As the 2018 MLS season approaches, anticipation is building for the opening of new stadiums and the first looks at renovated facilities.
Last week, MLS announced its full 2018 schedule, bringing certainty to the opening date of at least one new stadium. On July 14, D.C. United will play its first game at the brand-new Audi Field when it hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Audi Field is currently under construction in Washington’s Buzzard Point, and it has been known for some time that the venue would not be ready for the start of the season in March. A summer debut, however, was expected and confirmed with the announcement of United’s first game at the facility. After spending years searching for a replacement for RFK Stadium, United is eager for the arrival of the soccer-specific Audi Field. In the interim, United has two home matches scheduled for early in the season—one on March 17, another on April 14—and is expected to announce the venues for those games in the coming weeks.
Months before Audi Field debuts, MLS will welcome the arrival of its first new stadium to open in 2018. On April 29, expansion Los Angeles FC will host the Seattle Sounders at Banc of California Stadium. Located on the site of the former Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, the 22,000-seat Banc of California Stadium will be the first open-air sports stadium constructed in the City of Los Angeles since the opening of Dodger Stadium in 1962. Already, the facility is drawing hype for some of its features, including its unique premium areas and technology offerings.
On the renovation side, one major project is unfolding as the 2018 season approaches. Providence Park is receiving an expansion on its east side, with the final results expected to be the addition of about 4,000 new seats for Portland Timbers’ matches.
The first part of the multi-phase renovation has been taking place this offseason. In order to accommodate the stadium’s construction schedule, MLS has already announced that the Timbers will not play their home opener until April 14. As a result, the Timbers will play all of their matches leading up to that date—five total—on the road before returning to Portland to host Minnesota United FC for the home opener. Additional work on the expansion is expected to take place once the 2018 season concludes.
All in all, this is shaping up to be a solid year when it comes to MLS stadiums. The league will welcome two new stadiums and will see the early results of the expansion of one of its more notable venues. Time will tell what the finished products of these projects will look like, but the anticipation of their completion adds another layer of anticipation to the upcoming season.
Rendering of Audi Field courtesy D.C. United. Rendering of expanded Providence Park courtesy Portland Timbers.
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