It's official: New York City's first-ever regular season game will be against fellow expansion club Orlando City on March 8th. The game will be played at the Citrus Bowl at 5 p.m., and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
One interesting thing to note: MLS is promoting this game featuring Kakà, but there's no mention of Frank Lampard yet. With sporting director Claudio Reyna back in New York after talks concerning Lampard's near-term future in Manchester, you can expect an announcement of some kind in short order.
The game will be played in the Citrus Bowl because Orlando City's stadium will not be ready for the 2015 season. The Lions played in the Citrus Bowl throughout their tenure in USL PRO; given their fervent support there, you can expect that the stadium will provide a solid stage for the game.
The team plays its home opener in Yankee Stadium the following Sunday, March 15th, against the New England Revolution. That game will also presumably be nationally televised; no kickoff time has been set yet.
The league released their home opener schedule this morning, as a prelude to releasing the full slate of games for the 2015 season. Next season is the first of an eight-year, $90 million TV deal that the league signed with FOX Sports, ESPN, and Univision. Each of the three networks will, for the first time in MLS history, feature a game as the "MLS Match of the Week". Univision will televise Friday games, FOX and ESPN will televise Sunday games.
MLS kicks off its season on Friday, March 6, with the defending champions LA Galaxy taking on the Chicago Fire at home. It's the Sunday games, though, that will likely hold the attention of New York-area fans. New York City -- with or without Frank Lampard -- will aim to spoil Orlando City's kickoff festivities with a win. Then the New York Red Bulls face off against Sporting Kansas City at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.
Finally, the Seattle Sounders launch their Supporters' Shield defense against the New England Revolution. That game will also be on FOX Sports 1.
New York City fans will want to also keep Sunday, March 15 open. That's the home opener against the Revolution. If it's on ESPN, kickoff will be at 5 p.m.; if it's on FOX Sports 1, kickoff will be at 7 p.m. Either way, it promises to be a great matchup -- the New England Revolution played some of the best soccer in MLS as they stormed to the MLS Cup Final last season, where they lost to LA 2-1 in extra time. It looks like that's the only game on Sunday, so all the attention will be on Yankee Stadium.
For as much as the league might want to foster a rivalry with Orlando City, the fact is that New York City will likely have two arch rivals starting out: the cross-state New York Red Bulls, and the Boston-area New England Revolution. Orlando City might develop into a rivalry, but the only thing linking the two teams is their date of entry into the league.
Here are the rest of the match ups for the first two weeks of the season. Home teams are listed first, and remember that all times are subject to change:
Friday, March 6
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire (StubHub Center) – 10 pm ET, Unimas
Saturday, March 7
Sunday, March 8
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls (Sporting Park) – 7 pm ET, FOX Sports 1
Seattle Sounders FC vs. New England Revolution (CenturyLink Field) – 9:30 pm ET, FOX Sports 1
Saturday, March 14
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Toyota Park)
Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union (Rio Tinto Stadium)
Columbus Crew SC vs. Toronto FC (Columbus Crew Stadium)
Sunday, March 15
New York City FC vs. New England Revolution (Yankee Stadium)