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MLS Opening Weekend Is Here: The Standout Storylines And Matches To Follow

We'll ride this wave all the way to the 2022 World Cup.

Following the addition of expansion side Charlotte FC, Major League Soccer's opening weekend features all 28 teams in action with nine matches on Saturday, Feb. 26, and five on Sunday, Feb. 27.

MLS opening day 2022 has one match on FOX (Portland vs. New England) and one streamed on Twitter (LAFC vs. Colorado — also on Univision and TUDN), and play also takes center stage across the nation Sunday with one game on FS1 (Atlanta vs. Kansas City) and one on ESPN (LA Galaxy vs. NYCFC). 

Only 77 days will have passed since NYCFC lifted the 2021 MLS Cup in Portland when Philadelphia and Minnesota get the new season under way at Subaru Park, but a lot has changed over that time, including some record-breaking arrivals and departures. Here are eight matches and storylines to follow with the start of the 2022 MLS campaign. 

MLS Opening Day 2022: 8 Things To Watch For 

#1. If you like talking about the weather...

During the USMNT's last window, amidst the never-ending discussion about the temperature, did you ever stop and think "I wish this conversation would never end?"

Well you can return to Lower.com Field, the sight of the USMNT’s chilly 1-0 win over El Salvador, on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET for the coldest anticipated kickoff of opening weekend. Columbus welcomes Vancouver on a day with a high of 33°F and 10 percent chance of precipitation.

If you're looking for something a litter crazier down the road, keep one eye on Minnesota's March 5 home opener against Nashville. That'll also be our first chance to see Bongokuhle Hlongwane at the stadium he personally designed and built in just three days.   

#2. Et tu, Kellyn?

Kellyn Acosta moved from Colorado to LAFC in a deal that could be worth up to $1.5 million in GAM, and the two clubs square off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in a game broadcast nationally on Univision, TUDN and streaming on Twitter. 

As a Colorado-based company, we're deeply hurt by Acosta's decision to swap the bright lights of Commerce City for those of Los Angeles because he's a sensational midfielder and we suck again. The USMNT engine now gets to be part of the process of letting Carlos Vela and Cristian Arango do whatever they want to opponents. 

Colorado manager Robin Fraser was arguably the best in MLS in 2021, and the Rapids will again need a minor miracle from him since the Kroenkes have only provided him with a paperclip and small piece of string this offseason. 

#3. Battle of the Brave New Worlds 

When Dallas welcomes Toronto to Toyota Stadium on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET, it's a clash of designs for future domination. 

Dallas sold Ricardo Pepi to Augsburg for $20 million, but the remaining Homegrown Goodness (Jesús Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania) has been complimented by the arrivals of Paul Arriola and $7 million Independiente winger Alan Velasco.

In Toronto, Bob Bradley is tooling an overhaul that begins with Carlos Salcedo's arrival from Tigres and ends in July with the arrival of Italian international Lorenzo Insigne from Napoli. For now you can watch Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio get down to business behind Alejandro Pozuelo.  

#4. "We Are Screwed"

When you think about the buildup to Charlotte's inaugural season, it does seem strange that the most memorable moment was the June 2021 announcement of 35-year-old left back Christian Fuchs. That's probably why manager Miguel Ángel Ramírez's season preview was simply "we are screwed."

Charlotte's first-ever MLS match is a trip to Audi Field to play D.C. United on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. 

After finishing one point beneath the playoff line last year, the Black-and-Red have added 25-year-old Ecuadorian international Michael Estrada from Toluca while Greece international Taxiarchis Fountas will be joining from Rapid Vienna in the summer.

#5. Big Shaq vs. El Pipita

After all his exploits with Bayern, Stoke, Liverpool and the Swiss national team, Xherdan Shaqiri is hoping to pick up right where Zlatan Ibrahimović left off in MLS by scoring goals that land No. 1 on the SportsCenter Top 10. 

There's no way in hell you can miss his debut. Even if his only shot exits DRV PNK Stadium and enters orbit, it'll be spectacular.

After his inclusion in the latest USMNT squad, a lot of people will be interested in getting a closer look at 17-year-old Fire goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. He's the real deal. Chicago has also added 21-year-old Mexico international Jairo Torres from Atlas, but the winger doesn't join the Fire until May 1. 

Inter Miami brings its own mess of storylines after finishing 10th and 11th in the Eastern Conference in its first two seasons. It's always fun to watch Gonzalo Higuaín bullrush defenders, but DeAndre Yedlin returning stateside after seven years abroad is the real carrot. 

At 28, the right back is in his prime, and I always thought while watching him play for Newcastle that he was going to be absolutely devastating going forward as a wing back or wide midfielder whenever he decided to come home. 

#6. The Choke Artists

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX, Providence Park will be rocking for its opener against New England. It's a meeting between the two clubs that achieved the most in 2021 without actually lifting the Cup.

The Revolution won the Supporters' Shield with a record-setting regular season but threw it all away in the conference semifinals with a memorable defeat to NYCFC. Portland suffered the same fate in the final despite hosting the match.

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The Revs have largely retained their talent (minus Tajon Buchanan and the eventual loss of Matt Turner), and they've had a huge offseason with the acquisitions of Sebastian Lletget and Jozy Altidore — two guys Bruce Arena loves to work with.

Portland is also sticking with its winning formula by resigning Sebastián Blanco through the 2023 season, and we'll be hoping for a strong recovery from USMNT midfielder Eryk Williamson after he tore his ACL last year.    

#7. 70,000 People Having a Great Time

You know the atmosphere for Atlanta's season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is going to be electric, and you can live it on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET by turning on FS1.  

Kansas City, third in the Western Conference last year, always makes for a difficult opponent, but the main attractions will be Atlanta's Designated Players Josef Martínez and Luiz Araújo. Unfortunately, 20-year-old Argentine Thiago Almada — who cost a league-record fee of $16 million — still hasn't joined up with the Five Stripes because of the complexities of paperwork. 

Sporting's preseason was rocked by the news of Alan Pulido's season-long absence, but Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell are worth any neutral's time. 

#8. Most Cups vs. Most Recent Cup  

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This one sells itself. On Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN, the LA Galaxy — now looking like the class of MLS in attack with Chicharito, new signing Douglas Costa and Kévin Cabral — take on defending champion NYCFC at Dignity Health Sports Park.

New York lost some important pieces in the offseason with James Sands joining Rangers and Jesus Medina signing with CSKA Moscow, but Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos remains (for now) and we're excited to see more from 19-year-old Brazilian Talles Magno. 

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