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Monday game highlights First Kick openers
by Ridge Mahoney, November 29th, 2011 6:12PM

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TAGS:  mls, portland timbers

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[MLS 2012] Having set impressive benchmarks for fan loyalty and enthusiasm at Jeld-Wen Field during its inaugural season, the Portland Timbers will break new ground again in 2012.

The first weekend of the 17th MLS season will be capped by the Timbers hosting an opponent to be named on Monday, March 12. It’s the first time the league has scheduled a Monday regular-season game that doesn't fall on a holiday or was necessitated by a stadium conflict.

Portland is one of nine teams selected to play at home during First Kick, as is nicknamed the start of league play. As is its custom, ML S announced Tuesday the dates of home openers for each of its 19 teams. Opponents for those games will be known upon release of the full schedule, which is expected in early January.

Portland sold out each of its 17 league games last season, and capacity at Jeld-Wen Field will be expanded from 18,627 to more than 21,000. Available season tickets for the 2012 season were increased from 12,500 to 14,500 and have already sold out.

Defending champion Los Angeles is one of six teams to host games on opening day, March 10, with Home Depot Center co-tenant Chivas USA, along with FC Dallas, set to start their home seasons the following day.

Montreal, added last year as the 19th league team, plays its MLS opener at Saputo Stadium during Week 2 on March 17. A new stadium to house MLS Cup finalist Houston is to be unveiled at the Dynamo’s home opener May 12 during the 10th week of the season.

Expansion to 19 teams prompted MLS to change its scheduling format from the balanced procedure by which each team played opponents twice, once at home and once away. Instead, teams will play more games against conference opponents though they will still play each team in the other conference once.

The Rapids hosted Chicago at the old Mile High Stadium in 1998 on Monday, Oct. 5, partially because field preparations for a Sunday NFL game often precluded its use for soccer on the previous Friday or Saturday.

There were three Monday games played on July 4, 2005, and two Fourth of July matches this past season.

Also this year the Galaxy played Sporting Kansas City on a Monday (Sept. 5) in a game rescheduled from its original date (Aug. 13) to accommodate a Farm Aid concert at Livestrong Sporting Park.

The dates of the 2012 home openers:

WEEK 1
March 10 -- Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Los Angeles Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
March 11 -- Chivas USA, FC Dallas.
March 12 -- Portland Timbers.

WEEK 2
March 17 -- Sporting Kansas City, Montreal Impact, Real Salt Lake.
March 18 --  Philadelphia Union.

WEEK 3
March 24 -- Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, Toronto FC.
March 25 -- New York Red Bulls.

WEEK 10
May 12 -- Houston Dynamo.



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