Mark the calendars, schedule the vacation now. The 2012 MLS schedule is out.
MLS unveiled the schedule for all 323 regular season matches on Thursday, signifying the beginning of the longest season in league history, beginning on March 10.
Each of the league’s 19 teams will play 34 games in 2012, and every regular-season game will be televised live this season. US network partners ESPN, NBC and Univision will broadcast a total of 89 matches this year, while 30 games featuring Canadian clubs will air on TSN/TSN2 in English and RDS/RDS2 in French.
The season begins with First Kick 2012, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which includes five matches on Saturday, March 10. The reigning MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy will begin the defense of their title at home on March 10 against Real Salt Lake, while the Montreal Impact will make their MLS debut on the road against their Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps on TSN.
The first game of NBC’s multi-year broadcast deal with MLS will be broadcast on Sunday, March 11, when FC Dallas host Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls in a rematch of their postseason Wild Card matchup last season.
Galavisión will broadcast Chivas USA hosting the reigning Eastern Conference champion Houston Dynamo on March 10, while the first game aired on the ESPN family of networks will be a rare Monday night clash on March 12, when the Portland Timbers host the Philadelphia Union at JELD-WEN Field on ESPN2.
The 2012 MLS regular season will conclude Sunday, Oct. 28, with three games, followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup 2012 on Dec. 1, hosted by one of the two finalists. From First Kick to MLS Cup, the calendar footprint of the 2012 season is 267 days – the longest in League history (as is the regular season, at 232 days).
ESPN continues its live coverage of MLS with 21 regular-season games this season. The nine games on ESPN and 11 on ESPN2 will also be available on ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes Radio.
Eleven of the games on ESPN platforms feature duels between regional rivals, such as FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo, two “SuperClasicos” between Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy, and two Cascadia Cup tilts between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders. ESPN will also broadcast a rematch between the rival New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy on May 5.
A total of 38 regular-season games will air on NBC Sports Network, including the May 12 inaugural MLS match at the Houston Dynamo’s new home, BBVA Compass Stadium, and a May 26 rematch of MLS Cup 2011 between Houston and LA.
NBC will broadcast three regular season games nationally: Portland vs. Seattle on Sept. 15, New York vs. Chicago on Oct. 6, and Philadelphia vs. New York on Oct. 27 – the first game of a historic tripleheader on the last Saturday of the regular season that includes Chicago vs. D.C. United and Portland vs. the San Jose Earthquakes on NBC Sports Network.
Galavisión will broadcast 27 MLS regular-season games live, two-thirds of them on Sunday evenings. Clubs such as the Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls will appear on Galavisión more than three times each this season.
More than 83 percent of all MLS games will take place on weekends or holidays, with every day of the week having at least one scheduled match during the year. The nine MLS games scheduled for Saturday, April 28, are set to break the league record for the most games in one day (previously eight, on March 26, 2011).
MLS initially did not schedule any games on FIFA fixture dates, but the league afforded the option, only by mutual club consent, of moving a game to one of those dates when other scheduling conflicts could not be resolved. Thus a small number of games do occur on select FIFA fixture dates.