10 Major League Soccer matches that shouldn't be missed in 2016
Two weeks after Major League Soccer announced the home openers for each of its 20 teams, MLS unveiled its entire 2016 regular-season schedule on Thursday. Here are 10 games fans of the domestic circuit can't afford to miss.
March 6: Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew SC (Providence Park)
The first nationally televised match of the new campaign (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) is also opening weekend's marquee contest as last year's MLS Cup finalists meet again. It's always a party-like atmosphere at Providence Park. Add in the pregame festivities -- the Timbers will honor the 2015 champs beforehand -- and the fact that the Crew will be out to avenge last month's heart-wrenching 2-1 loss in Columbus, the atmosphere in Portland promises to be unforgettable.
March 12: Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas (BBVA Compass Stadium)
Houston's home opener is against the New England Revolution the previous weekend, but Dynamo fans will be more excited about the club's second match of the season. After missing the playoffs in each of the past two years and losing all three of its Texas rivalry games against FCD -- including a 4-1 defeat at home -- in 2015, beating last year's Supporters' Shield runners-up would be a triumph for the hosts.
April 23: Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC (Saputo Stadium)
Toronto made the playoffs for the first time in its history in 2015, but the way the year ended -- with back-to-back losses at the home of their fiercest rival, including a 3-0 loss to the Impact that eliminated them from the postseason -- makes their long Canadian winter even longer. TFC will be looking to end the bad vibes in Montreal in the penultimate match of their eight-game road swing (because of renovations to BMO Field) to start the season.
June 25: San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy (Stanford Stadium)
A huge crowd is expected as the 'Quakes swap cozy Avaya Stadium (capacity: 18,000) for Stanford University's much larger gridiron venue for the California Clasico. While the Galaxy have won two MLS Cups since the start of the 2012 season, San Jose has beaten LA in three of the four matches played at Stanford during that span.
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July 3: New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls (Yankee Stadium)
New NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira played in plenty of London derbies during his time as Arsenal's captain. This match will mark his second New York version in six weeks; the teams also meet in the Bronx on May 21. The Red Bulls swept all three games against City last season, including a 3-1 win on the road.
July 9: Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy (CenturyLink Field)
Two of the highest-profile clubs in MLS face off in Seattle in the first meeting between the teams since Galaxy's 2015 season ended there in the opening round of the playoffs. This match, which is expected to boast big names such as Giovani Dos Santos (LA) and Clint Dempsey (Sounders), kick off at noon local time and will be televised by ESPN.
July 17: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders (Providence Park)
Even before Portland won the 2015 MLS Cup, there was no bigger rivalry in MLS than Timbers-Sounders. The battle for bragging rights goes up a notch as the squads meet for the first time in 2016. Home fans will surely remind their big-spending fellow Cascadians which team is still searching for its maiden MLS title.
July 24: New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC (Red Bull Arena)
The third and final contest between Gotham's two MLS squads in 2016 takes place in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Red Bulls beat NYCFC 2-1 last year in the inaugural match between the teams.
Aug. 21: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers (CenturyLink Field)
The biggest crowd of the 2016 season could be in attendance for the second of three matches between these teams. It's the Timbers lone visit to Seattle all season, so expect all 67,000 seats at the Sounders home stadium to be filled. The clubs meet again in Portland seven days later as part of MLS's second and final Rivalry Week.
Oct. 23: Decision Day (TBD)
As was the case in 2015, all 20 teams will be in action on the final day of the regular season. Unlike last year, all 10 matches will kick off simultaneously. MLS's broadcast partners will select the most compelling matches as teams either jockey for favorable postseason positions or battle for their playoff lives altogether. Among the intriguing Eastern Conference possibilities are Orlando City-DC United and Philadelphia Union-Red Bulls. Over in the West, LA hosts FCD while the Timbers visit the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.