2019 Soccer Almanac - primary image

2019 Soccer Almanac: Key dates and events in the busy soccer year ahead

The calendar has turned, and another action-packed 365 days of soccer unfolds across North America and beyond. Here’s a rundown of some key dates to plan for.

Winter 2019

January: MLS schedule release
About two months before opening day, every team's full slate of regular-season matches is revealed. Home openers have already been announced and can be perused here.

January 3-9adidas MLS Player Combine, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Around 60 top college, youth and international players play matches and undergo a range of tests and interviews in hopes of impressing MLS technical staffs before the SuperDraft.

January 4: MAC Hermann Trophy winners ceremony, St. Louis
The top individual prize in college soccer, this award recognizing the NCAA’s best is presented at a dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club; nine of the last 10 men’s winners went on to play professionally in MLS.

January 4-13: U.S. Soccer youth national team January camp, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
After reaping benefits from 2018’s “Summit Camp” experiment, a gathering of the federation’s five oldest youth national teams (Under-16s, U-17s, U-18s, U-19s and U-20s) in one camp, youth technical director Tab Ramos will reportedly call in U-17, U-19 and U-20 squads this time around, including players from MLS teams and youth academies.

January 5: AFC Asian Cup begins, United Arab Emirates
FC Cincinnati's Nazmi Albadawi is set to represent Palestine in Asia's quadrennial international tournament, which takes place in eight stadiums across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah, with 24 teams taking part and the final scheduled for Feb. 1 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

Gregg Berhalter will take charge of his first USMNT camp in January. | USA Today Images

January 6-Feb 2: US men’s national team January camp, Chula Vista, Calif.
Gregg Berhalter opens a new chapter in USMNT history with the traditional January camp, a chance for young players and those on the fringes of the player pool to show themselves and stay fit during the MLS offseason. It’s the program’s first gathering under the leadership of the former Columbus Crew SC coach.

January 9-13: United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA) Convention, Chicago
The North American game’s annual winter reunion, gathering thousands of coaches, players, executives and just about everyone else in the sport for education, meetings and networking, held this year at McCormick Place alongside Lake Michigan.

January 10: NWSL College Draft, Chicago
The National Women's Soccer League, North America's top women's pro league, shifts towards its seventh season of play with its annual draft.

January 11: MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas, Chicago
Staged amid the sprawling United Soccer Coaches Convention, the draft provides MLS teams the opportunity to bolster their rosters with top talent from NCAA soccer and beyond.

January 19: US women’s national team vs. France, Le Havre
A truly massive year for the reigning world champions begins with a visit to the host nation of this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, one of several leading challengers eyeing the USWNT’s crown. It’s the first game in a 10-game series, dubbed the “Countdown to the Cup,” designed to prepare the US for the WWC, including several games at past, present and future MLS venues. See the full schedule here.

January 21MLS preseason begins
Players report to their respective clubs as preparations for the new season begin in earnest.

January 27USMNT vs. Panama, State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
The senior national team meet regional rivals in their first match of the year, a friendly at the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

February 2USMNT vs. Costa Rica, Avaya Stadium, San Jose, Calif.
Berhalter and the Yanks wrap up their January camp at the San Jose Earthquakes’ stomping grounds.

February 6-23: Mobile Mini Sun Cup, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.
USL Championship club and aspiring MLS expansion contenders Phoenix Rising FC welcome eight MLS clubs to the desert for this annual preseason event, once known as the Desert Diamond Cup. The 2019 edition includes FC Dallas, the Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United, New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City.

February 8-10: Pacific Rim Cup, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
The Vancouver Whitecaps return to the islands for another edition of this international preseason invitational, joined this time by Real Salt Lake as well as Japanese clubs V-Varen Nagasaki and Iwaki FC.

February 14-17: U.S. Soccer annual general meeting, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Another soccer gathering in the southwest, this one the U.S. Soccer Federation’s annual gathering of member associations and stakeholders. This year’s is highlighted by the election of an interim (one-year term) vice president to fill the spot vacated by current president Carlos Cordeiro when he ran successfully for the top spot in 2018; retired USWNT star Cindy Parlow Cone is the sole candidate nominated.

