We haven't crowned a 2013 champion yet, but for FC Dallas fans, today is the day that focus turns to next season as we unveil the full 2014 schedule. Here are a few highlights:
Spring into soccer
You're going to have a bunch of opportunities to see FCD at home early in the year. Five of the first seven games in 2014 are at home. In addition, the first two games away from Toyota Stadium are road-trippable affairs at Sporting Kansas City and Houston, so for die-hard FC Dallas fans, catching the first seven games of the year is a realistic proposition.
Saturday nights in Frisco
Whatever plans you have for Saturday nights from March through October, you might want to adjust them. 12 of the 17 home games in 2014 are Saturday night affairs including five of the first seven games. Also returning in 2014 are the popular 8:00PM kickoffs during the summer.
Friday night's alright for soccer
One interesting feature of the 2014 schedule is the appearance of two Friday night kickoffs. FCD has only played two Friday games in the history of Toyota Stadium with one of those coming on the traditional Fourth of July game. One of the two Friday night games this year will be the July 4 game against the Philadelphia Union while on Friday, August 22, Dallas will host Real Salt Lake.
Only twice this year will FCD have the much-maligned three match weeks and both of them fall in an incredibly busy month of May. Dallas will play seven games in all through the month of May with grueling three-match weeks on May 4-10 and May 17-24.
Western Conference showdown
In an effort to enhance the run in to the playoffs, MLS has backloaded the schedules with intra-conference matchups. 13 of the final 14 matches of the season will pit FCD against Western Conference foes including two matches against both Los Angeles and Vancouver in the final two months of the season.
World Cup break
As we did in 2010, Major League Soccer will be shutting down for two weeks during the 2014 FIFA World Cup group stage. FC Dallas will not take the field between Wednesday, June 11's match at Portland and Saturday, June 28's match in Columbus. In addition, FCD will not hit the Toyota Stadium field in MLS action for almost a month between June 7 and July 4, though a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game or two could hit Frisco during that month.
So who's ready to kick off the season?
Segment 1: Stein and Steve reflect on a wild final night in World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, which saw mighty Mexico come perilously close to elimination from soccer's grand stage next summer before being rescued by two late goals in Panama from their old friends south of the border.
Segment 2: American star Landon Donovan says he's not sure Mexico, if the roles were reversed, would have tried so hard to win a game in extra time if it meant helping the United States qualify for the World Cup. Is Landon right? Should the Americans have let Panama close out a 2-1 victory that would have eliminated Mexico? The boys discuss.
Segment 3: The one and only Andres Cantor, fresh off calling Costa Rica's 2-1 victory over Mexico for Telemundo, joins the guys to talk about the state of Mexico's chaos-ridden team after its great Hex escape and yet another coaching change headed into next month's two-legged World Cup playoff with New Zealand.
Segment 4: Clint Dempsey is still looking for his first goal as a Seattle Sounder, but the proud Texan was kind enough to sit down and touch on a number of hot topics after a 2-0 defeat to FC Dallas that threatens to knock Seattle out of the playoffs. The highlights of that conversation are all here.
After beating the New England Revolution, 1-0, on Saturday, FC Dallas has climbed two more spots in MLSsoccer.com's Power Rankings to the fifth spot. The club has been ranked as low as 15th in the league's power rankings after the loss to Chivas USA in Week 2, but since FC Dallas has made its run to the top of the league standings the team has moved up 10 spots.
You can see the full MLSsoccer.com Power Rankings here.
Other sites have FC Dallas ranked higher. Sport's Illustrated ranked FCD fourth, while Bleacher Report put the club in second place and Yahoo! Sports and ESPN FC both have FC Dallas ranked as number one.
What do you think? Where should FC Dallas be in the MLS Power Rankings?