TheDailyKickoff_friday_9/9
What you need to know

2022-23 MLS NEXT schedule announced

MLS NEXT's third season of play will begin on Saturday, Sept. 10 and will feature 628 teams competing in nearly 8,000 matches over a 10-month calendar. Over 13,000 players from the country’s leading 137 clubs, including all 29 MLS academies, will play in up to six age groups: U13, U14, U15, U16, U17, and U19. You can learn more here.

Vancouver forward Cavallani suspended 3 additional games

The MLS Disciplinary Committee has suspended Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Lucas Cavallini for an additional three games and issued him an undisclosed fine for violent conduct in the 53rd minute of Vancouver’s match against Nashville SC on August 27. The three-match suspension will be in addition to the automatic one-match suspension for the red card he received during the game.

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WATCH GUIDE, ONE MONTH LEFT EDITION

For those of y’all that are new, we like to do service journalism around here. Each weekend, we use the “Watchgridometer” to help guide you through the MLS weekend that awaits. By giving each game a watchability score using the Plusometer*, we can put each game in three tiers that range from “I would watch that” to “You absolutely have to watch that.”

As we head down the stretch run, we’ve also added a “Playoffocity” score that measures how much impact the game will have on the playoff race and ohmygod we’ve added so much to what used to be a very simple thing over the last two years of The Daily Kickoff the new readers are going to think this is insane.

Look: Tier One games = good, Tier Three games = great. That’s all you need to know.

*The Plusometer is a scientific way to quantify the potential watchability of any given game on MLS LIVE 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. Fifty 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?

TIER ONE: THE DELIGHTFUL HUM OF A SOCCER BROADCAST ON TELEVISION
Soccer is nice to have on. And sometimes you look up and see something fun.

Charlotte FC vs. New York City FC

  • WHEN: Sat., 1 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 24/50
  • Playoffocity: 8/50

Considering how NYCFC have played as of late, there are not a ton of reasons to expect outstanding soccer here. The Pigeons have won just once in their last nine games. However, you can at least keep an eye on the fourth spot in the East. The folks in Orlando and Columbus will be especially interested in this one as they chase down a home playoff spot.

Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC

  • WHEN: Sat., 7:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 25/50
  • Playoffocity: 5/50
  • The Daily Kickoff "That Train Scene In 'The Fugitive’" Game of the Week

Both of these teams are alive enough in the playoff race to still have to tell media that they’re focused on the playoffs, but their playoff hopes are slim (at best). But when you think about just how bad both teams can be in transition defense and look at the talent each team has up top, you realize that we could be in for a totally normal game or a game where both teams throw all caution to the wind and just try and have some fun scoring for an hour and a half.

Houston Dynamo FC vs. Sporting Kansas City

  • WHEN: Sat., 8:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 14/50
  • Playoffocity: 0/50
  • Spoonliness: 100/50

SKC are playing well lately and Houston will be looking to ride the (not actually real) new-manager bounce away from the bottom of the West, after parting ways with Paulo Nagamura on Monday. Only the truest of heart MLS fans will watch this one. Fine, I’ll do it.

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Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

  • WHEN: Sat., 9:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 24/50
  • Playoffocity: 4/50

A battle between Western Conference teams that will likely complete their fall from “2021 playoff team” to “2022 not a playoff team” very soon. We love a good disappointment derby around here, but it’s going to be so hard to catch all of this when Houston-SKC is right there.

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.

FC Cincinnati vs. San Jose Earthquakes

  • WHEN: Sat., 7:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 31/50
  • Playoffocity: 27/50
  • The Daily Kickoff "I don't know what's gonna happen but something's gonna happen" Game of the Week

FC Cincinnati host San Jose in a game that has the potential to end 6-3 and a game that FC Cincinnati absolutely have to win no matter what wild scoreline we end up getting. The Knifey Lions get San Jose, Chicago and D.C. over their last five games. If they can’t capitalize on that kind of soft landing, then, as much as it pains me to say it, maybe they don’t deserve the playoffs.