February 16-23: Carolina Challenge Cup, Charleston, S.C.
The 2019 edition of this longstanding preseason tradition will include the Chicago Fire, Crew SC, MLS expansion newcomers FC Cincinnati and the Charleston Battery, the USL host club. The round-robin tournament unfolds with doubleheaders on Feb. 16, 20 and 23 at MUSC Health Stadium, one of the United States’ oldest soccer-specific facilities.

Five MLS teams will look to become the first to raise the CCL trophy. | Action Images / Reuters

February 19-28: Concacaf Champions League opening round
North America's club championship tournament returns with the first round of the 16-team knockout bracket, each contest a two-legged goal-aggregate series. Atlanta United, Houston, the Red Bulls, Sporting KC and Toronto FC are this year’s MLS representatives.

February 27-March 5: SheBelieves Cup, Chester, Penn., Nashville, Tenn., Tampa, Fla.
The USWNT welcome elite women’s sides Japan, England and Brazil to the States for this annual spring tournament, a key test in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup.

Spring 2019

March 2: MLS regular season kicks off
Year 24 of Major League Soccer begins with a packed Saturday slate of 10 games, opening with Philadelphia vs. Toronto and concluding with San Jose vs. Montreal and newcomers FC Cincinnati visiting the Seattle Sounders.

March/April TBA: Generation adidas Cup finals, Frisco, Tex.
MLS’s top youth competition, GA Cup features U-17 academy sides – and new for this year, U-15s as well – who face off in regional qualifying during the fall and winter periods in pursuit of a place in the top-flight Champions Division of the finals event, hosted at the Toyota Soccer Center, home of FC Dallas. Taking place around the same time as the historic Dallas Cup, the finals include top academy sides from major overseas clubs.

March 6-13: Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals
The eight survivors of the opening round meet in another set of two-legged, home-and-home series, with the winners advancing to the semifinals.

March 9: USL Championship regular season begins
Packed with MLS second teams and affiliate partners, the second-tier professional league raises the curtain on a new year with a new identity, as part of USL’s wider reorganization of its three-layered pyramid of competitions. While several MLS clubs’ USL teams will now compete in the new third-tier USL League One, many remain in the USL Championship, which welcomes seven expansion teams, including D.C. United’s new Loudoun United side. Louisville City FC enter 2019 as defending champions.

March 14-15: FIFA Council meeting, Miami
This executive conclave of the leaders of world soccer’s governing body is likely to include a full slate of the usual funding and policy deliberations, with discussions on an overhauled FIFA Club World Cup, a worldwide Nations League concept and transfer system reform on FIFA’s current docket.

Nippert Stadium will host its first MLS game on March 17. | FC Cincinnati

March 17: FC Cincinnati’s first home MLS match, Nippert Stadium
MLS’s newest arrivals host the Portland Timbers for their 2019 home opener, with a large, boisterous crowd expected to celebrate and support the expansion newcomers.

March 18-26: FIFA international fixture window
The first opportunity of the year for national teams to schedule camps and matches with the full availability of their player pools. The USMNT are likely to schedule one or two friendlies during this period.

March 21-26: Concacaf Nations League qualifying concludes
Canada – who will host French Guiana at Vancouver’s BC Place on the 26th – and a bevy of the North American region’s other national sides wrap up their pursuit of slots in the inaugural edition of the CNL proper, which kicks off in the fall, as well as the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup in the summer. The United States and five of the confederation’s other leading powers already qualified for CNL play and the Gold Cup by virtue of reaching the 2018 Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying.

March 29: USL League One regular season begins
A new third-tier professional league targeting smaller markets and youth-oriented MLS reserve sides, USL League One makes its debut in 2019 with 10 teams and will include North Texas SC, FC Dallas' new USL side, as well as Toronto FC II, the return of Orlando City B and Minnesota's new USL affiliate, newborns Forward Madison FC.

April TBA: Canadian Premier League debuts
Canada will witness a new league take its first steps this spring, as the CPL, emphasizing domestic player development, begins play with seven teams, based in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Langford (British Columbia), Winnipeg and York (Ontario).

