After much anticipation, MLS announced Wednesday its full 2021 regular-season schedule. The 27 clubs, including the Sounders FC, will play a 34-match slate with 17 home and 17 away games.
The league previously announced the Rave Green will open the season April 16 against the Minnesota United FC at Lumen Field. The game is a rematch of last season’s Western Conference championship game, which the Sounders won.
Seattle will follow with seven more home matches within the next 12 games. The league will take a two-week break in June to allow players called up to their respective national teams to compete in FIFA international games.
The Cascadia Derby with the Portland Timbers will be May 9 and Aug. 15 at Providence Park. The Rave Green will host their rival Aug. 29 at Lumen Field. A rematch of the 2020 MLS Cup, which was won by the Columbus Crew SC will be Aug. 21 in Ohio.
The Sounders will play seven of their final 10 matches on the road, with the schedule concluding with a Decision Day lineup against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Nov. 7. MLS will open postseason play Nov. 19.
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still evident in the Sounders mainly facing Western Conference opponents. Flights will still be chartered and testing for the virus will be frequent.
Seattle will be featured on national television by ESPN and FOX’s family of networks 14 times this season, beginning with the opener on FS1. All of the Sounders’ other matches will be aired throughout Washington with specifics released at a later date.
The MLS schedule announcement was delayed, in part, because of contentious negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the MLS Players Association. MLS invoked a Force majeure clause from the CBA signed in June 2020 and the third version of the CBA wasn’t resolved until February.
Unlike the 2020 season, fans are expected to be welcomed back to Lumen Field this season. Gov. Jay Inslee banned large gatherings at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and lifted the mandate earlier this month.
While permitted a 9,000-person cap, the Sounders intimated they might have fewer fans to start the season. Season ticket holders will receive first priority but no other information was provided.
Nouhou will remain with the Sounders throughout the preseason instead of honoring a call-up by his Cameroon national team to compete in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers this month. The decision was made after discussions between the Seattle club and the Cameroonian Federation.