It took much longer than usual for a number of reasons, but Major League Soccer finally released the entire 2021 regular season schedule, with some significant changes to the format.
While the schedule will remain at 34 games with each team playing 17 home and away, MLS has all but abandoned inter-conference match-ups, likely a concession to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. MLS teams will be chartering their players to all away matches where they are not close in proximity, a significant cost for the entire season.
That provides a benefit to teams like the Seattle Sounders, who typically are among the leaders in airline miles traveled over the course of a season. The focus on inter-conference matches means the Sounders will only have two games against teams from the Eastern Conference: Atlanta United on May 23, and a MLS Cup rematch with the Columbus Crew on Aug. 21.
The Sounders have 14 matches on national television, starting with the season opener on FS1 against Minnesota United FC on April 16. The other matches are being carried throughout the state of Washington via a variety of viewing and listening options, which will be fully announced by the club prior to the start of the new campaign, according to a release from the team.
The Sounders will once again have six Cascadia match-ups against the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, including three of them on national TV. The May 9 match against the Timbers will be broadcast on ABC, while the Aug. 15 and 29 matches against Portland will be on FS1 and ESPN, respectively. The Sounders host Vancouver on June 26 and Sept. 15 before visiting the Whitecaps on Decision Day on Nov. 7.
Whether fans will be able to travel to Vancouver for that pivotal matchup is unclear, as the restrictions imposed by the Canadian government in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic have forced MLS to house their Canadian teams in the US for an as-yet undetermined amount of time. Toronto FC and FC Montreal will play their “home” games in Florida, while Vancouver is expected to be in Salt Lake for the foreseeable future.
Eight of the Sounders’ first 13 matches are at Lumen Field, while they’ll be on the road for seven of their last 10 matches. The Sounders continue to work with the State of Washington and Public Health – Seattle & King County to welcome fans back in-stadium in a limited capacity in 2021. Further details regarding attending matches is forthcoming.
The schedule-makers appear not to have done the Sounders too many favors, with only four Saturday home games. Additionally, five of 17 home games are weekday games, and half their games are on short rest.
The Sounders will play at least one game on everyday of the week. Even with a format focused on intra-conference match-ups, the schedule will be unbalanced. The Sounders will play Austin, Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo, and FC Dallas are the teams twice, while they’ll see Minnesota, LAFC, LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps, Colorado Rapids and Sporting KC three times.
MLS will once again highlight a number of match-ups, including Rivalry Week and Decision Day. On Nov. 7, all teams face intra-conference opponents on two back-to-back broadcast windows, where each conference will see their games kick off simultaneously. Kickoff times and broadcast details are being announced at a later date. The top seven teams from each conference qualify for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, which will start on Nov. 19. More information about the league’s postseason schedule is being announced at a later date, according to a release from the league.
Sounders 2021 schedule
|May 23||Atlanta United||H||Sunday||1:30||Fox|
|May 29||Austin FC||H||Saturday||1:00||JoeTV/Prime|
|June 23||Real Salt Lake||H||Wednesday||7:00||JoeTV/Prime|
|July 22||Austin FC||A||Thursday||6:30||ESPN|
|July 25||Sporting KC||H||Sunday||6:00||JoeTV/Prime|
|Aug. 4||FC Dallas||H||Wednesday||7:00||JoeTV/Prime|
|Aug. 18||FC Dallas||A||Wednesday||5:30||JoeTV/Prime|
|Sept. 18||Real Salt Lake||A||Saturday||6:30||JoeTV/Prime|
|Sept. 26||Sporting KC||A||Sunday||3:00||FS1|
|Oct. 23||Sporting KC||H||Saturday||6:00||JoeTV/Prime|