Games to Watch: MLS kicks off, EPL, UEFA and CONCACAF Champions Leagues

Manchester United at West Bromwich Albion

7:45 a.m. Saturday (NBCSN, mun2)

NBCSN kicks off a quadrupleheader of soccer with a Manchester United team that remains mired in crisis. Stuck in the middle of the Premier League table, Red Devils fans are already calling for manager David Moyes to be fired. The bigger problem, though, might be that United’s players just aren’t that good - especially on defense. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić are getting old, and Father Time remains undefeated.

After this game, NBCSN will air Cardiff City vs. Fulham at 10 a.m. and Chelsea-Tottenham at 12:30 p.m. And after that comes the biggest matchup of the day… at least for some of us.

Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders

3:00 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN)

Three months and one day after the 2013 Major League Soccer season ended in Kansas City, reigning champion Sporting kicks off the 2014 campaign. It’s win or bust once again for Clint Dempsey and star-studded Seattle, and MLS’ biggest fan base is getting impatient with head coach Sigi Schmid. Kansas City, meanwhile, has to show it remains among the Eastern Conference’s elite.

In addition to Dempsey, this game will showcase three other Americans who are likely to be on this summer’s World Cup squad: Seattle’s Brad Evans and Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.

And yes, it’s quite possible that Dempsey won’t play after going 90 minutes for the U.S. against Ukraine on Wednesday. How the Sounders play without him - especially forwards Kenny Cooper and Obafemi Martins - is a question that Schmid must answer if Seattle is to finally live up to its endless hype.

Wigan Athletic at Manchester City

12:05 p.m. Sunday (Fox Sports 2)

The two teams that contested last year’s FA Cup final meet again in this year’s quarterfinals. Wigan pulled off one of the all-time upsets last year, winning its first ever trophy at City’s expense. But the Latics were relegated from the Premier League just days later. If Shaun Maloney and company can beat City on its own turf, it might be even more of an upset than last year was.

Chicago Fire at Chivas USA

3:00 p.m. Sunday (UniMás)

MLS is finally ending the Chivas USA experiment after this year, having recently bought the team out from Mexican parent Chivas de Guadalajara. There’s no doubt it will go down as a failure. But the Goats might just go out with a bang.

Fomer U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra anchors the defense, and newly-signed Mexican striker Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista will liven up the attack. The talent is there to make the playoffs, believe it or not.

Chicago, meanwhile, faces a lot of questions. The Fire have reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee, but his supporting cast isn’t that great. New manager Frank Yallop has a lot to prove if he’s to break through what might be the toughest Eastern Conference race in MLS history.

Arsenal at Bayern Munich

3:00 p.m. Tuesday (Fox Sports 1)

The reigning Champions League winners come home for the second leg of this quarterfinal with a 2-0 aggregate lead. So why are so many Bavarians just a bit nervous? Perhaps because they lost at home to the Gunners in last season’s Champions League, and only advanced on away goals. Could history repeat itself this year?

Club Tijuana at Los Angeles Galaxy

10:00 p.m. Wednesday (Fox Soccer Plus and Galavisíon)

The marquee matchup of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals is the biggest test for MLS since Real Salt Lake made the final in 2011. The Galaxy, led by Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, are the league’s standard-bearer. Tijuana’s roster is stacked with American stars, including Hérculez Gómez and Edgar Castillo, and their fan base is as big in nearby San Diego as it is south of the border. The Xolos even poached young American midfielder Paul Arriola from the Galaxy’s academy.

So yes, this series matters will resonate beyond just the two teams’ stadiums. As I’ve written before, southern California is one of the top battlegrounds in the fight between MLS and Liga MX teams for Hispanic-American youth soccer talent.

It’s no overstatement to say that if the Galaxy win, it would send a message - both in English and Spanish - that it can be worth staying home to turn pro. If Tijuana wins, their appeal will only grow stronger.

You can argue that Donovan, Keane and the rest of the Galaxy players didn’t ask to be involved in this fight. But they don’t have a choice. MLS desperately needs this win. Tijuana’s the better team, though, and it would be an upset if the Galaxy knocks them out. That the most decorated club in MLS history will play the role of underdog tells you just how far MLS has to go to knock Mexico off the CONCACAF throne.

Fiorentina at Juventus

4:05 p.m. Thursday (Fox Soccer Plus and

You don’t often get a matchup this big in the UEFA Europa League, so this will be game worth cherishing. It’s one of Italy’s most historic rivalries, and it will play out over two legs in the Round of 16. Juve’s strike force of Carlos Tévez and Fernando Llorente will be challenged by the Viola duo of forward Mario Gómez and midfield dynamo Matías Fernández.

Real Betis at Sevilla

4:05 p.m. Thursday (ESPN Deportes and Fox Soccer 2 Go)

I know that a lot of people don't have ESPN Deportes or Fox’s paid streaming service. But if you do, this game will be a lot of fun. The two teams are crosstown rivals, and produce some of the most entertaining clásicos in Spanish soccer. The stakes are raised this time as they meet in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16.