1. Opening Road Trip
The Timbers started last season with a five-game, month-and-a-half road trip before returning to Providence Park in mid-April, but that trip, which was trying, pales in comparison to what the Timbers are going to have to endure at the beginning of this season.
As the 4,000-seat, $50 million, two-year renovation of Providence Park is completed this spring, the Timbers will play their first 12 games on the road. They'll face eight Western Conference and four Eastern Conference opponents before opening at home against LAFC on June 1.
Among the highlights of the trip will be contesting FC Cincinnati's MLS home opener at Nippert Stadium on March 17, as well as facing Caleb Porter for the first time in Columbus on April 20. The Timbers will also play both LA clubs in March and the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on a Friday night in mid-May.
Last season, the Timbers averaged a point per game on the road. If they can equal or better that pace on this trip, they'll be in an excellent position to make the playoffs. Recent MLS history, as last year's DC United can attest, suggests that it's no disadvantage whatsoever to start with a long road trip.
2. Endless Summer
That's because, of course, the home games add up quickly once its over.
After the end of May, the Timbers will play just five times on the road the rest of the season. Their last trip to the Eastern timezone will be on July 7. Meanwhile, they'll play three home games in June, three in July, five in August, and five in September before concluding the regular season at home against San Jose in October.
The Timbers should do plenty of damage in August and September in particular, when they have a record ten-game homestand that includes three midweek matches against Eastern Conference teams and five in total against clubs that didn't make the playoffs last year.
3. Midweek Action
With MLS condensing significantly its postseason schedule, the regular season will conclude on October 6 — two weeks earlier than it has in the past.
That means more midweek games for every team in the league, the Timbers included. They'll play six midweek games in total this year, double the number of midweek games they played last year, with four at home and three against Eastern Conference opponents.
Starting in mid-June, the schedule will be fairly congested. The Timbers will have five multi-game weeks from then through the end of the season, and could have more depending on their progress in the U.S. Open Cup.
4. Schedule Balance
With MLS at 24 teams with the introduction of Cincinnati this season, the 34-game schedule balances perfectly: the Timbers will play each Western Conference opponent twice, and each Eastern Conference opponent once.
That's positive from a competitive standpoint, but it also means that, for the first time since 2011, the Timbers and Seattle Sounders will only meet twice in the regular season — first at CenturyLink Field on July 21, then at Providence Park on August 23.
Both clubs will also play Vancouver twice, meaning that every game between the three rivals this season will count in the Cascadia Cup standings.
5. Other Notes
— The Timbers are, as always, a national TV draw. Portland be featured on national television 14 times this season — a number eclipsed only by Atlanta, LAFC, and the LA Galaxy.
— Speaking of Atlanta: the MLS Cup rematch will be played at Providence Park on Sunday, August 18.
— MLS will have a week off in June corresponding with the start of the group stage of the Gold Cup.
— In a welcome change from years past, the Timbers will have just two afternoon kickoffs at Providence Park this year. The rest of the club's home games will kickoff between 7 and 8 p.m.
— Though the Timbers have yet to make public their schedule for it, preseason begins in just over two weeks' time.