1. Seattle Sounders FC vs. Toronto FC, May 6 (TV: ESPN)
This game has everything you could want as a neutral. Championship rematch. One of the best atmospheres in the league. Star power on both sides. And, best of all, two legitimately good teams. Seattle and Toronto are both serious MLS Cup and Supporters Shield contenders. Seattle-Toronto will give us one of those rare regular season games with serious meaning.
2. Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC, August 27 (TV: ESPN, TSN)
Derby games always catch the eye when looking at the schedule. Toronto-Montreal is a classic that spills over into hockey as well, but there’s plenty of emotion left for the soccer side. This iteration should be even better as it’s the first time the teams will meet since their epic Eastern Conference Final last year. Montreal will want revenge after blowing a 3-0 lead and Sebastian Giovinco will be looking to make amends after having to come off injured in the second leg.
3. Minnesota United FC vs. Atlanta United FC, March 12 (TV: ESPN2)
Fair or not, Atlanta and Minnesota will forever be compared during their respective runs in MLS. That’s the reality of entering the league in the same year as expansion franchises. So when the two actually meet on the field for the first time, and the only time of 2017, the matchup will take on a little extra meaning. Both sides have gone about putting together their rosters in vastly different ways. Atlanta’s drawn all the buzz with its flashy designated players while Minnesota has quietly put together a very capable-looking team. A clash of MLS’ newcomers with serious bragging rights on the line.
4. New York Red Bulls – LA Galaxy, May 14 (TV: FS1)
We only get one NY-LA showdown a year since MLS went to an unbalanced schedule, this year it’s at beautiful Red Bull Arena. LA’s lost a little of its shine with Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan gone, but Giovani dos Santos is worth the price of admission. New York, meanwhile, returns basically the entire team that finished third in the Supporters Shield in 2016. A good, early-season barometer of where new Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo is with his team.
5. Atlanta United FC vs. Orlando City SC, July 30 (TV: FOX)
Atlanta will the play the first part of its season at Bobby Dodd Stadium (Georgia Tech’s football field), but on July 30, the team opens its true home. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be state-of-the-art and includes special modifications for Atlanta home games. Atlanta will also be the first team to actually play a game in the stadium. This opener also includes Orlando, a team often talked about as a true geographical rival for Atlanta. A six-hour drive to Atlanta means a sizable traveling section to add to the atmosphere. As if all that wasn’t good enough, the game will also be televised nationally on “big FOX.”
6. Houston Dynamo – FC Dallas, May 28 (TV: FS1)
Any game that awards a giant cannon to the winner belongs on this list. Yes, I know Houston was terrible last year, but hear me out. New coach Wilmer Cabrera has put together an exciting, young team thanks to a few key offseason moves. The Dynamo should be much better and there’s nothing to indicate FC Dallas won’t again be one of the best teams in the league under Oscar Pareja. All that hopefully adds up to a fireworks-filled Texas Derby. These games are always entertaining, but this year we should get one between too competent teams as well.
7. Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City, October 22
SKC and RSL is one of the league’s truly organic rivalries. Their 2013 MLS Cup decided by a penalty shootout (won by SKC) added serious fuel to the fire. The reality of MLS salary caps means both sides have undergone plenty of roster turnover since then, but the ferocity of the rivalry hasn’t gone anywhere. Just ask Benny Feilhaber. This one is the final game of the season for two teams that should be fighting for playoff position. Expect a physical game.
8. Portland Timbers FC – Seattle Sounders FC, June 25 (TV: ESPN)
There had to be one Cascadia clash on this list. It’s arguably the best rivalry in the league in arguably the best venue and atmosphere in the league. Portland was the major disappointment of 2016, missing the playoffs the season after winning MLS Cup giving Caleb Porter plenty of work to do. Seattle, meanwhile, will hope to avoid the same fate in 2017. Oh and as if the names on the front of the jersey aren’t enough, this game also gives us Diego Valeri vs. Nicolas Lodeiro on national TV. Yes please.
9. FC Dallas – Seattle Sounders FC, September 16
Dallas and Seattle is another naturally developing rivalry. These two have met in the playoffs three years in a row with the Sounders advancing twice. FCD fans were none too happy in 2014 when Seattle advanced via the away goals rule, but they got revenge in 2015 by sending Seattle home in a nerve-racking shootout. The FCD supporters will be up for this game that features arguably the two best teams in the Western Conference.
10. DC United – New York Red Bulls, October 22
A classic rivalry that’s always worth watching. Like the RSL-SKC game on the list, this matchup will be the regular season finale for both teams. New York has been the class of the East the past several years, but Ben Olsen’s DC is always in the mix come playoff time. It’s very possible this game will have major implications for playoff seeding. As an added bonus, this will be (fingers crossed!) the final regular season game played in RFK Stadium.