Chicago Fire FC vs. Inter Miami CF

  • WHEN: Sat., 8:00 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 22/50
  • Playoffocity: 35/50

The ninth-place Herons have a game in hand on New England and FC Cincinnati above them, and could be above the line again by the end of the night with a win plus losses from the Revs and Cincy. It’s basically a three-horse race at this point and an Inter Miami “control their own destiny” narrative.

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Austin FC

  • WHEN: Sat., 8:00 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 39/50
  • Playoffocity: 29/50

For the 2022 Concacaf Champions League winners, we might be talking about their last playoff push. A loss to Austin just might wrap things up. A win could put them within three points of the line. It’s never been more do-or-die for the Sounders. 

As for Austin, it’s kind of just a Saturday (though they’ve lost three of their last four). It would take something special over the final five games for them to finish anywhere but second.

Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United

  • WHEN: Sat., 9:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 22/50
  • Playoffocity: 34/50

We’ve barely made it into Tier Two here, but it is still technically a Tier Two game. Entirely because the rest of the West will be keeping a very close eye on RSL. This is the last game they get that isn’t against a playoff lock or a playoff contender. After D.C., they close the year with Austin, Cincy, LA and Portland. A loss on Saturday night or even a draw could have massive implications for RSL and the teams they’re still jostling with for position in the West.

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TIER THREE: THE SATISFACTION OF EXPECTATIONS BEING MET
Sometimes you want the best and you get it.

CF Montréal vs. Columbus Crew

  • WHEN: Fri., 7:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 39/50
  • Playoffocity: 40/50

Wilfried Nancy and Co. can essentially lock up the second spot in the East with a win here. That’s not why the playofficty is so high here though. Pretty much everything Columbus does from here out will have major implications on the East. A loss would open the door for at least three teams below them to finish above the Crew in the standings. A win would give the Crew a genuine shot at a home playoff spot.

Nashville SC vs. LA Galaxy

  • WHEN: Sat., 3:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: Univision, TUDN, Twitter
  • Plusometer Score: 44/50
  • Playoffocity: 47/50
  • The Daily Kickoff National Game of the Week

This is a massive game for multiple reasons. Nashville have surged into a home playoff spot and could be in the clear, as far as making the postseason goes, with a win. A Nashville loss keeps them tangled up with the rest of the West and would put the Galaxy in prime position to make the playoffs and maybe even earn a home playoff game. The West is a total mess right now and we’re all better for it.

New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution

  • WHEN: Sat., 6:00 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 40/50
  • Playoffocity: 40/50

The Red Bulls aren’t worried about much as far as a playoff spot goes other than finishing above NYCFC. This is a critical one for the Revs though. They enter the weekend in eighth place, one point behind Cincinnati and two points above Inter Miami, who have a game in hand. If they can take three points from New York, their final four games give them Houston, a CF Montréal team that’s cruising, Atlanta and Chicago.

FC Dallas vs. LAFC

  • WHEN: Sat., 8:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 44/50
  • Playoffocity: 31/50

There’s a chance we’re looking at a playoff preview here. FC Dallas are still fighting for position in the standings and aren’t quite out of the woods yet when it comes to finishing above the line. LAFC are fighting Philadelphia for the Supporters’ Shield. We should get two very good teams giving full effort with genuine stakes on the line.

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC

  • WHEN: Sat., 10:00 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • Plusometer Score: 42/50
  • Playoffocity: 48/50
  • The Daily Kickoff MLS LIVE on ESPN+ Game Of The Week

What we have here is a genuine six-pointer with multiple playoff spots on the line. Between this one and Nashville-LA, we may look back at this weekend as the one that shaped the final Western Conference standings.

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AND OTHER THINGS

Canada announce pre-World Cup friendly against Japan in Dubai: Canada have added an extra warm-up match to their pre-FIFA 2022 World Cup itinerary, setting up an international friendly against Japan less than a week before the tournament gets underway in Qatar in November. Both World Cup participants will face off on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai – six days before the Canadians take on Belgium in their Group F opener.

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Good luck out there. Always follow through.

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