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10 of the most intriguing games of the 2020 MLS season

An El Trafico without Zlatan and a meeting between LAFC and Atlanta United are some of the 2020 MLS games to watch.

The 2020 Major League Soccer schedule dropped Thursday, giving us ample time to dissect the match-ups before taking off for the holidays.

As usual, the league’s top clubs received the highest spots on the marquee, including Atlanta United, who will play 18 times on national television

The majority of match-ups that initially caught our attention were rivalries and meetings between some of the top contenders for MLS Cup.

There are also a few games, especially early in the regular season, that could be appeasing and help bridge the gap to the games that matter more later in the campaign.

Below is a look at some of the most intriguing match-ups spread from March to October listed chronologically. 

Minnesota United at Portland Timbers (March 1, 7:30 p.m. ET) 

May 4, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United defender Ike Opara (3) looks on during the second half against Seattle Sounders at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the most intriguing match-ups of opening weekend takes place at Providence Park.

Minnesota United is coming off their best season in franchise history, and they are expected to build off of it right away. 

Portland is still among the best teams in the Western Conference, but it needs to get younger with Diego Chara and Diego Valeri getting older. 

Although most fans will tune in on March 1 for LAFC-Inter Miami, this game should pack a bigger punch from a competitive standpoint due to how many stars both teams bring back. 

D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes (April 11, 5 p.m. ET) 

Aug 31, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) reacts after scoring a goal against the Orlando City FC during the first half at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United and the San Jose Earthquakes will commemorate the league’s first-ever game at Avaya Stadium on April 11. 

The inaugural MLS match occurred April 6, 1996 and this version of the contest will be broadcast on ESPN.

How both sides are set up by mid-April will be intriguing. D.C. is going through a transitional phase with Wayne Rooney gone and Luciano Acosta on his way out. Matias Almedya is building a strong roster for his second season in charge of the Quakes. 

Inter Miami CF at Nashville SC (May 3, 6 p.m. ET) 

Jun 6, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville SC fans celebrate after a goal during the first half against the Colorado Rapids at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The initial clash between Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC should show us a stark contrasts in roster-building strategies. 

Since it was rumored as a MLS club, Inter Miami was linked with the world’s biggest stars, and it is dipping into South America to bring some young play-makers to the league. 

Nashville is conservatively making moves by adding MLS veterans and some lesser recognizable names from Europe and South America. 

Two months into season, we should have an idea of how each side will fare in their first seasons. 

LA Galaxy at Los Angeles FC (May 16, 3 p.m. ET) 

Oct 24, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) reacts after the game against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half at Banc of California Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The first El Trafico without Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have a different feel to it. 

No matter who the LA Galaxy bring in during the off-season, LAFC will come into this match with more expectations and pressure. 

Bob Bradley’s side is loading up for a shot at MLS Cup in 2020 and it has not beaten the Galaxy in a regular-season meeting. 

LAFC earned its first victory in the rivalry in the 2019 postseason in an epic 5-3 affair. 

Inter Miami CF at Orlando City (July 10, 8 p.m. ET) 

Sep 14, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City forward Nani (17) kicks the ball during the first half against the New England Revolution at Exploria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City hasn’t been successful its rivalry with Atlanta United, but it has a chance to earn the upper hand in its newest rivalry at home July 10. 

Inter Miami is expected to come into MLS with the same bang as Atlanta United, and it will be interesting to see which of the other two southeast teams the expansion side gravitates toward as its main rival. 

The game occurs in the middle of a key home stretch for Oscar Pareja’s side, who will try to make a push for the club’s first-ever playoff berth. The Lions have two other contests at Exploria Stadium in July to take advantage of the Florida heat wearing down on opponents. 

Seattle Sounders at Toronto FC (July 18, 7 p.m. ET) 

November 10, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam (18) kicks the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Nicolas Benezet (7) in the second half during the MLS Cup at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 MLS Cup rematch occurs at a tough time for the Seattle Sounders. 

The trip to BMO Field will mark a third road contest in 10 days. Seattle visits the New York Red Bulls on July 8 and Atlanta United on July 12. 

After visiting Ontario, Brian Schmetzer’s side has to go home to play Houston on short rest and then play LAFC in back-to-back games. 

Toronto does not play a midweek game in July, so it should be fully rested for the rematch with the Sounders. 

Columbus Crew at FC Cincinnati (July 19, 8 p.m. ET) 

Aug 10, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; FC Cincinnati midfielder Allan Cruz (15) dribbles the ball in the second half of the match against the Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The second season of “Hell is Real” in MLS should be much more entertaining than first two go-around’s in 2019. 

By July, Caleb Porter should have the Columbus Crew humming at full speed and back in contention for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. 

FC Cincinnati has nowhere to go but up in Ron Jans’ first full season in charge, and no matter what form they are in, they will be ready for the rivalry in front of a raucous Nippert Stadium crowd. 

Los Angeles FC at Atlanta United (August 16, 3 p.m. ET) 

Sep 18, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martinez (7) controls the ball against FC Cincinnati in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

LAFC and Atlanta United could be at, or near, the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings by the time they meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

In 2019, the two new contenders in MLS entertained with a seven-goal affair at Banc of California Stadium. 

By this point, both teams should be sharpening their approach with less than months left before the MLS Cup Playoffs. 

New York City FC at New York Red Bulls (August 23, 7 p.m. ET) 

Jul 14, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer (77) reacts after scoring a goal against the New York City FC during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In the last two years, the Hudson River Derby has leveled out with New York City FC winning two of the four matches. 

By the time Rivalry Week rolls around, the second meeting of New York clubs in New Jersey will be different than most in the rivalry’s history. 

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles are among the key figures gone from the Red Bulls, and by August, they should be able to discover a new identity with younger players. 

NYCFC is still without a head coach and could have a different feel to its style of play depending on who is brought in. 

D.C. United at New York City FC (September 26, 7 p.m. ET) 

Oct 22, 2017; New York, NY, USA; A general view of the pitch before the game between the New York City FC and the Columbus Crew at Citi Field. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

The final of four NYCFC games played at Citi Field could have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference playoff race. 

After Sept. 1, last year’s No. 1 seed in the East plays one game inside the shorter confines of Yankee Stadium, which could make it vulnerable if it is involved in a tight playoff race. 

Just like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field’s grass will be torn apart by baseball season at this juncture and it will be interesting to see how it holds up for a game of high magnitude. 

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