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2016 MLS schedule released

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It's here. We've got the games you should note.

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It's official. The 2016 MLS schedule is now available. Four of the first five games are at home -- against Toronto, Orlando, New England, and Chicago. Just like last year, the Blues will be on national TV plenty of times, with FOX, ESPN, and Univision broadcasting their games against the rest of MLS.

Here are the games you should circle on the calendar.

Hudson River Shootout

Like last season, New York City will square off against the Red Bulls three times. They play on May 21, July 3, and July 24. The first two of these games will be at Yankee Stadium; the rubber will be at Red Bull Arena. All games will be nationally televised, as befits an arch-rivalry: FOX has the May 21st and July 24th games over-the-air, and ESPN has the Independence Day weekend spectacular.

After losing the first three games of this arch-rivalry, the Blues will be desperate to win. They should be: it's hard for New York City to own the Five Boroughs if the Red Bulls are owning them on the field.

Expect packed stadiums, expect drama. If new manager Patrick Vieira helps lead New York City to a historic first victory, he'll instantly earn the adoration of Blues fans across the city.

Orlando

These two teams don't like each other. They represent the polar opposites of MLS expansion: organic promotion of a lower-division club versus the ex nihilo creation of a club. Orlando did marginally better than New York City, but neither team made the playoffs.

Last season, New York City drew and lost against their expansion siblings. They also beat them at home in one of the wildest games of the entire season. Reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin exploded for a hat trick against the Blues in that loss , and then set the rookie scoring record in their subsequent victory.

Orlando's had a tumultuous off-season. Their general manager was pushed out for a Benfica honcho, who then departed the Lions for undisclosed personal reasons. Both clubs will be desperate to avoid a sophomore slump, and though they may deny it, both partly measure their progress by how they fare in comparison to the other.

The Lions and Blues will square off on Friday, March 18th (Univision), May 29 at Orlando (ESPN), and August 28 at home (FS1).

New England

New York City's first-ever win came against the Revolution in their first-ever home game. The joy of that moment quickly dissipated in the mire of losing that's the lot of every expansion team. The team closed out their season at home with an abysmal loss against the same Revolution.

Where New York City likely points to the future of MLS, the New England Revolution remain stubbornly locked into MLS' origins. Their logo is the last remaining original MLS team logo; they still play second fiddle to a team in their home and their owner's affections. They may have made the MLS Cup Final two years ago, but that's increasingly looking less like a return to accustomed glory and more like an aberration.

Nevertheless, any matchup that features a team from New York squaring off against a Boston team is a rivalry matchup, and this one is no different. The Blues play the Revs on March 26, away on July 6th (a Wednesday!), and back home on September 10th. Pending the MLB schedule release, don't be surprised if that last game gets flexed to September 11th for the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

Other games of note:

  • May 15, away against the defending MLS champion Portland Timbers;
  • June 25, away against the Seattle Sounders;
  • August 20, at home against the LA Galaxy -- an ESPN game

You can see the whole schedule here.