Another momentous year in North American soccer is about to unfold. Here's a rundown of key dates and events to mark on your calendar.
Early January: MLS schedule release
Every team — including Columbus Crew SC, which kicks off at Toronto FC on March 3 before opening MAPFRE Stadium's 2018 schedule versus the Montreal Impact on March 10 — will see its full slate of regular-season matches is revealed, with about two months to go until opening day.
January 2-11: U.S. Soccer Men’s YNT Summit Camp, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
For the first time ever, US Soccer has gathered its five oldest youth national teams (U-16s, U-17s, U-18s, U-19s and U-20s) in one place to begin preparations for the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup events in 2019 under the leadership of youth technical director Tab Ramos and his staff. In all, 153 players have been called in, many of them from MLS teams and youth academies. The Crew SC Academy will be represented by four call-ups.
January 9-11: MLS Caribbean Combine, Sawgrass Hotel and Suites Sports Complex, Sunrise, Fla.
Prospects from across the Caribbean region are invited to showcase their abilities in front of MLS coaches and decision-makers at this event, held in Ft. Lauderdale’s western suburbs this year.
January 10-28: US men’s national team January camp, Carson, Calif.
The USMNT open a year of transition with their usual winter workouts for MLS-based players and others whose clubs are out of season. With the head coaching post yet to be filled on a permanent basis, caretaker boss Dave Sarachan will oversee this camp, traditionally a chance for young players and those on the fringes of the US player pool to impress.
January 11-17: adidas MLS Player Combine, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Top college, youth and international players will play matches and undergo a range of tests and interviews in hopes of impressing MLS technical staffs before the SuperDraft.
January 17-21: United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA) Convention, Philadelphia
The North American game’s annual winter reunion, this five-day soccer smorgasbord brings together rank-and-file and heavyweights alike for education, meetings and networking, held this year in and around at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
January 18-28: CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship, Couva, Trinidad & Tobago
The top young women’s talents in the North American region vie for bragging rights and a place at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France.
January 18: NWSL College Draft, Philadelphia
The National Women's Soccer League, North America's top women's pro league, begins the countdown to its sixth season with its draft.
January 19: MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas, Philadelphia
Staged amid the sprawling United Soccer Coaches Convention, the draft provides MLS teams with an opportunity to bolster their rosters with top talent from NCAA soccer and beyond. Crew SC currently holds the 21st overall selection.
January 21: US women’s national team vs. Denmark, San Diego, Calif.
The reigning world champions kick off 2018 with a friendly vs. a strong European adversary at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium.
January 22: MLS preseason begins
Players report to their respective clubs as the leadup to the 2018 season begins in earnest.
January 28: USMNT vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
The senior national team conclude January camp with their first match of the year, a friendly at the home of the LA Galaxy.
February 8-11: USSF annual general meeting, Orlando, Fla.
The federation’s annual gathering of member associations and stakeholders takes on added significance this year, with the election to determine the successor for outgoing president Sunil Gulati scheduled for Feb. 10. The National Soccer Hall of Fame’s latest induction ceremony takes place the same day, with Briana Scurry and Dr. Joe Machnik the honorees.
February 8-10: Pacific Rim Cup, Honolulu, Hawaii
MLS preseason action hits the islands as the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew SC face Japanese clubs Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Iwaki FC at Aloha Stadium.
February 17-24: Carolina Challenge Cup, Charleston, S.C.
Another perennial preseason favorite, this year’s CCC features Atlanta United, Crew SC, Minnesota United and USL host club the Charleston Battery. The four teams will play in a round-robin tournament with doubleheaders on Feb. 17, 21 and 24 at the intimate MUSC Health Stadium, one of the nation’s oldest soccer-specific venues.
February 20-March 1: CONCACAF Champions League opening round
The 2018 edition of North America's international club championship tournament debuts under a new format, with the group stage eliminated in favor of 16 teams in a straight knockout bracket featuring two-legged goal-aggregate series. Colorado, Dallas, the Red Bulls, Seattle and Toronto FCwill represent MLS this year, with Colorado and TFC facing off right away in the opening round.
March 1-7: SheBelieves Cup, Columbus, Ohio, Harrison, N.J., Orlando, Fla.
The USWNT host three of the world’s top women’s teams – this time around it’s Germany, France and England – in their annual spring invitational, this year held at MLS venues MAPFRE Stadium, Red Bull Arena and Orlando City Stadium.
March 3-4: MLS Opening Weekend
The league’s 23rd season kicks off. Defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners Toronto FC open the slate as Columbus visit BMO Field on a busy Saturday afternoon, while the following day expansion debutants LAFC visit Seattle in the first of four Sunday games.
March 6-14: CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals
The eight survivors of the opening round meet in another set of two-legged, home-and-home series; the winners advance to the semifinals.
