It took a little longer than I think most people expected, but today the MLS schedule came out. But not before MLS fans in the Twitter world had some fun at the expense of MLS with the hash tag, #MLSScheduleIsLateBecause, started by Ives over at Soccer By Ives. That at least brought plenty of humor to the day before the schedule was released.
Then the schedule came out and since then it's been more of a serious look at the season. As expected, KC starts the game with an extended road trip, 10 games to be exact, before opening the new "Sporting Park" (which has to be a place holder name until the sponsorship is announced) on June 9th at 9pm central time. Then from July 23rd through September 10th, the Wizards play 9 games, all at home. All of KC's games are currently set to be on KSMO, except for the home opener against Chicago. KC though will feel a bit of the Omar Bravo effect this year, as they have 5 games on Telefutura or Galavision, 4 at home (Chivas, DC, Houston, and New York) and the away match against Chicago. It certainly will be an interesting season with a cramped schedule at times.
The other thing to remember is that all this is not set in stone yet, especially with the fact that later in the day today word came out that FSC and MLS had signed a new one year contract to broadcast games, and their schedule would be out soon. So at least the TV schedule could change for KC, and it's possible the Wizards could see a game moved as well so that FSC can show games. This should give KC another game or two on national television though. Here's a deeper look at the schedule.
As James mentions earlier today, you can basically divided the season into 4 different parts. You have the road trip, then you have the second quarter of the season before the home stand, then there's the home stand, followed by the run to the finish.
The road trip actually doesn't start horrible for KC, as four of their first five games are against teams that could be considered rebuilding in Chivas, Chicago, Columbus, and New England. And the fifth game is against expansion side Vancouver. After that though, the schedule gets rough with trips to New York, LA, Seattle, and MLS Cup champion Colorado. KC finishes the extended road trip playing against Toronto. The other bit of good news for KC on this schedule is that they play three games, get a weekend off, play three, get a week off, then play four. They have no midweek games during the road trip either which should help save legs a bit.
Overall this is still going to be a rough stretch and the schedule makers did KC no favors in the second half of it, but KC should still be able to take a few points on this trip. Getting 10-12 points out of these 10 games and KC is likely in a pretty decent position heading into the rest of the season.
The second quarter of the season starts five days after that Toronto trip when KC hosts Chicago. After that Thursday game KC travels down to Dallas for a Sunday game against the MLS Cup runner up. The Wizards next six games are divided up into two sets of three games in 8 days. A trip to Philadelphia on Wednesday is sandwiched between home games against San Jose and Vancouver. Then in an early 4th of July match up KC goes to Portland before a Wednesday home game against Colorado and then hosting Jimmy Conrad and Chivas on the 9th. KC finishes the third quarter down in Houston against the Dynamo.
This stretch could actually be a tougher stretch than parts of the long road trip. Eight of the nine games are involved in some sort of quick turn around, add in the Gold Cup and this part of the season could actually be the deal breaker for the season. The Gold Cup starts the day after the game in Toronto and goes through the 25th of June. So five games during that stretch, but with the Toronto game only the day before it starts you can factor any Gold Cup players out for that game too. So KC could be without five potential starters for at least three, and up to six games during the second quarter. Stephane Auvray, Teal Bunbury, Roger Espinoza, Craig Rocastle, and Shavar Thomas could all be called up to their national teams for the competition, definitely testing KC's depth, if all the quick turnarounds weren't going to do that anyways.
After the trip to Houston on the 16th KC starts the third quarter of their season, a stretch of 9 games, all at home. The Wizards don't leave KC from the time they return to KC on the 17th of July until they leave to go to Salt Lake City for their road game on the 17th of September. KC basically spends two whole months at home playing 9 games over that time frame. Toronto is the first to visit KC on the long road trip. Then KC hosts New England, RSL, and Seattle in the span of 8 days. KC then hosts LA, Portland, and DC in a nine day period. KC finishes the home stand with two home games against the two Texas teams, Dallas and Houston.
If KC hasn't fallen too far off the pace, this is the part of the season where KC has to make up ground if they want to make a run in the 2011 season. The team being competitive heading into this stretch of games is important for another reason, and that's in the stands. If the Wizards are stuck at the bottom of the table heading into this stretch that will certainly not be good for bringing people in. A poor run of form in this home stand also won't do anything to help bring in fans in the late run of the home stand. It's been shown that long home stands do tend to hurt the overall attendance because fans have plenty of options to attend games during that stretch. More so than the road trip, this home stand is what will decide this season.
The run into the end of the season finishes with three at home and three on the road. A trip to Salt Lake is followed by a Saturday-Wednesday home swing against Philadelphia and Columbus. KC is then on the road against San Jose three days later. On the 15th they play New York in the home finale before finishing the season at DC.
The final six games are up and down in terms of how they could go, RSL is still one of the class teams in the league and New York is looking good heading into the season. Columbus and DC are rebuilding while San Jose and Philadelphia are also on their way up right now. I have a feeling though KC's season is likely going to be more or less decided by this point. Sure KC may still be in the hunt at this point, but I think if KC is going to make the playoffs or not will have been decided already.
It's still a bit frustrating seeing the long road trip and then having a bunch of games cramped in later in the season, but it's incredibly hard not to be really excited for the season this year, especially the openinng of the stadium.