MLS releases 2019 schedule; Impact, TFC renew rivalry in July


Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti (10) challenges Toronto FC's Ashtone Morgan during first half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Sunday, October 21, 2018. (Graham Hughes/CP)

Toronto FC, with former Impact defender Laurent Ciman wearing red instead of blue, will renew its fierce rivalry with Montreal on July 13 at Stade Saputo.

The two face off again Aug. 24 at BMO Field as part of Major League Soccer’s so-called Heineken Rivalry Week.

The Vancouver Whitecaps, under new head coach Marc Dos Santos, will have Aug. 31 circled on their calendar. That’s when the Whitecaps mark Vancouver’s 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl victory with an anniversary match against visiting New York City FC.

The date falls almost 40 years to the day that Vancouver, featuring Gerry Gray, Bob Lenarduzzi, Buzz Parsons, Carl Valentine, Alan Ball and Trevor Whymark, defeated the New York Cosmos in the two-legged semifinal series that preceded the Whitecaps’ 2-1 Soccer Bowl win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

MLS released its full 2019 season on Monday, boasting 24 teams with the addition of expansion FC Cincinnati and a streamlined playoff format.

The league had already released information on home and season openers and its post-season restructuring.

The regular seasons runs March 2 to Oct. 6 with the playoff set to start Oct. 19. Unlike last season, when the MLS Cup was Dec. 8, the 2019 campaign will culminate in a Nov. 10 championship game.

Each club will play 34 games (17 home and 17 away), facing conference opponents twice and non-conference foes once.

Electing not to play at Olympic Stadium during the cold weather, the Impact will play their first six games on the road before hosting Columbus on April 13.

Montreal will log some early-season miles, visiting San Jose, Houston, Orlando, Kansas City, New York and Washington D.C., before its home opener. Last year, the Impact played five of their first six on the road, a stretch that included a 1-0 victory over Toronto at Olympic stadium.

Twenty teams, including all three Canadian franchises, play Opening Day on March 2.

The Vancouver Whitecaps host Minnesota United while Toronto and Montreal open on the road — at Philadelphia and San Jose, respectively. Cincinnati opens the same day at Seattle.

Defending champion Atlanta United plays at D.C. United on March 3.

Toronto’s home opener at BMO Field is March 17 against the New England Revolution.

Vancouver hosts Toronto on May 31 and plays at Montreal on Aug. 28.

Toronto hosts the New York Red Bulls on July 17 in a reunion of sorts for former Red Bulls sporting director Ali Curtis, now GM of TFC. The two teams face off at Red Bull Arena on Aug. 3.

Toronto will have to wait until Aug. 17 to see former GM Tim Bezbatchenko, now president of Columbus Crew SC, in a road game. That same day, the Whitecaps host Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United at BC Place.

All 24 teams will be in action Oct. 6 in the regular-season finale dubbed Decision Day. Vancouver hosts Real Salt Lake while Montreal entertains the Red Bulls and Columbus visits Toronto.

Toronto will get a jump start on the season via the CONCACAF Champions League. Greg Vanney’s team plays Club Atletico Independiente in Panama on Feb. 19 with the second leg Feb. 26 at BMO Field.

TFC gets a Week 2 bye in MLS due to possible inclusion in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Cincinnati debuts at home March 17 when it hosts MLS Cup finalist Portland Timbers at Nippert Stadium. Minnesota United will open Allianz Field on April 13 when Minnesota United FC visit. Allianz Field becomes the league’s 20th stadium built or transformed for soccer.

Fresh from undergoing a 4,000-seat expansion costing US$75 million, Portland’s Providence Park reopens June 1 when the Timbers host Los Angeles Football Club. The Timbers have sold out 144 straight regular-season games since joining the league in 2011.

The construction means Portland will play its first 12 games on the road. But the Timbers will play 15 of their final 19 games at home including one stint of 10 straight. Portland will host Atlanta on Aug. 18 during that home run in a rematch of the 2018 MLS Cup.

The league will take a break June 14-21 during the opening week of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The 2019 MLS all-star game is scheduled for July 31 at Orlando City Stadium. Heineken Rivalry Week runs Aug. 21 to 25.

Fourteen of the league’s 24 teams will qualify for the post-season, up from 12 in 2018. Only the two Conference leaders will get byes. The playoffs will be in the form of a fixed-bracket, single-elimination format.

Only one team per conference will be given a first-round bye, while the higher-seeded clubs will host all matches.

Toronto will play seven of its home matches on Saturdays, four on Sundays and three on both Wednesdays and Fridays. Vancouver’s home schedule features 11 Saturday games plus three on Friday, two on Wednesday and one on Sunday.

Montreal will play nine home games on Saturday, four on Wednesday, three on Sunday and one on Friday.

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