Christmas has come early for Orlando City fans this year with Thursday’s release of the 2020 MLS schedule. It’s an interesting slate for the Lions, who embark on their sixth season in Major League Soccer on February 29 against Real Salt Lake at Exploria Stadium. Let’s take a closer look at Orlando’s path to the postseason in 2020.
March: Straight into the Fire
New Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja will see some tough matchups and road trips right out of the gate in his inaugural season. Home opener opponent RSL was a playoff team a season ago. The team then heads for the first of two Western Conference trips in the opening month to frigid Colorado for a potential snow game with the Rapids. New-look Chicago Fire FC are next at home, but then the team hits back-to-back away games at 2019 playoff teams Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls. Pareja and the Lions will have to navigate these first five games carefully as they build chemistry within the team.
April-May: Home Sweet Home
After racking up miles in March, Orlando City gets to settle in for a long stretch of home games over the rest of the spring. Seven of the Lions’ 10 games in April and May will take place at Exploria Stadium, including a matchup with archrivals Atlanta United on April 26 and three other games against Eastern Conference opposition. The three away games over the two months look to be manageable, as well; Orlando won at Columbus and at Montreal last season, while DC United will look to overcome the losses of franchise cornerstones Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta. This spring stretch could be an opportunity for Orlando City to bank some points ahead of the hot summer months.
June: Summer Vacation
Once the calendar flips to June, Orlando City pack their bags and head out for four of five games on the road. The stretch begins with a trip to Kansas City to face Sporting and new striker Alan Pulido. After a key home game against RBNY, Orlando play three straight on the road, all against Eastern Conference teams scrapping for a playoff spot. The Lions will get their first 2020 look at Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution, then play their first-ever game at Soldier Field against Fire FC, before quickly turning around for a midweek tilt at Yankee Stadium against NYCFC. This difficult gauntlet will be an important litmus test for Pareja’s squad as they look to navigate their way above the red line into the second half of the season.
July-August: Bright Lights, Big Games
Orlando City’s summer is all about the marquee matchups. The game everyone will have already circled on their calendars happens on Friday, July 10, as Exploria Stadium welcomes Inter Miami CF for the first-ever meeting between Orlando City and David Beckham’s South Florida project. The game will air on national television in primetime, as both teams look to get out on the front foot in MLS’ first Florida derby since the Miami Fusion last met the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001. The following week will be no less important, as Oscar Pareja returns to Toyota Stadium to face FC Dallas for the first time since he left the club for Liga MX in 2018. Orlando then welcomes conference rivals Philadelphia and DC United to Exploria Stadium over the next several weeks, before wrapping up August with two massive Rivalry Week games, going to Fort Lauderdale to face Inter Miami on Thursday, August 20 before heading up to Atlanta for the return game against the Five Stripes on Sunday, August 23.
September-October: The Homestretch
Orlando City will have some advantages this year heading into the final few weeks of the season. They do not play during the September FIFA window, giving the team a crucial bye week to rest and recuperate. City then play three of their final four games at Exploria Stadium, starting with expansion side Nashville SC’s first-ever clash with the Lions on September 12. Orlando then close with three straight Eastern Conference games, hosting NYCFC, traveling to Toronto, and then ending the season at home with what could be a whopper of a Decision Day duel with New England. Let’s not forget that the Revs finished last year in the final Eastern Conference postseason slot.