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After a four-month layoff, Major League Soccer has finally returned for its 23rd season. Last year’s campaign was one of the most memorable in league history, featuring an Atlanta United squad that won MLS Cup in just their second season in the league.

This year is shaping up to be another fantastic season for the North American soccer league. There has been an influx in marquee talent headed stateside, the likes of which include former Manchester United star Nani and dynamic Argentine attacker Pity Martinez.

In honor of the MLS season finally getting underway, we’ve compiled a list of five of the most exciting games of the 2019 season.

Columbus Crew @ DC United

Saturday, May 4

The first matchup that we’re featuring takes place in early May, which pits the Columbus Crew against DC United at the newly-built Audi Field in Washington, D.C. These two teams faced off against each other in the first round of the playoffs last year, and the game was one for the ages as it took penalty kicks to decide the winner.

Things will be a bit different for Columbus this time around, however. The Crew were forced to make a coaching change after their manager, Gregg Berhalter, was chosen to coach the U.S. Men’s National Team. Caleb Porter, who won MLS Cup with Portland back in 2015, was chosen to replace Berhalter. Porter will have his hands full in this one trying to stop a dynamic D.C. United attack which features Manchester United’s all-time leading scorer Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta.

Los Angeles FC @ LA Galaxy

Friday, July 19

Our second highlighted matchup is a newly-formed rivalry between the two Los Angeles based MLS clubs – the Galaxy and Los Angeles FC. The rivalry dubbed “El Trafico” due to the heavy traffic in Southern California featured one of the most memorable games of last year’s season. International superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović made his debut in a Galaxy kit against LAFC, and he was able to score twice after coming on as a substitute, which solidified a Galaxy win after they trailed by three goals. This year’s iteration of El Trafico surely won’t disappoint either.

New York Red Bulls @ Orlando City

Sunday, July 21

Just two days after the Los Angeles Derby, another high-profile game is set to take place in Florida when last year’s Supporters Shield-winning New York Red Bulls square off against Orlando City. Orlando City has been a bottom-dwelling team for its first four years in the league, but they’ve overhauled their roster this past offseason. The Lions have brought in former first overall pick Joao Moutinho, alongside electric winger Nani, who won the Champions League with Manchester United back in 2007-08 and the European Championship with Portugal in 2016. This match will be a measuring stick for Orlando City, as they’ll see just how much they’ve improved when they face off against one of the Eastern Conference’s historically toughest teams.

Atlanta United @ Portland Timbers

Sunday, August 18

In the middle of August, one of the most anticipated games on the league schedule will take place between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers, in a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup. Portland will certainly be out for vengeance in this game, after losing by two goals to Atlanta in the 2018 championship.

The 2019 season hasn’t started out the way Atlanta supporters would have hoped, as the team has just one point from their first two games. This Atlanta squad looks a bit different than last year’s as they are now without their manager, Tata Martino, who left Atlanta for a lucrative offer to coach the Mexican National team. On top of losing their coach, the Five Stripes also sold one of their best attacking players, Miguel Almiron, to Newcastle United of the Premier League.

Columbus Crew @ FC Cincinnati

Sunday, August 25

The fifth and final match that we’ve chosen to spotlight is a battle between two Ohio teams in the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati are the newest expansion team to Major League Soccer, having joined the league earlier this year. Expansion teams have historically found it tough to compete in their first season, but Cincinnati has put together a talented club featuring heavily-experienced MLS players such as designated player Fanendo Adi, Kendall Waston, Victor Ulloa and Nick Hagglund. The Orange and Blue will be looking to follow in LAFC’s footsteps, as they made the playoffs as an expansion side back in 2018.

Interested in attending an MLS game this season? Shop tickets on SeatGeek, and don’t forget to use code MLS20TBA to save $20 off your purchase of $100 or more!

(Cropped image courtesy StefSince1985 via Flickr.)