By Jeff Kassouf
With the success of the 2007 Major League Soccer season still looming, the 2008 preseason is already in full swing. The recent release of the 2008 MLS schedule has only furthered the buzz surrounding the league that hopes to make a significant splash in not only international soccer, but the American sports market. Barring the obvious of the All-Star game and MLS Cup, here are some of the most intriguing match-ups on slate for the coming months.
Houston @ New England, Saturday, March 29 In what has become the MLS version of the Community Shield, opening weekend will again feature a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup, with New England still dreading their fourth MLS Cup defeat in five years. With these two teams becoming so accustomed to each other, it should be a great way to kick off the season.
San Jose @ Los Angeles, Thursday, April 3 This game is circled, underlined, and bolded on the schedule of both teams. To the joy of the Ultras and the Riot Squad, the original Clásico returns early on in the season. This is the first of three installments of the fixture on the season, but the only one in Los Angeles. You can bet that ‘Quakes fans will be making the trip down Interstate 5 to give their original rivals a piece of their mind.
CD Chivas USA @ Los Angeles, Saturday, April 26 Yes, it is the new Super Clásico that has developed, and it will only continue to heat up. The return of San Jose is a Californians dream, as the rivalries between these three will surely produce some hot-tempered games. Anyone else want to see a California Cup?
Houston @ San Jose, Thursday, May 22 This is the first installment of the year of ‘Quakes Version I vs. ‘Quakes Version II in Major League Soccer history, and there will be a lot of familiar faces playing each other. Sure, they are all friends, but you don’t think that the Dynamo will have a little chip on their shoulders that they have two championships in two years of existence? Or, that the Earthquakes will have a chip on their shoulders as being the original team? There’s no need to wonder why this is a nationally televised game.
New York @ DC United, Saturday, June 14 As one of the most bitter relationships in the Eastern Conference, the I-95 Rivalry is always hotly contested – maybe more so in the stands. Red Bull fans still have the memory of fights with DC United fans from last years’ away fixture fresh in their minds, so security better be in top form at RFK.
ABC Double-Header, Saturday, June 29 What a great day to be a soccer couch potato. LA will play DC United at noon Eastern, followed by the Euro Championship in the afternoon. Major League Soccer may be able to pick up some new fans tuning in for the Euro final with this match-up.
Friday, July 4 Soccer may still be struggling for a presence in the United States, but the Fourth of July games have become tradition, particularly in LA, Dallas and Colorado. Those three teams will be hosting New England, Kansas City, and New York, respectively, with the usual fireworks to follow. Could it be any more perfect that this holiday falls on a Friday this year?
Los Angeles @ New York, Saturday, July 19 I know what you are thinking: enough Galaxy games. But, how could this fixture not be on the list. Last year it produced the greatest game in MLS history, and the most encouraging spectacle possible – a 5-4 thriller that headlined back pages across the Tri-State area. This game should not be held to last years standards, but it will be interesting to see how the encore performance goes.
CD Chivas USA @ Kansas City, Saturday, August 9 I know, who really cares about Kansas City? Well, the thing about this game is that it might help answer that very question, and should serve as a good benchmark for attendance. A seating capacity of only about 12,000 for MLS games should create more of a demand for games, just as San Jose is trying to do in Buck Shaw Stadium. I know Arrowhead was a bad situation, but I am not sold on a top-flight team playing at a minor league baseball stadium (CommunityAmerica Ballpark). Chivas draws well on the road, so we’ll see how this game’s attendance goes, and how the pitch holds up through the summer months.
Real Salt Lake @ Colorado, Saturday, October 25 This could be one great installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup. It is the final weekend of the regular season, and these two teams could be fighting for one of the final playoff spots to top that off. The suits at MLS did well to attempt to make this rivalry even more meaningful with its possible playoff implications.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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