March 19-27: FIFA international fixture window
This marks the first opportunity of the year for national teams to schedule camps and matches with the full availability of their player pools. The US and Canadian national teams may look to schedule one or two friendlies during this period.
April 4-11: CONCACAF Champions League semifinals
The CCL resumes with the four survivors of the quarterfinal round meeting in another set of two-legged, home-and-home series; the winners advance to the championship final.
Mid-April: NWSL season begins
The women's league, which includes four sibling clubs of MLS sides, including Real Salt Lake’s new partner side Utah Royals FC, kicks off its sixth season of play.
April 18-25: CONCACAF Champions League final
The final two contenders for the title of North America's top club face off in a two-legged, home-and-home final. The winner will represent CONCACAF at the FIFA Club World Cup.
April 29: Banc of California Stadium debuts, Los Angeles, Calif.
LAFC’s glittering new $350-million home, boasting incredible sightlines, views of LA’s downtown skyline and unique features like a swimming pool in one corner, makes its debut with a visit from the Seattle Sounders.
May 9: Lamar Hunt US Open Cup begins
Dozens of amateur and semipro teams have been playing qualifying matches for months, but on this date the historic tournament officially begins. Open to clubs from all levels of the pyramid, the Open Cup dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest sporting competitions in the United States – and for that matter, the world. Its single-elimination format fosters drama and upsets galore; Sporting KC are the reigning champions.
June 9: USMNT vs. France, Lyon
It’s not completely official yet. But the US are set to face the mighty Bleus in a pre-World Cup friendly that should pose a stiff test for the Americans, who may also schedule other such occasions around this time.
June 12-13: FIFA Congress begins in Moscow
The leaders of the global game, including representatives from all 211 FIFA member nations, congregate on the eve of the 2018 World Cup. The most prominent item on their agenda: The vote on who wins hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup – the united North American bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States, or Morocco.
June 14: 2018 FIFA World Cup begins, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
The world’s favorite sporting competition gets underway amid the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony before hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia. The 32 participating nations – alas, the US and Canada both missed out this time around – will duke it out across Russia for a month, culminating with the championship final on July 15.
June/July: 2018 Canadian Championship
Canada’s pro teams will play for the Voyageurs Cup, national bragging rights and a spot in the next CONCACAF Champions League. TFC are defending champions.
Late June: Audi Field debuts, Washington, D.C.
The league’s newest venue will get its long-awaited bow in the spotlight. After more than two decades at historic but aged RFK Stadium, founding MLS club D.C. United finally raise the curtain on their intimate downtown home on the Anacostia Riverfront.
Late July: 2018 MLS All-Star Game, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
The league’s annual mid-summer showcase.
August 5-24: FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, France
With the men’s World Cup taking center stage, it’s a light year for other FIFA tournaments, but the women’s stars of tomorrow will face off in August.
September 3-11: FIFA international fixture window
National teams can call up their full teams during this period, and in the North American region this one is expected to feature the debut of the CONCACAF Nations League, the new three-tiered, year-round competition that will fill up most international dates (World Cup qualifying notwithstanding) in the years ahead. This might well mark the competitive debut of the USMNT’s new coach, too.
September/early October: NWSL playoffs (venues TBA)
The NWSL season concludes with postseason action, capped by the league championship game.
October 4-17: CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying, various venues TBA, US
The road to the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France for the US and Canada, both of whom will be heavy favorites to represent the CONCACAF region.
October 8-16: FIFA international fixture window
Whether for CONCACAF Nations League or friendly action, the USMNT and CanMNT are likely to gather this week.
October 20: National Soccer Hall of Fame opening ceremony, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Tex.
After more than seven years without a physical home, the Hall of Fame makes a triumphant return as its new facility is unveiled after a $55 million renovation and installation in the south end of FC Dallas’ home ground. The weekend is expected to include an inaugural Hall of Fame game, a 50th anniversary celebration of the old North American Soccer League and a music concert.
Late October: 2018 MLS #DecisionDay
The 34-week MLS regular season concludes with synchronized kickoffs across the Eastern and Western Conferences. Positioning for the playoffs, as well as team and individual accolades, will be decided on that final day.
November 12-20: FIFA international fixture window
November/December: Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs
The league’s top 12 teams battle to survive and advance in the final chapter of the year-long quest for the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.
Early December: 2018 MLS Cup
A new champion will be crowned … or will Toronto FC repeat their 2017 exploits?
December 7-9: 2018 College Cup, Meredith Field at Harder Stadium, Santa Barbara, Calif.
The final four survivors of the NCAA Division I men's soccer postseason tournament compete for the national championship, this year hosted by UC Santa Barbara.
December 12-22: 2018 FIFA Club World Cup, United Arab Emirates
Will this be the year an MLS team competes for hardware against the likes of Real Madrid? All it takes is winning the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time in league history.