cincinnati, at CenturyLink Field on March 2.
That match will mark the third time the Sounders have played their home opener against an expansion club. So far, the team is 1-1-0 when hosting their opponent’s inaugural match, beating the Union in 2010, but losing to LAFC last year.
Around the league, Minnesota will open their new stadium, Allianz Field, on April 15 against NYCFC, while Cincinnati will play their home opener on March 17 at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. FC Cincinnati expects to open their own soccer-specific stadium at the start of the 2021 season.
The longest wait for a home match belongs to the Portland Timbers, who won’t host a match until June 1 as Providence Park’s ongoing renovation will continue into the beginning of the MLS season. Even if MLS backloads the Timbers’ schedule with more games in the second half of the season — as they did with D.C. United in 2018 — Portland will still likely play their first 10 or so matches on the road.
For the Sounders, the home opener represents an opportunity to buck the slow starts that have plagued them in recent years. The team has lost the first match of their MLS season in each of their last three attempts.
The Sounders will find out the rest of the their schedule in January, when MLS is set to release the season’s complete slate of matches. With a 24th team entering the mix and a brand new playoff format created to avoid November’s international break, the full 2019 schedule will likely feature more congestion and mid-week matches than in seasons past. This could be a boon for the Sounders, who have prioritized roster depth and player flexibility in recent years.
Thanks to an early playoff exit that kept the team from December matches as well as 2019’s CONCACAF Champions League, Brian Schmetzer’s squad will enjoy their longest off-season in three years. With a roster that currently features all but one of the key players from last season’s historic second-half surge, the team is well positioned to kick off 2019 with a bang.