April 3-11: Concacaf Champions League semifinals
CCL resumes with the four quarterfinal winners facing off in another set of two-legged, home-and-home series; winners advance to the championship final.

April 13: Allianz Field debuts, St. Paul, Minn.
One of MLS’s most hotly-anticipated new venues hosts its inaugural match as Minnesota United welcome New York City FC to their gorgeous $250-million home in the Midway neighborhood, an intimate ground futuristic enough to earn the early nickname of “Cloud City” from Loons fans.

April 13-14: NWSL season begins
The women's league kicks off its seventh season of play with nine member teams, including siblings of MLS sides in Houston, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake.

April 23-May 2: Concacaf Champions League final
The two finalists for the title of North America's top club face off in a two-legged, home-and-home series, with the winner to represent Concacaf at the FIFA Club World Cup. Toronto FC reached the 2018 final, where they fell to Chivas Guadalajara via penalty-kick shootout.

The Dynamo will start their Open Cup defense in spring 2019. | USA Today Images

Mid-May: 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup begins
Though dozens of amateur and semipro teams have already been playing qualifying matches for months, the historic knockout tournament officially begins in May. Open to clubs from all levels of the pyramid, the Open Cup dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest soccer competitions in the world. MLS teams have taken part since the league’s debut in 1996; the Houston Dynamo are defending champions.

May 23: 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup 2019 begins, Poland
The world looks for the stars of tomorrow when 24 Under-20 national teams gather for this biennial event. This year that includes the United States, who in November of 2018 won Concacaf’s qualifying tournament for the second straight time to book their spot, along with neighbors Honduras, Mexico and Panama. Participants will learn schedules and opponents via the tournament draw on Feb. 24, and the championship final is set for June 15.

Summer 2019

June 3-11: FIFA international fixture window
National teams around the world will gather for the first fixture dates of the North American summer; the US and Canada will probably be in action during this period, while action elsewhere includes the semifinals and final of the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

June 5: 2019 FIFA Congress, Paris
The leaders of the global game, including representatives from all 211 FIFA member nations, congregate on the eve of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

June 7: 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup begins, Parc des Princes, Paris
The biggest event in women’s world soccer gets started with hosts France dueling South Korea, while Canada kick off their campaign on June 10 vs. Cameroon in Montpellier and defending champions the United States open vs. Thailand in Reims a day later. The 24-team field – which also includes Cinderella Concacaf debutants Jamaica – will chase their dreams across nine French cities, culminating with the championship final in Lyon on July 7.

The USMNT will look to defend its Gold Cup title this summer and qualify for the 2021 Confederations Cup. | USA Today Images

June 15: 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup begins, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
The North American region’s top international tournament, the Gold Cup also helps determine which nation will represent Concacaf at the 2021 Confederations Cup. This year’s event opens with a Group A doubleheader in Pasadena headlined by Mexico. The tourney sports an expanded field of 16 participating countries (up from the previous 12) as well as two matchdays outside the US, with Costa Rica and a yet-to-be-named Caribbean country each hosting a group-stage doubleheader. Though the full field is not yet complete, defending champions the United States have been drawn into Group D and will play group-stage matches at Minnesota’s Allianz Field, FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland and Sporting KC’s CM Park; the cup final takes place at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 7.

Summer period TBA: 2019 Canadian Championship 
Every year Canada’s pro and top semi-pro teams compete for the Voyageurs Cup, national bragging rights and a CCL berth. This year’s version is on track to look different from the past, thanks to the arrival of the CPL’s seven member clubs. Toronto FC are defending champions.

June 14: 2019 Copa América begins, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Another cherished event on the world’s calendar, the latest incarnation of South America’s top international tournament unfolds at six venues in five Brazilian cites, all leading up to the final on July 7 at Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana. This year 12 teams – and probably a handful of MLS players – will take part; CONMEBOL’s 10 member states plus guests Japan and Qatar.

June 15: 2019 Africa Cup of Nations begins, host nation TBA
Africa’s international championship has shifted its scheduling this year, moving the tournament from the northern hemisphere’s winter season to summertime to reduce club vs. country conflicts. Cameroon originally won hosting rights, only to have them stripped due to infrastructure delays and political instability; the Confederation of African Football will name the new site on Jan. 9, with Egypt and South Africa in the running. The 2019 final is slated to take place on July 13.

