The Union's 2012 schedule has finally been announced. Fourteen of the team's 34 games will be televised nationally, including the season opener, the home opener and the season finale.
The home opener pits the Union against the Colorado Rapids on March 18. As I predicted yesterday, it will air on NBC Sports Network, but the matchup won't be a glitzy one against Los Angeles or Houston. It will feature another visit from Chestnut Hill Academy product Jeff Larentowicz, but that's about it.
The Union will make two trips to the Pacific Northwest: to Portland for the season opener on March 12, and to Seattle on May 5. The latter game will be televised on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). It is one of seven games that the channel will air.
In addition to those games, there will be three games on ESPN2, one on ESPN, two on Galavisión and one on NBC's broadcast network.
The total of 14 national TV games is a significant increase from last season't total of nine.
Here is the Union's full schedule. All times are Eastern. Local TV and radio broadcast information will be released at a later date.
Monday, March 12: at Portland Timbers, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday, March 18: vs. Colorado Rapids, 4:00 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, March 24: at Chicago Fire, 8:30 PM
Saturday, March 31: vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 7:00 PM
Saturday, April 14: vs. Columbus Crew, 3:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, April 21: at Chivas USA, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 28: vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5: at Seattle Sounders, 4:00 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Sunday, May 13: vs. New York Red Bulls, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday, May 19: at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 26: at Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 16: vs. D.C. United, 7:00 PM (Galavisión)
Saturday, June 23: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 30: at Houston Dynaymo, 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 4: at Los Angeles Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 8: vs. Toronto FC, 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 14: vs. Montréal Impact, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 21: at New York Red Bulls, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, July 29: vs. New England Revolution, 7:00 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, August 4: at Montréal Impact, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 12: vs. Chicago Fire, 7:00 p.m. (Galavisión)
Sunday, August 19: at D.C. United, 5:00 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Friday, August 24: vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Wednesday. August 29: vs. Columbus Crew, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 1: at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 15: at Toronto FC, 1:00 p.m.
Thursday, September 20: vs. D.C. United, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday, September 23: vs. Houston Dynamo, 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 29: at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 3: at Chicago Fire, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 6, 2012: vs. New England Revolution, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 20: at Houston Dynamo, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Wednesday, October 24: at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 27: vs. New York Red Bulls, 1:30 p.m. (NBC)
Other than the season opener and the home opener, here are five games especially worth circling on your calendars:
- May 5 at Seattle. If you've been waiting for an opportunity to make a road trip to the Pacific Northwest, there's your best chance this year.
- July 4 at Los Angeles. The Union will only face David Beckham and Landon Donovan once this year, and it will be an Independence Day spectacle. Unfortunately, it won't be nationally televised.
- August 4 at Montréal. The Union's only road game against the Impact will be played at a very good time of year to escape north of the border for a weekend. This will also be a chance to see Montréal's new Stade Saputo, which opens on June 16. The Union will not play at Olympic Stadium, which is too bad for the stadium history buffs out there.
- October 20 at Houston. The Union will visit the Dynamo's new BBVA Compass Stadium twice this season. This will be the second trip, and the only one that is nationally televised. The first game at Houston is in late June, which isn't exactly an ideal time of year to visit Texas. Autumn should be much more comfortable.
- October 27 vs. New York. The regular season concludes with a blockbuster rivalry game that will be broadcast nationally on the NBC broadcast mother ship. Union fans should feel quite honored that their team and their stadium has been chosen for such a showcase.
From a season-wide perspective, it's worth noting is that the Union will host both of its northeast corridor rivals - D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls - twice each this season. This means that the Union will have two road games against each of those teams in 2013 (at least, assuming MLS sticks with its current scheduling format next year).
This strikes me as unfair from a competitive balance standpoint. We know that Major League Soccer wants to turn the Northeast corridor rivalry series into something similar to the Cascadia Cup triumvirate of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
As such, it would seem to me to make more sense to have each team host one team once and one team twice. For example: Philadelphia would host New York twice and D.C. once; D.C would host Philadelphia twice and New York once; and New York hosts D.C. twice and Philadelphia once.
For the record, the Cascadia Cup series this year is also unbalanced. Seattle has to play at Portland and Vancouver twice each, while the Timbers get two home games against both the Sounders and Whitecaps.
Another major talking point from the schedule is David Beckham not playing at PPL Park this year. It turns out that the Galaxy will not play at in any of the Northeast corridor markets in 2012. That does not strike me as a smart idea from a marketing perspective.
Theoretically, the Galaxy will make all of those trips in 2013, but it's still something of a gamble to assume that Beckham will still be in Los Angeles at that point.
What games are you most looking forward to this season?