MLS includes Gold Cup break in 2017 schedule

Dan Hamilton
Having previously played through the Gold Cup, MLS will go on hiatus from July 7-18 during the 2017 tournament.

Having long played through the Gold Cup, MLS finally is going on hiatus for CONCACAF's premier tournament.

MLS released its 2017 regular season schedule Thursday, with the league taking a break from July 7-18 during the group stage of the Gold Cup. The hiatus is similar to the breaks the league has taken for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Copa America Centenario.

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The league also will feature a light schedule during FIFA dates in March, June, September and October, as just 10 matches total will be played over the course of those four international breaks.

While Atlanta United will play its first eight matches at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, the expansion side will move into its permanent home with a contest against Orlando City on July 30 at the newly built Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

That will be one of four games scheduled for broadcast on the flagship Fox network this season, joined by Orlando vs. the LA Galaxy on April 15; the Seattle Sounders vs. the Portland Timbers on May 27; and the New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC on June 24.

There also will be 29 matches on FS1, 28 on ESPN, three on ESPN2, six on Univision and 20 on UniMas.

The 2017 schedule includes the final regular season game for D.C. United at historic RFK Stadium, with the rival New York Red Bulls visiting Oct. 22.

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That match will come on "Decision Day," with all 11 regular season finales kicking off simultaneously for the second straight season. Although MLS exclusively featured intra-conference matchups for the final two matchdays of 2016, there will be one inter-conference game each of those weekends this year because the conferences now have an odd number of teams (11).

The league made an effort to reduce the number of matches affected by summer heat this season, with nine games — six national broadcasts — scheduled for early summer afternoons. (There were 15 such contests last season.) The six nationally broadcast games also will be played either in domed stadiums or moderate climates.

MLS, which announced teams' home openers last month, will kick off with a March 3 clash between the Portland Timbers and Minnesota United. The 2017 playoff schedule will be announced at a later date.