Yesterday, the USL Championship home openers were announced. As excitement continues to build for the upcoming season, we will offer ten quick thoughts on the Eastern Conference slate of matches. You can see the graphic including the matches below.
⚽ Hartford Athletic will make their USL Championship debut when they travel to Georgia to take on ATL UTD 2. The expansion side will actually play in the home opener for four clubs, before hosting their own on May 4th.
⚽ NYRB II hosting Swope Park is a fun one. That is a 2016 USL Cup final rematch and the first match Swope will play as a member of the Eastern Conference.
⚽ Speaking of Swope, their home opener against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC is probably one of the most competitive openers on paper.
⚽ Ottawa’s home opener on April 6th will be noteworthy, but primarily because of the uncertainty regarding Fury FC’s participation in the USL Championship this season. The latest rumblings seem to indicate the club will play in the USL this season, rather than the Canadian Premier League, but would play in the CPL beginning in 2019.
⚽ Tampa Bay will host Riverhounds SC on March 16th. After a great 2016 season, instability got the Rowdies’ 2017 season off track early on. They will look to get back to being a contender in the Eastern Conference when they host one of last season’s top sides.
⚽ North Carolina FC will host two-time defending champs, Louisville City FC, on March 9th. According to a Washington Post report, this could be the first match for former USMNT caretaker manager Dave Sarachan as the head coach of North Carolina.
⚽ After some strong moves leading up to their inaugural season, Birmingham Legion FC will test themselves against a 2017 playoff side, Bethlehem Steel FC.
⚽ Alongside Swope Park, Saint Louis FC have moved East from the Western Conference. Back in their former conference, they will open up against Indy Eleven for the first time ever. The clubs could develop a decent rivalry, sitting within a handful of hours of one another. Saint Louis will enter the season off of their first-ever USL playoff appearance.
⚽ Louisville City FC will get to play in front of their devoted fans as a two-time reigning champion when they host expansion Hartford Athletic on March 23rd.
⚽ Loudoun United FC might have a rough USL Championship debut. They will travel to Tennessee to face Nashville SC. The second-year side has already added Daniel Rios and Kharlton Belmar, who scored 20 and 10 goals respectively. They are also rumored to be adding last year’s Golden Boot winner Cameron Lancaster, who tallied 26 goals in 2018.
Photo credit: Nick Smith/Swope Park Rangers