The 2018 Major League Soccer schedule has been announced and a late change has already shifted something we thought we knew about the Fire's schedule.
For starters, the season opener which was already announced to be March 3 at Colorado, has been moved. With the Rapids in the CONCACAF Champions League, the match was rescheduled to June 13 due to a potential conflict. This takes place over what would have been the break for the 2018 World Cup. However, the Fire don't expect to have any players involved with the U.S. (Dax McCarty) and Ghana (David Accam) both missing out on the tournament.
That means the Fire's season opener will be at home on March 10 against Sporting Kansas City, a week after 20 of the 23 teams in the league will start. The rest of the schedule is listed on the Fire's website.
Here are a few other things that stand out from the schedule drop:
- Four of the first five matches are now at Toyota Park. We already knew the Fire would host Sporting Kansas City on March 10 and travel to Minnesota a week later, but we now know that the Sporting KC match is the season opener as opposed to just the home opener. What follows the trip to Minnesota is a three-game homestand against Portland, Columbus and the LA Galaxy in that order.
- Six of the first eight matches are against teams that made the playoffs in 2017. This isn't always the most relevant thing with how quickly teams can become good or bad in MLS, but these teams expect to be good again in 2018. Sporting KC is getting a revamp after trading Benny Feilhaber and spending some money so there are question marks there, but that team could be better if the investment pays off. Portland has a new coach with Caleb Porter leaving. After concluding the three-game homestand, the Fire travel to the New York Red Bulls (which just traded key playmaker Sacha Kljestan) and defending champ Toronto before hosting Atlanta, which should be strong once again.
- This could be the last year of the Fire-Crew rivalry. Columbus' potential move to Austin has received plenty of attention and if it happens it would strip the Fire of its closest rival. With the expansion of Los Angeles FC (giving MLS an odd number of 23 teams), each Eastern Conference team is playing two conferences foes three times. As rivals, the Fire and Columbus have played three times and that remains true in 2018. The Fire host Columbus on April 7 and August 25 and head to Ohio on May 12.
- The other team the Fire play three times in 2018 is defending champ Toronto FC. The Fire will play at BMO Field on April 28 and play a back-to-back July 21 at Toyota Park and July 28 in Toronto. That means the two teams the Fire will play three times are the two teams that featured in last year's Eastern Conference finals.
- D.C. United's new Audi Field won't debut until July, but the Fire will get to play their in its debut season. The two teams will square off on Oct. 7 on national TV. The Fire will not head to Los Angeles FC's Banc of California Stadium and will instead host the expansion team on Sept. 29.
- Speaking of national TV, even after a playoff appearance and the addition of Bastian Schweinsteiger (the latest reports and rumors are swinging towards the German re-signing) the Fire are apparently not a draw to the English-language national TV broadcasts. The Fire will air on each of those channels once.