The international break is over and apparently the US men’s soccer team gets to be in a tournament next November. I dunno, I’ve just been waiting for MLS to come back. Thankfully, it’s back in full with a 13-game slate Saturday and a chaser on Sunday afternoon. Even more thankfully, The Plusometer is here to help you make the most of your MLS-watching weekend.

As always, all MLS games are worth watching. Some are just worth watching more.

For those who don't know: The Plusometer is a scientific way to quantify the potential watchability of any given game on ESPN+, but can and will also be used for all other channels. Using the elements of "Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer," "Chances created," "NARRATIVE," "Aesthetics" and "Totally subjective bonus points," I assign each element a score out of 10 and each game a score out of 50. Twenty-five is average potential. 50 is greatest game of all-time potential. Yes, I do actually calculate each game. No, I don't know why. Respect for the form, maybe?

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Tier One
The delightful mum of a soccer broadcast on television

Soccer is nice to have on. And sometimes you look up and see something fun.

FC Cincinnati vs. CF Montréal – Sat., 4:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 29/50

The biggest compliment I can give FC Cincinnati right now is that I’m at the point where I’m unironically considering putting their games in Tier Two now. They didn’t quite make it this time, but maybe I’ll regret that. Brandon Vazquez is worth the price of admission right now and almost every CF Montréal game gives you a chance to watch Romell Quioto, Djordje Mihailovic and now Ismael Kone put on a show.

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – Sat., 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 27/50

It’s hard to tell so far if this Atlanta United team is actually entertaining or just successfully overachieving the later a game gets, but they’ve found a stoppage-time winner and a stoppage-time equalizer their last two times out. As fun as that is and as bonkers as Mercedes-Benz Stadium went after Brooks Lennon’s free kick a couple of weekends ago, Atlanta fans would probably rather the team come out and put on a wire-to-wire show. They’ll be healthier than they’ve been all season heading to D.C. United and we may get a taste of what this attack can look like when it’s at full strength.

The only problem is…well, it’s Atlanta on the road in D.C. It took five tries for Atlanta to even get a result there until they finally won in 2020. And even if the Five Stripes are feeling a little more confident in D.C. after back-to-back wins at Audi Field, D.C. United aren’t exactly a team that lets you play aesthetically pleasing, fluid soccer. This has a far greater chance of being a rock fight than anything else.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Austin FC – Sat., 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 25/50

The San Jose Earthquakes right now … look, I’m not going to recommend you stare at this one for too long. There are risks involved with too much exposure. But if you want to glance in every now and then to see if Austin FC continue to successfully handle teams that playoff-bound teams should handle, that’s probably OK. Or if you’re just rubbernecking that’s fine too.

Inter Miami CF vs. Houston Dynamo FC – Sat., 8:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 21/50

The “Maybe Darwin Quintero Will Do Something Spectacular” points bonus is doing a lot of heavy lifting here on the Plusometer.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Sporting Kansas City – Sat., 8:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 26/50

The shills at MLSsoccer Dot Com have already slammed the panic button for both of these teams. But someone has to come out of this feeling better about themselves. Right?

……RIGHT?

Tier Two
The joy of stumbling onto a match you previously weren't invested in but now are

Every now and then, you go into a game not asking for much and come away with more than you ever imagined.

Chicago Fire FC vs. FC Dallas – Sat., 3:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: Univision, TUDN, Twitter
Plusometer Score: 36/50

It’s brilliant scheduling to have the East and West’s early-season “Hey, kind of seems like these teams might actually be playoff teams and I don’t think I’m joking about that (??)” teams go up against each other. FC Dallas have played some beautiful soccer and Chicago Fire FC haven’t completely imploded on themselves defensively at any point this season. For them, that’s beautiful soccer. If Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola are good to go though, it might be a lot for Gabriel Slonina and company to handle.

Toronto FC vs. New York City FC – Sat., 4:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 30/50

I remain fascinated by Toronto FC’s arc this season. They’ll probably find themselves in Tier Two more often than not this year just because I want to see if this relatively disjointed roster that plays multiple teenagers each game and is eventually going to add Lorenzo Insigne improves enough for Insigne to even matter. I’m in this one for the slow burn. And there aren’t many better ways to gauge how much is left on the fuse than a test against New York City FC.

Columbus Crew vs. Nashville SC – Sat., 6:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 35/50

Lucas Zelarayan is your (very, very) early MVP leader. Derrick Etienne has come out of the gate like a man hellbent on having a career season. And Nashville SC, a preseason favorite, are sputtering. Winner gets to be the league’s official yellow/gold team until the next meeting.

New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls – Sat., 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 37/50

The New York Red Bulls have quietly had one of the best starts in the league. The underlying numbers are big fans of their early work and they look dangerous in attack in a way they haven’t in a few years.

The New England Revolution have … not done that. We’ll see if the international break got them back on track.

Orlando City SC vs. LAFC – Sat., 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 37/50

Orlando City finally get to make another team travel across the entirety of the United States. We’ll see if that’s enough of an advantage for them to earn a sweep of LA this season. It would be a remarkable stretch of results if they do.

They aren’t exactly thriving going forward right now, but it’s early days. Earning five points or more from a run of the LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers and LAFC is the kind of start to the season where you don’t worry about the journey, you just stay glad you reached the destination.

Philadelphia Union vs. Charlotte FC – Sat., 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 36/50

The Daily Kickoff "I dunno what's gonna happen but something's gonna happen" Game of the Week

Charlotte FC have looked increasingly confident with each game. There’s no team in the league that would be more thrilled to ruin all of that than the Philadelphia Union. We’ll see if Karol Swiderski and company can keep rolling against the league leaders in dragging opponents into the mud with them.

Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake – Sat., 9:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 33/50

Last year’s regular-season Western Conference champion takes on the last year’s almost Western Conference playoff champion in the Rocky Mountain Cup.

RSL’s giant-killing run ended with a whole bunch of key players missing against SKC. It wouldn’t be that surprising to see them pick up where they left off this weekend though.

Tier Three
The satisfaction of expectations being met

Sometimes you want the best and you get it.

Minnesota United FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC – Sat., 8:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
Plusometer Score: 42/50

The Daily Kickoff ESPN+ Game Of The Week

I don’t think the kind folks from Minnesota United FC think too kindly of Seattle Sounders FC. This will easily be one of the best crowds of the weekend. On top of that, something weird always seems to happen when these two teams meet up. It took a while for the Loons to end up on the right side of that weirdness, but they finally broke through last year. Seattle will want to reset the status quo on Saturday night.

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy – Sun., 4:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: FS1, FOX Deportes
Plusometer Score: 41/50
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The Daily Kickoff National Game Of The Week_

The more I’ve studied it, the more I’ve come to realize there are three types of Portland Timbers games:

  1. The Timbers win after winning the xG battle like 1.1 to 0.8.
  2. The Timbers get thumped by a team from Texas.
  3. The Timbers strapped Roman candles to a ceiling fan with no regard for what or whom they might hit, just to see what will happen.

The last one is my favorite because it usually means we’re getting an absurd, 3-2, MLS After Dark-style classic. For a team that looks so comfortable in Timbers Game Type 1, they are incredibly prone to stumbling into wildly entertaining games at any moment. Fingers crossed that we get that type of game on Sunday. With the LA Galaxy involved, it feels like there’s a decent probability we do. Even if the craziness centers around everyone but Chicharito’s ability to finish critical chances.