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This Week in MLS – February 28, 2017

 
This Week in MLS – February 28, 2017
  • MLS returns for 22nd season boasting new teams, new young talent and world-class stadiums 
  • Expansion teams Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC look to make history in inaugural season
  • Exciting crop of new, young players boosts the excitement of MLS Opening Weekend
  • Orlando City SC’s new stadium opens this weekend
  • 2017 MLS media resources now available
  • Check It Out, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 1 Game Previews
MLS returns for 22nd season boasting new teams, new young talent, and world-class stadiums 
 
Expansion teams Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC look to make history in inaugural season
The 2017 season will be more electrifying and competitive than ever as the league welcomes two new expansion clubs in Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC. With distinct looks and identities, both teams will contend to become the first expansion club to win MLS Cup in its inaugural year since the Chicago Fire last accomplished the feat in 1998.
 
With splashy player signings, an internationally acclaimed head coach in Tata Martino, a state-of-the-art stadium to be opened in July, and a record 30,000 season ticketholders – the most ever for an inaugural season – Atlanta will have high expectations when it begins its 2017 campaign. With the club making its intent to be a championship contender known early on, all eyes will be on Atlanta when it faces Eastern Conference heavyweights New York Red Bulls on Sunday, March 5 at Bobby Dodd Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1).
 
Although less showy then their expansion counterparts, Minnesota United FC has the luxury of building on a 40 year old history of professional soccer in Minnesota. MNUFC joins MLS after six years in the NASL, allowing the team to easily transition a group of core group players into MLS, while also adding a strong contingent of international players of pedigree. With experienced MLS head coach Adrian Heath at the helm – who also coached Orlando City SC in its first year – Minnesota will look to use its know-how to navigate the club great heights in 2017, starting off with a dose of championship-caliber on Friday, March 3 when it takes on 2015 MLS Cup Champions Portland Timbers at Providence Park (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1).
 
Expansion Year Acmes
  • Chicago Fire are the only expansion team to have won MLS Cup in their first season (1998)
  • Of the 13 teams who have come into the league as an expansion team (formed through an expansion draft), four now have won MLS Cup (Chicago Fire, Portland Timbers, Real Salt lake and Seattle Sounders FC). 
  • Only three expansion teams have made the playoffs in their first year: Chicago Fire (1998), Miami Fusion (1998), Seattle Sounders FC (2009).
  • Only two expansion teams have won their first ever game in MLS:
    • Chicago Fire defeated the Miami Fusion 2-0 on March 21, 1998 at Soldier Field
    • Seattle Sounders FC defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0 on March 19, 2009 at now CenturyLink Field
 
Exciting crop of new, young players to debut on MLS Opening Weekend
One of the major trends of the offseason saw a number of young players in their prime and with international experience make the move to an MLS club from an international league. Expansion club Atlanta United signed three Designated Players all aged 23 or younger, all hailing from South America. Midfielder Miguel Almiron starred for his native Paraguay in this summer’s Copa America Centenario, while Josef Martinez has produced equally scintillating results for Venezuela’s national team.
 
Cascadia Cup fans will be delighted to see Fredy Montero return to MLS as the one-time Seattle legend joins rival club Vancouver Whitecaps FC and looks to provide a veteran presence for his new team. As a member of Sounders FC, the Colombia National Team member registered at least 19 combined goals and assists in each of his four seasons for the club and will look to kick off his return to MLS in the same fashion when Vancouver hosts the Philadelphia Union on Sunday at BC Place (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN1/4/5).
 
2017 MLS International Player Signings
  • 81 players from international professional leagues joined MLS this offseason
  • Those 81 players hold an average age of 25.73 years old
  • Of the 81 players signed, 58.02% have received at least one cap for their respective senior national team
  • Total of 13 Designated Players from outside MLS added this offseason with an average age of 25.31 years old
* Transactions as of 2/27/2017
 
Orlando City SC’s new stadium set to be unlike any other in North America
Orlando City SC is making final preparations for a spectacular season opener in their shiny, new Orlando City Stadium, which will debut in front of a sold-out crowd on March 5, when the Lions face New York City FC at 5 p.m. ET (ESPN). Trademarked with a unique tribute to the 49 lives lost in the Pulse tragedy, 49 rainbow seats in section 12 will forever commemorate the day that brought the Orlando community together on June 12, 2016. The stadium, which features the League’s first standing-room only supporters’ section, “The Wall,” was initially planned for a total stadium capacity of 18,500 but was increased to accommodate 25,500.
 