July 7: Three cup finals in one day
In a rare scheduling quirk, the Women’s World Cup final, Gold Cup final and Copa América final will all take place on the same Sunday this year, in Lyon, Chicago and Rio de Janeiro, respectively.

Mid-summer: 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
The league’s annual summer showcase unfolds in central Florida this year, with the All-Star squad to meet a yet-to-be-named opponent from abroad, with schedule details TBA. It’s the game’s second stop through Orlando, with the Citrus Bowl having hosted the 1998 version.

August 14: 2019 Campeones Cup, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
The second edition of the new one-off clash between the champions of MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX takes place at MBS, with 2018 MLS Cup winners Atlanta United to host Mexico’s “Campeon de Campeones,” the winner of the annual meeting between the fall and spring season champs. Club América won the 2018 Apertura and will face the winner of the 2019 Clausura, which runs from Jan. 4-May 26. Tigres UANL are reigning Campeon de Campeones winners for three years running, and defeated Toronto 3-1 in the first Campeones Cup, held at BMO Field on Sept. 19, 2018.

Fall 2019

September 2-10: FIFA international fixture window
National teams can call up their full teams during this period, and in the North American region the Concacaf Nations League – a new three-tiered, year-round competition that will fill up most international dates (World Cup qualifying notwithstanding) in the years ahead – will take the stage.

October 5: 2019 U-17 World Cup 2019 begins, Peru
Many of the planet’s brightest young talents gather around six stadiums in five host cities across Peru to determine the latest FIFA Under-17 world champions. Participants will learn schedules and opponents via the tournament draw on May 14, the host nation will kick off the event vs. an opponent still to be determined on Oct. 5 and the championship final is set for Oct. 27 in Lima.

October 5: USL League One regular season concludes
The 10 members of this new third-tier pro league wrap up their 28-game slate and the top four finishers in its single-table standings pivot to the postseason, which opens the weekend of Oct. 11-13 and concludes with the final during the window of Oct. 17-21.

October 6: 2019 MLS #DecisionDay
The MLS regular season concludes in dramatic fashion with synchronized kickoffs of 12 games across the Eastern and Western Conferences, an occasion happening a few weeks earlier than in past years thanks to the league’s new postseason format, which will array 14 qualifying teams in a single-elimination bracket for a three-week race to MLS Cup.

October 7-15: FIFA international fixture window
Whether for Concacaf Nations League or friendly action, the USMNT and CanMNT will probably gather this week.

Atlanta will defend their MLS Cup title in a new playoff format. | USA Today Images

October 19: MLS Cup Playoffs begin
The league’s new postseason format gets underway with Round 1 action, featuring the second through seventh seeds in each conference, while the first-place regular-season finishers in each conference enjoy a bye to the conference semifinals.

October 20: USL Championship regular season concludes
After 33 weeks of play, the second division moves into its postseason, which includes 20 teams in a single-elimination bracket and runs from the weekend of Oct. 25 to USL Cup over the weekend of Nov. 15.

October 26: 2019 NWSL championship, site TBA
The NWSL season concludes with its title bout on this Saturday, featuring the two winners of the playoff semifinal matches the previous weekend. Four of the league’s nine teams qualify for the postseason, with the championship game held at a predetermined site yet to be named.

October 26-27: FIFA Council meeting

November 10: 2019 MLS Cup, site TBD
The league’s new champions will be crowned – unless Atlanta United defend their title and hoist the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy again?

November 11-19: FIFA international fixture window

December TBA: 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, location TBA
Billed as club soccer’s World Cup equivalent, this tournament is intended to pit the best clubs from each confederation in pursuit of world champion status, and has been won by Spanish giants Real Madrid for three years running. The shape of the 2019 edition is unclear, with FIFA leaders and member groups debating proposed revamps; a task force is currently at work on the project.

December 13-15: 2019 Men’s College Cup, WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, N.C.
The final four contenders in the NCAA Division I men's soccer postseason tournament gather to tussle for the national championship, this year hosted by Campbell University at the home of USL Championship club and MLS expansion hopefuls North Carolina FC.