Last year's Major League Soccer schedule was widely criticized from all quarters. The 2013 schedule, in contrast, looks much more balanced. How the World Cup Qualifiers and CONCACAF Gold Cup will impact D.C. United, however, remains to be seen.
The 2013 D.C. United schedule has been out for less than 11 hours, yet much has already been written about it. Perhaps it's just the expectancy of being a D.C. United fan ready to see this young, up-and-coming team get back at it in 2013, but it looks like Major League Soccer has made some significant improvements over the 2012 schedule that suffered so much criticism from across the spectrum last year. Let's break down the 2013 schedule and make some snap judgments about the upcoming season.
1. D.C. United has a tough, and fantastic, start to the season. Not only are four of the first six matches fantastic (at Houston Dynamo, at New York Red Bulls, at Sporting Kansas City, vs New York Red Bulls again), but I would rate 16 of the first 18 games as either three or four stars on a four-star rating scale (leaving only the Apr. 27 away game at Columbus and Jun. 8 away game at New England as two-star games). The schedule doesn't have as many marquee matchups in July and August (but even then there are multiple exceptions), however, but it finishes strong at the end of season with what I would rate as five four-star games in the final nine matches (at New York Red Bulls, vs Los Angeles Galaxy, vs Chicago Fire, at Sporting Kansas City, vs Houston Dynamo).
2. The schedule is much more evenly distributed in 2013. In 2012, D.C. United had two breaks between home games of 35 days each! In 2013, the two longest breaks will be 28 days and 22 days. The 28-day break is between the Jun. 29 home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Jul. 27 home game against the New England Revolution. The good news is that this break almost completely overlaps the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament dates of Jul. 7-28. With a home game on Jul. 27, it looks like RFK won't host the Gold Cup final, but is it a coincidence that RFK will not be hosting D.C. United home games during almost the entirety of the Gold Cup? I hope not.
3. The 2013 schedule will help D.C. United's home attendance. As we all know, the average home attendance at RFK Stadium during the 2012 regular season was the lowest in franchise history at 13,846. Many factors contributed to that, but one was certainly the low number of Saturday night games, and the relatively high number of mid-week games. In 2013, D.C. United will play 11 Saturday night games at RFK compared to nine in 2012, and perhaps most importantly, they will only play one Wednesday night game compared to four in 2012.
|2012 Home Games||2013 Home Games|
In fact, if D.C. United had played 2012 using the same "day of the week" profile they will use in 2013 as listed above, they would have had a 5.26% attendance increase across the entire season (14,574 rather than 13,846) with just the same average crowd coming out for each night of the week. Having more Saturday games and fewer Wednesday games is a big deal for this franchise this coming year especially given the significant attendance bump D.C. United will almost certainly receive based on last year's great finish.
4. Conflicts with national team games. In 2013, MLS will compete with World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) and the Gold Cup for player time and focus. Depending on which D.C. United players receive call ups to their various national teams, games that will be directly affected by player absences could be:
- Mar. 23: D.C. United vs Columbus Crew (conflicts with Mar. 22 USA vs Costa Rica WCQ match)
- Jun. 2: D.C. United at Chicago Fire (conflicts with potential USA vs Germany friendly match (at RFK?))
- Jun. 8: D.C. United at New England Revolution (conflicts with Jun. 7 USA at Jamaica WCQ match)
- Jun. 15: D.C. United vs Toronto FC (conflicts with Jun. 11 USA vs Panama and Jun. 18 USA vs Honduras WCQ matches)
- Jul. 7: D.C. United at Colorado Rapids (conflicts with CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jul. 7-28)
- Jul. 20: D.C. United at Chicago Fire (conflicts with CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jul. 7-28)
- Jul. 27: D.C. United vs New England Revolution (conflicts with CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jul. 7-28)
- Sep. 8: D.C. United at Chivas USA (conflicts with Sep. 6 USA at Costa Rica and Sep. 10 USA vs Mexico matches)
- Oct. 12: D.C. United vs Philadelphia Union (conflicts with Oct. 11 USA vs Jamaica and Oct. 15 USA at Panama WCQ matches)
5. The impact of the unbalanced schedule. This year, D.C. United plays the following unbalanced games:
- Western Conference games on the road: FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids, Chivas USA
- Eastern Conference "third games" on the road: New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, Sporting Kansas City, Chicago Fire
- Eastern Conference "third games" at RFK: Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union, Houston Dynamo
- Eastern Conference teams only played twice (no "third game"): Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact
We'll continue looking at the schedule as we enter 2013 to see how D.C. United's schedule stacks up against the other teams in the Eastern Conference. Until then, here's another version of the schedule:
|MLS Round||Date||Home or Away||Opponent||Day of the Week||Game Rating|
|2||9-Mar||Home||Real Salt Lake||Sat||***|
|3||16-Mar||Away||New York Red Bulls||Sat||****|
|5||5-Apr||Away||Sporting Kansas City||Fri||****|
|6||13-Apr||Home||New York Red Bulls||Sat||****|
|11||19-May||Home||Sporting Kansas City||Sun||****|
|14||8-Jun||Away||New England Revolution||Sat||**|
|16||22-Jun||Home||San Jose Earthquakes||Sat||****|
|21||27-Jul||Home||New England Revolution||Sat||**|
|26||31-Aug||Away||New York Red Bulls||Sat||****|
|28||15-Sep||Home||Los Angeles Galaxy||Sun||****|
|29||21-Sep||Away||New England Revolution||Sat||*|
|33||18-Oct||Away||Sporting Kansas City||Fri||****|
What are your snap judgments? Which games are you looking forward to?