Major League Soccer: 10 Must-See Matches From the Broadcast Schedule
10 Must-See MLS Matches from the Broadcast Schedule
The broadcast schedule for MLS was released a few months ago, but continues to be tweaked as the season approaches. The main broadcast partner for the 2014 season is NBC Sports, with most of the matches placed on the cable network formerly known as Versus. Other matches will be shown on NBC over the air, ESPN and ESPN2. Those with UniMas can take in the Spanish call as well. With plenty of storylines across the league and still being in season during the World Cup there are plenty of fascinating matches to watch. It is not just the big name clubs that are worth your attention.
It looks like this will be the last season for NBC as the lead network for MLS. There have been discussions on an eight-year contract with ESPN and FOX that would be worth about $70 million per year. The deal could include both television and internet rights and would include U.S. Men's National Team matches. This combination makes MLS matches more valuable despite lower television ratings in recent years.
All other matches are shown on MLS Live, the league's own digital service where a yearly pass can be currently purchased for under $55. It is a more robust experience with integrated replay, social media feeds and extensive stat-tracking. Certain matches are subject to blackout depending on viewing area and the broadcast games for that day. It is one of the more affordable packages among the major sports in the United States.
The broadcast schedule will continue to change, and there is at least one time slot still to be announced. The league is taking a two-week break during the group stage of the World Cup, but will resume during the knockout round. There are plenty of big guns on the docket, but it is those that don't have a lot of chances to star that may be most worth watching.
Please note listed times are in Eastern Standard Time.
March 15 - Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC - 4:30 pm, NBC Sports Network
It may still come as a surprise that Toronto FC has made the biggest splash in the offseason, including bringing Michael Bradley back from Rome. With an early match pitting Bradley against Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders, the networks realized it could be a ratings win. This will also be available on TSN in Canada.
March 22 - Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Galaxy - 4 pm, NBC Sports Network
Over the last few years, Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy have become a good rivalry. RSL was able to get by L.A. in the MLS playoffs last season dethroning the then two-time champion. This will be the home opener for RSL after their run to the MLS Cup final last year. Over the last three regular seasons, the teams have traded wins.
April 19 - Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution - 4 pm, NBC Sports Network
This is one of the only times to see the New England Revolution on any of the national channels showing MLS. They have some of the most entertaining young talent in the league with Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez. The matchup also features the reigning MLS MVP, Mike Magee.
June 28 - San Jose Earthquakes vs. Los Angeles Galaxy - Time TBD, NBC Sports Network
This is the Stanford game and the San Jose Earthquakes have fond memories from last year's edition. It was also one of the more exciting matches to watch from the start in 2013. In front of 50,000 people last year, the Earthquakes erased a two-goal deficit twice, including in the final 13 minutes while playing down a man. Steven Lenhart bled a lot too.
July 13 - Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers - 10 pm, ESPN2
This match up appears on the list twice because it is that good. Everything that goes into Seattle vs. the Portland Timbers is a spectacle. This one is at CenturyLink Field in front of the biggest crowd in MLS. It is always fascinating to see the march to the match by the Sounders' supporters, so make sure to follow along on social media.
July 30 - Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls - 9 pm, ESPN2
Two really good teams face off in primetime and look to recapture some of the magic from their last meeting. Four goals were scored in the final 10 minutes last July as Dax McCarty got a last-minute goal to propel the New York Red Bulls to a 4-3 victory over RSL. Add physical play to the scoring, and this is great viewing.
August 29 - Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo - 8 pm, NBC Sports Network
When Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo get together, there is always something on the line and you can feel the tension through your television set. SKC defeated Houston on a Dom Dwyer goal last year to make the MLS Cup final on the way to claiming the championship.
September 13 - Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls - 3 pm, NBC Sports Network
Now this is a fun rivalry. For much of the last two years, NYRB have owned this matchup, but the Philadelphia Union tallied a 3-0 victory last June. The backdrop at PPL Park is always stunning and the crowd seems to have a little more angst for their rivals to the north. This late-season matchup could mean playoff positioning for both teams.
October 25 - Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders - 2:30 pm, NBC
Here is the second Cascadia matchup and this time, it will be held at the newly-renamed Providence Park in Portland. Timber Joey will be there and playoffs will be a large part of the discussion. This is one of only four matches currently on over the air on NBC. This match was closely contested last year as Portland prevailed 1-0.
October 26 - Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls - 8:30 pm, ESPN
The defending MLS Cup winners against the defending Supporters' Shield winners in the season finale sounds like a good way to go out. Both of these teams are favorites to move into the playoffs and make a run for the Cup. This could be a preview of a playoff matchup as well. It is easily the best matchup on the final day of the regular season.