With Doug Roberson’s report yesterday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Bobby Dodd Stadium will be unavailable to Atlanta United for a large portion of April, what could the first half of Atlanta United's schedule look like in 2017?
Remember, there will also be World Cup qualifiers, FIFA Confederations Cup (which will feature Mexico and Atlanta United target Andres Guardado), and the CONCACAF Gold Cup to contend with from a scheduling perspective for MLS in 2017. In the past, MLS has played through the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup. This year, the league took a two-week break during the group stage of the Copa America Centenario.
The league has been building in more breaks for FIFA International Windows in recent years, but it is unclear what that will look next year as MLS expands to 22 teams and has new scheduling issues.
If MLS opts to model its schedule after this season, expect Opening Day to be on Sunday, March 5. All twenty teams played on the first Sunday in March in 2016, with three games on national television partners.
World Cup qualifiers for CONCACAF teams in the Hex will take place on Friday, March 24 and Tuesday, March 28. MLS could opt to take that weekend off, or at least have a reduced schedule like they did during the March FIFA dates this year.
Georgia Tech will likely use Bobby Dodd Stadium for spring football on Saturdays in April. In 2016, they conducted practices at Bobby Dodd Stadium on April 2 and 9, a scrimmage on April 16, and their annual Spring Game on April 23. If they follow that same format in 2017, Atlanta United would need to be on the road from Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 23. A bye week could be thrown into the mix in that four week period to reduce the travel stress on United.
Likely, that means Atlanta United could be at home three out of four games (or two out of three if MLS opts to avoid scheduling during the FIFA window) in March followed by a four week break for most of April. Three or four away games during those first four weeks in April are probable. A home game once Bobby Dodd Stadium becomes available again on the weekend of April 28 would be a safe bet.
May could see a fairly normal split between home and away games prior to the expected opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in June. There is another FIFA window that could see MLS avoid scheduling games during the weekend of June 9-11. That means Atlanta United could potentially hold off on scheduling their home opener at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium until the middle of June to give them more time to finish construction.