[THIS WEEK IN SOCCER: March 24-30]The early-season picture in MLS will clear up after Week 4's six interconference matches, plus FC Dallas-Portland. Manchester City will face two huge games on the road in its quest to regain the English Premier League title, while Aron Johannsson will lead AZ against Ajax in a rematch of last year's Dutch Cup semifinal.
TUESDAY, March 25:
In recent years, the Manchester United-Manchester City (live on NBCSN at 3:45 p.m. ET) clash has been one of the most-anticipated derbies in English soccer. But with seventh-place United out of the title EPL race -- it trails first-place Chelsea by 18 points -- its only role for the last two months of the season will be as spoiler. City is third in the EPL standings, two points behind Liverpool and six behind Chelsea but with two games in hand on Liverpool and three on Chelsea.
THURSDAY, March 27:
-- The Dutch Cup semifinalbetween AZ and Ajax is a repeat of last year's semifinal won by AZ, 3-0. Jozy Altidore was the hero with two goals and an assist. This year, another American, Aron Johannsson, will lead the AZ attack.
-- The Internationales Fussballfilmfestival kicks off the 11th edition of the annual soccer festival in Berlin (schedule) with Il mundial dimenticato ("the Lost World Cup"), the story of the unsanctioned 1942 World Cup. Never heard of it? It never took place, but the film, done as a documentary, is a parody of what the tournament would have been like, organized by one Count Vladimir von Otz in Patagonia, and played by 12 teams, including one representing the local Mapuche.
SATURDAY, March 29:
-- MLS Week 4 features six interconference clashes. The marquee games are Real Salt Lake-Toronto FC and Vancouver-Houston. All four teams are both unbeaten heading into the matches, while Columbus, which has won its first two games under new coach, Gregg Berhalter, travels to Seattle, winner of two of its first three games. Other interconference matches on tap are Colorado-Sporting KC and San Jose-New England, plus New York-Chivas USA on Sunday. Through the first three weeks, Western Conference teams have dominated with a 5-2-5 record in interconference clashes. Also of note: FC Dallas-Portland, pitting the current Western Conference leader against the 2013 regular-season champion.
-- The Manchester City-Arsenalgame (live on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET) is a must-win match for the Gunners, whose 6-0 loss to Chelsea dropped them into fourth place in the Premier League, seven points off the pace with a game in hand.
-- Former U.S. international Preki, who coached Chivas USA and Toronto FC in MLS, leads Sacramento Republic FCin its USL PRO debut when it travels to face LA Galaxy II, which won its first-ever game, 3-1, on Saturday night. Other teams kicking off their 2014 campaigns: 2013 regular-season champion Richmond, Pittsburgh and Dayton.