2017 MLS media resources now available
Media resources for the 2017 MLS season are now available at http://www.mlssoccer.com/media-resources. Assets will be updated throughout the season and include:
  • League and club PR contacts
  • League event details
  • 2017 Fact and Record Book
  • Stats, standings and gameday information
  • League rules and guidelines
  • Rosters and players
  • Downloads and style guides
  • MLS history
  • Press releases
Additionally, weekly soundbytes previewing MLS matches will be available at https://mlssoccer.box.com/v/soundbytes.
 
Sweet Tweets
Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17): Doing the media rounds at @MLS headquarters in NYC!
Ready to kick off the season this weekend. #MLSisBack  Representing @PhilaUnion. #DOOP
 
Travis Worra (@TravWorra1): #AudiField Groundbreaking today! As a fan of this club as a kid, it's amazing to be part of this huge day now a player! Always, #VamosUnited
 
Yamil Asad (@YamilAsad11): Thank you @ATLUTD and all your fans for the messages. On Sunday we started the dream together. Come on #ATLUTD
 
Week 1 Game Previews
Friday, March 3
Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
  • Minnesota United kick off their MLS history looking to become just the third expansion team in league history to start off with a victory (Chicago, 1998; Seattle, 2009).
  • The teams did meet in the preseason, reaching a 2-2 draw as part of the Timbers Preseason Tournament.
     
    Saturday, March 4
    Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC, 2 p.m.
  • The Fire last started a season with a victory in 2009, having lost their season-opening contest each of the last four years.
  • Crew SC enter the 2017 season after claiming the championship of the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C.
     
    FC Dallas at LA Galaxy, 4 p.m. (Univisión)
  • Ahead of the MLS season opener, FC Dallas will look to reach the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in a trip to Panama, winning the first leg vs. Arabe Unido 4-0 last week.
  • It’s the first game in charge for Curt Onalfo, who replaces Bruce Arena as Galaxy head coach after three MLS titles in charge.
     
    Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake, 4:30 p.m. (TSN1)
  • Real Salt Lake are undefeated in their last seven season openers, reaching a draw each of the last two years after winning five in a row.
  • TFC have won their season opener each of the last three years.
     
    New England Revolution at Colorado Rapids, 6 p.m.
  • The Revolution have won the last three meetings between the teams; the Rapids have gone 293 minutes since their last goal vs. New England.
  • The Rapids went through the entire 2016 regular season without a defeat at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, allowing just seven goals in 17 league games (an all-time MLS low).
     
    Sporting Kansas City at D.C. United, 7 p.m.
  • United are riding a five-game undefeated streak in the all-time series, with Sporting’s last win coming in 2014.
  • Sporting are 5-1-1 over the last seven seasons to start off the new year; including season-opening wins against United in 2010 (4-0) and 2012 (1-0). United are 2-5-0 in season openers in the same span.
     
    Seattle Sounders FC at Houston Dynamo, 8:30 p.m.
  • The Dynamo have never lost to Sounders at home, with three wins and four draws in Houston in eight meetings there all-time in league and MLS Cup play.
  • Sounders FC begin defense of their first MLS title; defending champions are 10-7-3 all-time in the opening match of the season after lifting MLS Cup.
     
    Montreal Impact at San Jose Earthquakes, 10 p.m. (TVAS)
  • The Impact have never lost to the Earthquakes, with three wins and two draws in five all-time meetings between the teams.
     
    Sunday, March 5
    New York City FC at Orlando City SC, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
  • The expansion class of 2015 again begin the season against each other; they played to a 1-1 draw in the first MLS game ever for both clubs, the first time in league history expansion teams started their history against each other.
  • NYCFC and Orlando City are both undefeated in their first games to start a season.
     
    New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
  • The Red Bulls enter the season riding a 16-game undefeated streak in league play, tied for fourth-longest in league history.
  • Atlanta United kick off their first MLS season at home; overall, expansion teams are 9-4-2 in their inaugural home match.
     
    Philadelphia Union at Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 9:30 p.m. (TSN1)
  • Whitecaps FC will come into their regular season opener after playing host to the New York Red Bulls in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Thursday at BC Place; the teams reached a 1-1 draw last week at Red Bull Arena.
  • Union have won just once in their history to open a new season, a 1-0 win at the Houston Dynamo in 2011.