The New York Red Bulls will open their 2015 regular season on Sunday, March 8th with a match on the road against Sporting Kansas City at 7 PM on Fox Sports 1. The match will be the first telecast for Fox Sports in their new TV rights deal with the league. MLS agreed to an 8 year TV deal with ESPN, Fox Sports, and Univision. The agreement created a new scheduling format for this season with nationally televised doubleheaders almost every Sunday for the entire season.
The match against Kansas City is also historic because MLS realigned the conferences in the off season due to the addition of Orlando City SC and New York City FC as expansion franchises in the East ; both Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo were shifted to the Western Conference. This means that the Red Bulls will meet those clubs just once in the 2015 season.
The Red Bulls home opener is a match against a very exciting opponent, rival D.C. United, on Sunday March 22nd at 5 PM in the first meeting since the Red Bulls eliminated the United in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs. The club will play two of their first three matches on the road when they travel to Ohio to meet the Columbus Crew on Saturday, March 28th, the Red Bulls have had many riveting matches against the Crew there in recent years.
New York will play four matches in April, with three of them at home and the lone away match is a short trip to D.C. for the second installment of the 2015 Atlantic Cup series on Saturday April 11th. They will host the two California clubs with the San Jose Earthquakes coming into Red Bull Arena on Friday, April 17th at 7 PM, and the 2014 MLS Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy coming in on Sunday April 26th at 5 PM in a nationally televised match on ESPN 2. The matchup against the Galaxy will be among the top billed games of the season.
The first match between the Red Bulls and their other longtime rival, the New England Revolution will take place on Saturday, May 2nd in Foxborough at Gillette Stadium, the same field where the Red Bulls 2014 playoff run ended following a dramatic series with the Revs. This match will be among the most highly anticipated of the 2015 season.
The schedule then moves to one of the biggest dates we as fans have all been waiting for, the first match against what should become a new rivalry with New York City FC on Sunday May 10th at 7 PM and it will be televised nationally on Fox Sports. Here is my issue with the scheduling department with MLS, the first meeting between these two clubs has been talked about since the news of the second New York franchise was announced. The people at MLS headquarters schedule it on Mother's Day, of all the dates on the calendar. I know many women who are fans of MLS and the Red Bulls, but I also know many women who are not, or have no interest in going to a soccer match on Mother's Day. In my view, it is just not a good marketing strategy for the league, they could have put this match a week earlier or a week later, and it would work much better in order to maximize attendance and TV ratings.
After a trip to Dallas in mid-May, the Red Bulls return home to face the Philadelphia Union for the first time in 2015 in another Sunday match at 5 PM on Fox Sports. The Union are coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign where they made a coaching change and traded their star striker during the course of the regular season.
The club wraps up the month of May with a key match against the Supporters Shield winners from 2014, the Seattle Sounders, in Seattle on Sunday, May 31st, at 5 PM on ESPN. I know that ESPN will aggressively promote this match as a clash between the last two Supporters Shield winners, and I can guarantee that when they made the TV schedule nobody thought the Red Bulls would be in the state of flux they find themselves in currently.
The Red Bulls will leave Seattle and stay on the road going to Houston to play the Dynamo just five days later on June 5th, in the lone match between those two clubs in 2015 due to realignment. Houston and the Red Bulls have a long and bitter history of knocking each other out of the playoffs and I am sure that match will be another heated installment in what was a great rivalry in recent years.
After a 15 day respite in June, the Red Bulls will return to action with back to back home matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake. The match against RSL is particularly intriguing because every time those clubs meet it features some exceptional and exciting action. In a side note that match will also feature the return of Jamison Olave to Red Bull Arena for the first time since he was traded this off season.
The second installment of the series against New York City FC will be on Sunday, June 28th, at historic Yankee Stadium at 5 PM and televised on ESPN 2. The meeting will be especially difficult for the Red Bulls, it will be their third match in eight days. I understand that so much media and fan buzz has been made about this new potential rivalry, but NYC FC is a new club with a roster pieced together from other teams. I think the matches against the other established rivals in the East will be far more entertaining.
The Red Bulls will play on July 4th in Columbus against the Crew, and return home a week later to play the Revolution in the second meeting of that intense rivalry. The first match for the Red Bulls against the other expansion club, Orlando City FC, will be on Sunday July 19th in Florida at 7 pm. The Orlando City roster looks very robust and that should be an interesting match in this upcoming season.
Dog Days of Summer
The schedule gets very busy in the dog days of summer in August with seven matches total, three of them at home and four of them on the road. The month opens with two matches in four days, both on the road, at Philadelphia on August 1st and at the Montreal Impact on a rare Wednesday night, August 5th. The Red Bulls will then have consecutive home games with the final meeting with New York City FC on Sunday, August 9th just a few days after returning from their mid-week match in Montreal. The second home match is with Toronto FC, who is looking to bounce back after missing the playoffs last season.
The Red Bulls then begin what I see as their toughest stretch on the schedule, three matches in just eight days, with two of those matches on the road at New England on August 22nd and at the Chicago Fire on August 26th and then culminating with the final meeting with their rivals, the D.C. United on Sunday, August 30th at Red Bull Arena. That is a brutal stretch with three tough opponents that could define the Red Bulls 2015 season as the calendar flips to September.
The club will get another respite after that stretch with 11 days off until they play at home against the Chicago Fire in an important date for both the New York area and the nation, September 11th. The Red Bulls then have another nine days off until they play in Portland against the Timbers on Sunday, September 20th. The two matches in 20 days could provide the roster an opportunity to get rested and healthier from injuries.The final match of the month is on September 25th at home against Orlando City FC.
The schedule in October wraps up the regular season with four matches, all of them against Eastern Conference opposition. These matches could make be pivotal for playoff positioning especially with the playoff field expanded to six teams per conference in 2015. October features matches against the Columbus Crew, Toronto FC, the Philadelphia Union, and the Chicago Fire. The Red Bulls will have another break of 11 days during October, with the final home match of the regular season against Philadelphia on Sunday October 18th, which will be Fan Appreciation Day. The regular season culminates in Chicago on Sunday October 25th.
In all, the Red Bulls will play 11 games on Sundays that will be nationally televised on ESPN or Fox Sports. That is a huge amount of national exposure and the league and those networks are hopeful that their push to get the Red Bulls in so many premium TV slots pays off. My first thoughts after reviewing the schedule is that I think it is going to be a very challenging schedule at points for this team. The amount of games they have condensed into short time frames during some stretches is a concern as well for a roster which looked tired last season when they had to tackle similar situations in scheduling.
After all the tumult surrounding the team yesterday, it is refreshing to be thinking about the actual games, and now we know what to look forward to in the upcoming season.