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MLS Preseason: All the News, Schedules and Happenings

mls logo MLS Preseason: All the News, Schedules and Happenings

Despite the fact that the MLS Cup was played just last month, the offseason might as well already be considered over.  With the SuperDraft taking place today, teams headed to the field for scrimmages and friendlies as early as January 29, it would be safe to say we are back in session.  Below is a closer look at the preseason for North America’s top flight.

Major Tournaments:

Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic (Kissimmee, Fla.)

When:  Feb. 9-23

Previous Champions:  New York Red Bulls (2010), FC Dallas (2011), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2012)

Format:  Two four-team groups will participate in a round robin format with each team advancing to the championship round.  Depending on their final position in the group, they will participate in the Championship, third place, fifth place, or seventh place game.

Participants and how they faired in 2012:  *All records are W-L-D

Group A

Columbus Crew – 52 points (15-12-7) sixth in East, no playoffs

Philadelphia Union – 36 points (10-18-6) eighth in East, no playoffs

Toronto FC – 23 points (5-21-8) tenth in East, no playoffs

Orlando City SC – 57 points (17-1-6) first in USL-PRO, lost in semi-finals

Group B

D.C. United – 58 points (17-10-7) second in East, lost in conference finals

Montreal Impact – 42 points (12-16-6) seventh in East, no playoffs

Sporting Kansas City – 63 points (18-7-9) first in East, lost in conference semi-finals

Tampa Bay Rowdies – 45 points (12-7-9) second in NASL, won championship

Storylines:

Mickey Mouse welcomes six MLS clubs and two local sides to the Wide World of Sports Complex for this two-week long tournament . . .  Toronto FC hired new coach Ryan Nelson last week.  The catch is he is still a contracted player for Queens Park Rangers in the EPL.  Rumor has it he will join the club in six weeks . . . The Philadelphia Union welcome back French striker and fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux after a year-long hiatus . . . This past season the Columbus Crew brought in Designated Player Federico Higuain and despite only playing 13 games, he won MLS Newcomer of the Year and nearly guided his squad into the playoffs . . . Sporting Kansas City lost midfielder Roger Espinoza to Wigan Athletic in the offseason and rumor has it that Graham Zusi may be headed across the pond as well with West Ham United currently taking a hard look at him . . .  The Montreal Impact fired Jesse Marsch after last season and have replaced him with Marco Schallibaum.  Everybody seems quite enamored by the fact that he speaks four languages . . . After what some called a return to glory last year for D.C. United, general manager Kevin Payne bolted for Toronto FC.  Head man Ben Olsen is still intact though and the Black and Red would love to add a fifth MLS Cup to the mantle at the end of this year . . . Major League Soccer does not have a franchise in the Southeast, let alone Florida, but this tournament will provide a couple of teams from the Sunshine State the opportunity to challenge top notch MLS squads.  Orlando City is coming off an impressive season in the USL-PRO (third division) but they were upset in the playoffs.  The squad has hopes of joining MLS in 2015 but won’t have to wait until then to get a crack at the top flight’s teams on the field.  The Tampa Bay Rowdies won the NASL (second division) Soccer Bowl last season and will also be looking forward to a shot at the big boys.

Desert Diamond Cup (Tucson, Ariz.)

When: Feb. 13-23 

Previous Champions:  Sporting Kansas City (2011), Los Angeles Galaxy (2012)

Format:  Four teams participate in a round robin format with the top two finishers playing for the championship and the bottom two playing in the third-place game.

Participants and how they faired in 2012:

New England Revolution – 35 points (9-17-8) ninth in East, no playoffs

New York Red Bulls – 57 points (16-9-9) third in East, lost in conference semifinals

Real Salt Lake – 57 points (17-11-6) second in West, lost in conference semifinals

Seattle Sounders FC – 56 points (15-8-11) third in West, lost in conference finals

Storylines: The theme in Arizona seems to be more about what these teams lost than what they gained . . . Real Salt Lake’s roster has gone through an undertaking that most fans are not pleased with.  Among the Royal’s players that won’t be suiting up for RSL this year are fan favorites Will Johnson and Fabian Espindola . . . Fans will have to get used to seeing the Sounders without superstar forward Freddy Montero, at least for a little while, as he is on a six-month loan to Colombian side Millonarios . . .  Word is that any day Paulo Sousa will be named the Red Bulls new head coach.  If and when that happens he will inherit a team that has lost Joel Lindpere, Sebastien Le Toux, and Teemu Tainio.  They did pick up aging Brazilian star Juninho though . . . The Revolution parted ways with midfielder Benny Feilhaber.  The squad was the runner-up to the Galaxy in this tournament last year.

Carolina Challenge Cup (Charleston, S.C.)

When: Feb. 16-23

Previous Champions:  Columbus Crew (2004), San Jose Earthquakes (2005, 2008), Houston Dynamo (2006, 2007), Real Salt Lake (2008), D.C. United (2009, 2010, 2011)

Format:  Four teams play a round-robin format with the club accumulating the most points being crowned champion.

Participants and how they faired in 2012:

Chicago Fire – 57 points (17-11-6) fourth in East, lost in knockout round

Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 43 points (11-13-10) fifth in West, lost in knockout round

Houston Dynamo – 53 points (14-9-11) fifth in East, lost in championship game

Charleston Battery – 38 points (12-10-2) third in USL-PRO, won championship

Storylines:  Coming off of their second championship in three seasons, USL-PRO side Charleston Battery will host the Carolina Challenge Cup for the tenth straight year.  Three-time defending champion D.C. United decided to skip this year’s edition and head to Disney World instead . . . All teams in this tournament tasted success in their respective leagues last year.  All participants also retained their head coaches from the 2012 season . . .  After acquiring him in the offseason from Colorado, The Dynamo will look to see how Jamaican International Omar Cummings fits up front . . .  After three years with New York, midfielder Joel Lindpere joins Chicago to chase a title with the Fire . . . Third-year club Vancouver looks to build off of a 2012 season that saw the team make their first ever playoff appearance.

Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament (Portland, Ore.)

When:  Feb. 17-23

Previous Champions – San Jose Earthquakes (2011)

Format:  Four teams play a round-robin format with the club accumulating the most points being crowned champion.

Participants and how they faired in 2012:

Portland Timbers – 34 points (8-16-10) eighth in West, no playoffs

FC Dallas – 39 points (9-13-12) sixth in West, no playoffs

San Jose Earthquakes – 66 points (19-6-9) first in West, lost in conference semi-finals

AIK – 55 points (15-5-10) fourth in Swedish Allsvenskan

Storylines:  People are eager to see how Caleb Porter performs at the helm of the Timbers.  He brings an exciting style and a championship pedigree from the college ranks where he coached Darlington Nagbe.  Timber fans will also be keeping an eye on offseason pickups Michael Harrington, Will Johnson, and new Designated Player Diego Valeri . . .   Allmänna Idrottsklubben, (AIK) is an 11-time Swedish League (Allsvenskan) champion, most recently taking home the 2009 title. They are coming off of a fourth-place finish and are currently participating in UEFA’s Europa League . . . FC Dallas got rid of veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman but replaced him with 27-year-old Peruvian national team goalkeeper Raúl Fernández . . . The San Jose Earthquakes remained relatively intact and are coming off of a Supporter’s Shield campaign in 2012 but were bounced from the playoffs just two games in against the eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

Other notable preseason action:

Before The Desert Diamond Cup kicks off on Feb. 13, The Desert Friendlies presented by FC Tucson will start on Jan. 29 and feature nine games in 12 days with six clubs participating.  The participants include the Portland Timbers, Colorado Rapids, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, and FC Tucson of the Premier Developmental League (fourth division).

Like many other MLS teams, D.C. United will be taking a preseason trip to Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy).  The Black and Red will culminate their training stint at IMG with a game against Swedish side, Malmö FF on February 1 at 11 a.m..  Malmo has won the Swedish League (Allsvenskan) 19 times, most recently in 2010.  The two teams battled to a 1-1 draw at the same location last year.

Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown recently announced a three-year-deal with the Philadelphia Union to bring the club to EverBank Field (home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) for the next three seasons to be featured in a preseason exhibition match.   The first installment of this will take place on Feb. 15 when Philly takes on the Montreal Impact at 7:30 p.m.

For the second year in a row Vancouver Whitecaps FC will wrap up their preseason against Martin Rennie’s former club, the Carolina Railhawks of the North American Soccer League.  The two teams will meet at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Feb. 24.  Carolina finished fourth last season in the NASL and was eliminated in the semi-finals of the playoffs.  Rennie guided the club from 2009-2011.  Last year the Railhawks won this matchup on penalties after fighting to a 2-2 draw.

Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids will participate in the first annual Las Vegas ProSoccer Challenge.  Sam Boyd Stadium on the UNLV campus will host the game on Feb. 15.

Also, a featured derby in the lower leagues is expected to garner attention. Although unlikely to meet in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, the two local squads participating in the event (Orlando City SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies) have arranged a home-and-home preseason series deemed “The I-4 Derby.”  The matchup will pit the 2012 NASL champion Rowdies vs. the 2012 USL-Pro regular season champion Orlando City.  The teams will play March 9 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando and then again on March 30 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.  These will be the first meetings between the two teams.

Other friendlies and exhibitions are sure to be added to the schedule soon so bookmark this page and be sure to come back and check the comment section for updates.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to MLS Preseason: All the News, Schedules and Happenings

  1. Charles says:

    Nice write up, thank you.

  2. James says:

    Any idea if the public can attend those games in Bradenton?

    • Chuck D says:

      Not to my knowledge. I’ve never been, but I believe there is only limited seating. When I attempt to google “IMG Academy” + “Tickets,” I do not get any matching results.

    • Chuck D says:

      James, actually I know a group of guys that are planning to attend some games in Bradenton. I’m being told by them that the games are entry-free.

  3. Irene says:

    Excellent

  4. Adam says:

    A little disappointed that Jacksonville’s choice for hosting Philadelphia Union coincides with Disney Pro Soccer Classic in February. Total scheduling snafu in my opinion – thoughts???

    • Chuck D says:

      Well not to mention that just six days beforehand EverBank field is hosting a WNT vs. Scotland game that will likely garner most of the attention. Solid point on the Disney Classic taking place at the same time. I live closer to Jax than Orlando and would normally go to the Union exhibition but will be down in O-town for the Classic. I have a feeling most MLS fans will be. Given these factors I think it may turn out to be a disappointing crowd in Jacksonville. I hope I’m wrong though.

  5. Daniel Nieves says:

    Keep looking to see what the Galaxy are going to do for their preseason schedule. I was looking for a winter trip to possibly Tucson, but they are not going there. I wish Vegas would have an annual preseason tourney. Does anyone know when their preseason will be announced?

    • Chuck D says:

      I think the lack of a Galaxy preseason correlates with the fact that they had a world tour planned for the offseason that was of course cancelled. I’m sure they’ll get some stuff planned here soon.

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