Five Things to Know About the 2017 M.L.S. Season

The 2017 Major League Soccer campaign is nearly upon us, but before the domestic top-flight league kicks off Friday night in Portland, here are five things you need to know going into M.L.S.’s 22nd season:

Make Your Case

A large portion of the U.S. Men’s National Team player pool are signed with clubs in M.L.S. Following a successful January Camp, the MNT’s domestic players have gone through a rigorous preseason leading up to what will be another lengthy campaign.

In the interim, the first few matches of the 2017 M.L.S. season will be crucial not only for preparation, but for players to make their final case for inclusion on Bruce Arena’s roster for the critical upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches against Honduras and Panama at the end of March. 

Two New Clubs

Major League Soccer expanded to 22 teams for 2017, welcoming expansion entries Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC to the fold. 

Owned and operated by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Atlanta fills a void for the league in the southeast United States and has made plenty of splashes leading up to their inaugural match on Sunday night against New York Red Bulls. With former U.S. MNT captain Carlos Bocanegra working as the club’s technical director, Atlanta hired former Argentina manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino and acquired a host of South American internationals in Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almíron, Venezuela forward Josef Martinez, and up-and-coming Argentine winger Héctor Villalba.

Bocanegra has also brought strong U.S. talent into the fold, naming former MNT defender Michael Parkhurst as captain, while current left back Greg Garza has joined the club on a season-long loan from Tijuana.

Meanwhile in the Great White North, Minnesota United FC has become a fantastic story in resilience. With different iterations of the club coming and going and the threat of professional soccer leaving the Twin Cities during the past decade, Minnesota United FC was granted its place in MLS two years ago, thanks to the backing of owner Dr. Bill McGuire.

Minnesota soccer legends Manny Lagos and Amos Magee lead the club upstairs, while former Orlando City SC head coach Adrian Heath will manage the team as it steps up to M.L.S. Familiar faces on the Minnesota roster include U.S. internationals Miguel Ibarra (who played for the club during it’s time in the NASL) and Josh Gatt, while Costa Rican internationals Johan Venegas and Francisco Calvo add more flair.

Former U.S. Internationals as Head Coaches

A total of nine former U.S. internationals currently serve as head coaches in Major League Soccer. Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes is the longest tenured having taken his post in 2009, while Jason Kreis is the freshest in his current role after being named head coach of Orlando City SC last July.

Check out the full list of former U.S. internationals now serving as managers in M.L.S.:

Manager

Club

Caps/Goals

Gregg Berhalter

Columbus Crew SC

44/0

Ben Olsen

D.C. United

37/6

Jay Heaps

New England Revolution

4/0

Jesse Marsch

New York Red Bulls

2/0

Jason Kreis

Orlando City SC

14/1

Greg Vanney

Toronto FC

37/1

Pablo Mastroeni

Colorado Rapids

65/0

Dominic Kinnear

San Jose Earthquakes

54/9

Peter Vermes

Sporting Kansas City

66/11 

New Venues

Three (technically four) new stadiums will debut in Major League Soccer this year.

After spending its first two M.L.S. seasons at Camping World Stadium, Orlando City SC will inaugurate their new ground when they host New York City FC on Sunday. With a capacity of 25,500, Orlando City Stadium features “The Purple Wall”, an intimidating and steep standing terrace for its supporters section which is modeled after Borussia Dortmund’s “Yellow Wall” at Signal Iduna Park. The venue also features 49 rainbow-colored seats in Section 12, which were built as a memorial to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting last June.

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Atlanta United FC will begin the season at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, before moving along with the Atlanta Falcons into the newly built Mercedez-Benz Stadium. The state-of-the-art facility will have a seating capacity of 40,000 for M.L.S. matches and will hold the first sporting event at the new ground when they welcome Orlando City SC on July 30.

On March 12, Minnesota United FC will begin play at TCF Bank Stadium, currently home to the University of Minnesota football team. The club will spend all of 2017 at the ground before taking up residence at their newly announced 21,500-seater stadium sometime next season.

How to Watch Opening Weekend 

Got all that? Great! 

All 22 M.L.S. clubs are in action this weekend, with four of the 11 matches set to air on national television, beginning with Friday’s Portland-Minnesota clash.

Take a look at the weekend schedule and get your fill of Major League Soccer the next few days: 

Friday, March 3

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United

9:30 p.m. ET

FS1

Saturday, March 4

Columbus Crew SC vs. Chicago Fire

2 p.m. ET

MLS Live

LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas

4 p.m. ET

Univision

Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC

4:30 p.m. ET

MLS Live

Colorado Rapids vs. New England Revolution

6 p.m. ET

MLS Live

D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City

7 p.m. ET

MLS Live

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders FC

8:30 p.m. ET

MLS Live

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact

10 p.m. ET

MLS Live

Sunday, March 5

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC

5 p.m. ET

ESPN

Atlanta United FC vs. New York Red Bulls

7:30 p.m. ET

FS1

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Philadelphia Union

9:30 p.m. ET

MLS Live

Go Deeper