FRISCO - There are 34 games and 34 dates you should already have marked on your calendar for 2019.
On Monday, FC Dallas announced its full 2019 schedule and, while we could go into a preview of what each could mean already, I'll spare you the intense detail and break out a couple key themes from stretches of the season as a whole. Here are some things to keep in mind over the next nine months.
With the official addition of FC Cincinnati as the 24th team and the league still operating on a 34-game schedule, something had to change in terms of the frequency teams see their opponents. For three straight seasons now, Dallas has faced a rival club three times a year. In 2015, it was Houston, Colorado and Kansas City - all regional rivalries aside from the Texas Derby. In 2017, with Atlanta and Minnesota coming in, we said goodbye to Colorado and saw just Houston and Kansas City three times each. In 2018, the addition of LAFC saw Western Conference teams drop to just a single opponent they'd face a third time, in Dallas' case it was Houston.
Now, with equal conferences and another team to face, the math is very simple in scheduling: every team plays an in-conference foe twice and a cross-conference foe once. That means the Texas Derby stakes are even higher with just two matches - away on May 4 and home on Aug. 24 - to decide El Capitan's fate. The tie-breakers could come into play for another year.
Once again, Dallas' schedule is extremely consistent in terms of home vs. road games. At no point does the team host more than two games in a row and at no point does the team travel for more than two games at a time. In fact, from mid-April to early-June it's a perfectly alternating home one game, away the next.
Every month, with the exception of September and October (which has just one week of action), sees FCD play at least two matches but no more than three matches at Toyota Stadium. The inverse is true for traveling in every month aside from October. Unlike the northern climate teams that, for stadium or other reasons, go on long road swings to open the year and compacted home schedules later on, Dallas has just the right mixture of each to make for a consistent calendar throughout 2019.
FC Dallas' ability to have the evenly-spaced schedule hinges around the decision once again to play through a couple of the international windows. With a compacted MLS calendar this season, most clubs were looking at an increase in mid-week matches and double-week matches as a result. Dallas has chosen to play during two international windows - March 23 at Colorado and June 8 at San Jose - when the majority of other teams will not be playing.
FCD did get a break in the latter half of the season by observing the September FIFA break, something we saw last year as well opting to give a weekend off ahead of a potential playoff push late in the year. As a result, Sept. 7-8 is just the second weekend the club will not play all season (the June 15-16 league Gold Cup break being the other). Dallas doesn't play the weekend of July 6-7 but does host a match that would've been scheduled for that weekend on Thursday, July 4th.
MATINEES THROUGH MAY
Over the first 13 games of the season, nine of Dallas' first 13 games are afternoon affairs, including all but one of the first seven matches at home. That number could grow as the start time for April 6's match in Philadelphia is still TBD.
For the team, I have no insight on if this a good or a bad thing. We'll have to see how it's approached by Luchi Gonzalez and his staff. Personally, yours truly is pretty ecstatic about not staying at Toyota Stadium until the wee hours of the morning.
GOIN' BACK TO BACK
Maybe the most intriguing part of the 2019 schedule lies around a four-day series against LAFC beginning with a meeting on May 16 in California and wrapping up days later on May 19 in Frisco. The Thursday-to-Sunday stretch will mark the first time since April 2013 that Dallas has faced an opponent in back-to-back matches during the regular season. FCD took the mini series vs. Vancouver with a home win on April 20 and earning a draw on April 27. Even then, though, there was a full week between matches. The quick turnaround this year is sure to lead to a contentious leg two at Toyota Stadium.