Home Business of Soccer TFC should have tough opening schedule, Impact to play at Big O on St. Paddy’s Day, Whitecaps enthused

TFC should have tough opening schedule, Impact to play at Big O on St. Paddy’s Day, Whitecaps enthused

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The Montreal Impact will play its first MLS game at the Big O on March 17.

On Tuesday, MLS announced the 2012 home-opener dates for all 19 of its teams. And the expansion Impact will open on St. Patrick’s Day against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

But we know that it won’t be Philadelphia, Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City, who all have home openers set for that weekend. Of course, the name that isn’t on the can’t-play list is Toronto FC. TFC was picked to be the visitor for the Vancouver Whitecaps’ home opener in 2011. Vancouver also will be either off or away on that weekend. And while Vancouver will play Montreal only once this year, it would be something to see the old Div.-2 rivals face each other for the Impact’s home opener.

Montreal will play at Olympic Stadium until renovations are finished at Stade Saputo, expected some time during the 2012 season.

With 19 teams in the league in 2012, at least one team will have a bye per week.

The Whitecaps will have their first home opener at BC Place on March 10.

We can speculate on who the Whitecaps’ opponent will be — but we know for sure who it won’t be. Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC are also all scheduled play at home in the first weekend of the MLS regular season. That means that neither of the Cascadia rivals will come to Vancouver for the opening day at BC Place.

“March 19, 2011 (when the Whitecaps beat TFC 4-2 at Empire Field), was an historic day for our club, our fans, and our province, and now we look forward to kicking off the next chapter in our storied history on March 10, 2012,” said Whitecaps FC CEO Paul Barber in a release. “We are less than four months away from First Kick, the start of our first full season downtown in our world class home at BC Place. The club is excited to welcome back our great Whitecaps FC fans, whose support helped us establish one of the busiest buildings in MLS, while creating our own unique soccer experience.”

Toronto FC is the last team to open at home, on March 24.

If Toronto doesn’t have a bye in either of the first two weeks of the season, it will play road games the weekends of March 10 and 17, which will mean a heck of a lot of travel when combined with the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final legs. TFC hosts the Galaxy on March 7, then goes to Los Angeles a week later. Between those dates, TFC will likely have a road game, unless it gets a first-week bye.

TFC won’t play Columbus, Chicago, New York or New England for its home opener, as those teams will be opening their home schedules on the weekend of the 24th.

MLS did make a smart move be ensuring all three of the Canadian home openers will happen on different weekends; this makes it easier for a national broadcaster to get all three games into the schedule without having to deal with a conflict.

And the schedule indicates that we won’t have a Thursday First Kick game as we’ve had in past seasons, likely a product of the new TV deal with NBC.

Whitecaps’ offence stagnates in B.C. Place opener (CLICK)

Whitecaps overwhelm Toronto FC at euphoric Empire Field (CLICK)

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