Josef Martinez - screaming - Leg 1 conference championships
USA Today Sports Images

Season Countdown: 12 days until #MLSisBack, 12 matches in Week 1

The wait is almost over: We are just 12 days from #MLSisBack, the same number of days as there are Week 1 matches this season.

Week 1 in MLS is always special, but this season it'll be unique yet again. With the introduction of FC Cincinnati bringing the league to 24 teams, there will be 12 matches on opening weekend, a league record. 

The first dozen matches certainly doesn't lack palatable matchups. It all starts Saturday at 1 pm ET with the Philadelphia Union hosting Toronto FC and doesn't end until late Sunday night, after LAFC vs. Sporting Kansas City at 8:30 pm ET. 

Cincinnati make their much-anticipated entrance to the league on Saturday night at 10 pm ET on national TV on the road against the Seattle Sounders, not unlike how LAFC made their debut at CenturyLink Field last season. LAFC won that game 1-0, memorably behind a golazo from Diego Rossi, who immediately put himself on the national stage as one of the league's premier young players.

Who might step up from Cincy? Or will Seattle give them a rude welcome to MLS?

We'll keep a keen eye on the many intriguing debuts, typified by Pity Martinez, Marco Fabian and Lucas Rodriguez. We'll judge harshly or generously grant praise depending on how Week 1 goes for the six new head coaches, including Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frank de Boer and Matias Almeyda.

The first slate of games has no shortage of national-TV matches, too, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming to your living room via FOX Sports on Saturday night when the LA Galaxy host Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire. Ibrahimovic said Monday that he'll break "every record in MLS this season" so, you know, that would theoretically all get started from the opening whistle.

The national-TV schedule starts on Univision Saturday afternoon with Orlando City SC hosting New York City FC and their new $7.5 million man Alexandru Mitrita. OCSC have a new Designated Player of their own, of course, after signing Portuguese winger Nani. How's that for star power? 

Sunday features two games on the docket, but those two are can't-miss soccer. D.C. United host Atlanta United, as the reigning champs kick off their title defense, just days removed from a Concacaf Champions League duel. After those Eastern Conference heavyweights clash, focus switches to the West, with LAFC vs. SKC, two of the conference's top three teams in 2018. Both of those matches will be on ESPN. 

Furthermore, the kickoff times worked out as such to maximize viewing opportunities for all of us just happy to have MLS back in our lives: Essentially, a person so inclined could catch eight of the 12 matches, with just three timeslots carrying more than one game. Loved ones will understand. 

Clear your schedule accordingly: MLS is Back. 


LIVE YOUR COLORS: Download the free MLS app - The official MLS app gets a major update for 2019, making it easier than ever to keep up with your favorite club, check standings, watch videos and much more.