Major League Soccer announced its 2013 schedule on Wednesday, with a brand new wrinkle for a brand new year: Rivalry Week.
Eight of the nine matches in Week 3 of the 35-week season will pit regional rivals against one another, with the NBC Sports Group on board to air three live matches that weekend showcasing some of the league’s premier rivalries.
Among Rivalry Week’s matches are the first 2013 matchup between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers in Seattle, and a date at Red Bull Arena for the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United, who met there in the Eastern Conference semfinals last year. The weekend will also feature an installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup between host Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids, an all-Canadian clash in Montreal between the host Impact and Toronto FC, and the only matchup of the year between Texas foes FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo.
Each of the League’s 19 clubs will play 34 matches, 17 at home and 17 away, over 35 weeks during the 2013 season, which officially kicks off on March 2, the earliest start date in league history. Within each conference, each club will play the same number of in-conference and out-of-conference games, following the same competition format as 2012, with inter-conference matches switching venues.
More than 90 percent of this year’s regular-season games are on weekends or holidays, and none will overlap directly with FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. During the summer months, most games will kick off no earlier than 4 pm local time in an effort to reduce the impact of hot weather.
All 323 matches will be televised live – 87 via national network partners ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Univision and UniMás in the United States. Nationally in Canada, at least 30 games featuring Canadian clubs will air on TSN/TSN2 in English and RDS/RDS2 in French. The TSN/TSN2 and RDS/RDS2 schedules will be announced in the coming weeks.
All non-national TV games will be broadcast locally and/or via subscription to Direct Kick and MLS Live, the digital streaming package for MLSsoccer.com, mobile devices and tablets.
The 2013 regular season concludes Sunday, Oct. 27, with five games, followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs. Only two clubs will reach MLS Cup 2013, and the one with a better regular-season record will host the championship game on Dec. 7 or 8, with details to be announced at a later date.