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Top 10 dates to circle on D.C. United’s 2018 MLS calendar

Yeah, every game on the schedule matters. But these ones will matter to D.C. fans even more

Courtesy of D.C. United

Get your planners out! Load up Kayak dot com! Put in those leave slips at work! Study the bar & restaurant geography of Buzzard Point! The 2018 MLS schedule is out, and we now know when and where* D.C. United will be playing in this new year. (*The first two “home” games notwithstanding.)

After a quick look through the sked, here are the five home dates and five away trips fans of Los Capitalinos should highlight as we move into 2018.

Away Games

#5. Sunday, October 28, at Chicago Fire. The season finale will always be on lists like these. Its inclusion here is as aspirational as it is anything else. I hope this is a game we’ll want to be paying close attention to because I want United to be playing for something — and ideally something better than “maybe sneaking into the playoffs” -- when they close the regular season in Bridgeview.

#4. Saturday, April 28, at Philadelphia Union. A weekend game at Philly! It’s a gosh darn MLS Schedule Day miracle! So often the league puts games in the Acela corridor on weekday evenings, all but ensuring that at least half the fans who would want to make one of American soccer’s easier road trips can’t. But with a necessarily back-loaded home slate, the calendar gods smiled on D.C. supporters with a bona fide short-distance travel opportunity for once. Jimi and Jay will hopefully have to scour the land for enough buses to take what should be a good traveling crowd up from the District.

#3. Sunday, September 9, at New York City FC. A Sunday afternoon game is almost as good as a Saturday game for East Coast travel purposes, and however it may look on TV, Yankee Stadium is a fun place to watch a soccer game. If one wanted to spend a weekend visiting friends in the city, maybe take in a show, run your kids around Manhattan, and cap it off with an afternoon in the Bronx before catching the train back to DC... well, that sounds pretty lovely.

#2. Saturday, March 11, at Atlanta United. If we could take one positive out of the 2017 season, it’s that United > United. The original MLS champions took nine points off the Five Stripes last year, Ben Olsen besting Tata Martino in all three meetings with the Interlopers United. In the second week of the new season, we’ll see if the streak can continue in the real United’s first ever visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. We ready for y’all.

#1. Monday, May 28, at Los Angeles FC. Memorial Day in the City of Angels, anyone? Eight weeks before D.C. United open their long-awaited stadium in Southwest DC, Bob Bradley and his expansion LAFC will welcome the Black-and-Red into their own shiny new building, Banc of California Stadium. It’ll be United’s first and only regular season meeting with the latest team to ape the black kit, and if the crowds supporting other recent MLS expansion teams are anything to go by, it should be a fun atmosphere in Exposition Park.

Home Games

#5. Saturday, March 17, vs. Houston Dynamo. It won’t be at the still-under-construction Audi Field. We don’t actually know where it will be at this point in time. If the game is at the 5,200-seat Maryland SoccerPlex, though — as The Washington Post’s Steve Goff has reported is likely — it’ll be one to see. Besides being one of only two opportunities to watch United in the DMV before midsummer, the Plex is a special place, and one worth braving the traffic to reach. My evidence? Just look back at Brankostock. Seriously, look back at Brankostock. It was glorious, if far too brief.

#4. Sunday, August 12, vs. Orlando City. I could lie and say this is on here because of the Antonio Nocerino drama from a couple years back, or the chance to root against new Purple Lion and ex-Metro Sacha Kljestan, or merely to placate B&RU Orlando Hater-in-Chief Ben Bromley. But this night is on the list for no other reason than it will be Audi Field’s national television debut. FS1 will be in the building for the first of six U.S. national telecasts from Buzzard Point this year, and I’d certainly like to make a good impression.

#3. Seven dates between Wednesday, September 12 and Sunday, October 21. Yeah, it’s cheating to include more than 40% of the home schedule as a single item on this list. But it’s my list. You can be a stickler for made-up rules when you make your own list on the internet. Anyway, the Black-and-Red will have seven straight at home before the season-ending road trip to Chicago, and this is probably when United’s postseason possibilities — or lack thereof -- will finally come into focus. Five of the seven will be against Eastern Conference opponents — including both Hudson River teams and Treble winners Toronto FC — and if we’re lucky, the games will be for position in the standings.

#2. Wednesday, July 25, vs. New York Red Bulls. The first Atlantic Cup tilt at the new building, and during the one-and-only league rivalry week in 2018 to boot. I’m not inclined to believe anybody reading this site is going to want to miss it.

#1. Saturday, July 14, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps. Like there could be any other choice. After years — literally decades — of searching, the Black-and-Red will open their new stadium on Buzzard Point. Audi Field will open its gates for MLS action for the first time, and we’ll know what home is going to feel like. The opponent factors into it not at all, and that’s just fine. It’s going to be historic. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be emotional (though certainly in a somewhat different way than #LastCallatRFK was). And, in a special bonus for me, it’s going to be a great way to spend my sixth wedding anniversary.

Anything missing? Let us hear in the comments what dates caught your eye when the schedule came out yesterday.