MLS has revealed the full 2018 league schedule, and after years of being hectored by fans, they did so on time. D.C. United will open Audi Field on July 14th with a game against, of all teams, the Vancouver Whitecaps. As has been known for some time, D.C. will open the season on the road, traveling south to face Orlando City on March 3rd and Atlanta United on March 11th. The first official “home game of the season remains March 17th’s match against the Houston Dynamo at a venue yet to be officially confirmed.
Beyond United requiring a heavily back-loaded home schedule due to the construction of their new Buzzard Point home, MLS had to grapple with some oddities this year. LAFC joining the league takes MLS up to 23 clubs, which requires one team to be on bye every week. On top of that, the odd number also means that teams in the East will play two intra-conference opponents three times, home and away for the rest, and one game against each team from the Western Conference.
United will face their arch rivals, the New York Red Bulls on July 25th (home), August 26th (away), and September 16th (home). Given that supporters will have to wait many weeks for home games, it is reasonable to expect big away crowds for March 24th’s trip to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew and a short jaunt up 95 to face the Philadelphia Union on April 28th. Due to there being 23 teams, United will not play on the weekends of April 21st or May 5th.
United supporters will also have to negotiate conflicts with the Washington Nationals twice. The Black-and-Red host the New England Revolution on August 19th at 6pm, the same day as the Nationals host the Miami Marlins at 1:35pm. On September 2nd, the Milwaukee Brewers will be at Nationals Park for a 1:35pm game, while United hosts Atlanta at 5:30pm. With United’s game on Fox Sports 1, that latter game might be one to pay close attention to in the coming months.
Between September 12th’s home game against Minnesota United and an October 21st match against New York City FC, United will play seven straight home games, an unprecedented home stand for the club. In all likelihood, their playoff fate will rest on both coming through the early season string of road games without being too far back in the standings, and then delivering wins at home as summer turns into autumn.
On the plus side, D.C. is on national TV far more often than in previous years. No fewer than twelve of United’s matches will be carried on either ESPN (three games), ESPN2 (one game), Fox Sports 1 (four games), Univision (two games) and UniMas (two games). After several seasons as feeling like an afterthought, it’s another sign that the times are changing for the Black-and-Red.