There may not be a sale announcement quite yet, but Columbus Crew SC is officially staying where it belongs. The Black & Gold will open the 2019 season at MAPFRE Stadium against the New York Red Bulls in a rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals. The game will kick off on Saturday, March 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Two other Crew SC games were announced as part of Major League Soccer’s unveiling of home openers for teams across the league. In Week 2, Columbus will head to the suburbs of Boston to face the New England Revolution. That game will take place on Saturday, March 9 with a 2 p.m. ET start. Additionally, the Black & Gold will be part of the Montreal Impact’s Stade Saputo home opener on Saturday, April 13 with a 1 pm kick off. The full MLS schedule is expected to be released sometime in January.
The 2019 season marks a change and will look a little different. The 34 game regular season will run from Saturday, March 2 through Decision Day on Sunday, October 6. This shaves off a couple of weeks from the regular season. Teams will play two more midweek games a year as part of the move.
The extra space on the calendar is making room for a bigger change in a revamped playoffs. The MLS postseason will move to single elimination in 2019 with the top seven teams in each conference making the playoffs. The tournament to determine the MLS Cup champion will start after the International Break on Saturday, Oct. 19. With 13 games in total, it’s an accelerated calendar with MLS Cup taking place on Sunday, Nov. 10. MLS has said that the move for the playoffs is to build continuity and reward regular season play. The higher seed has the home field advantage for the single elimination games. The top team in each conference will receive a first round bye and the Supporter’s Shield winner — awarded to the team with the best overall record throughout the season — would never have to play on the road in the new system.
An announcement of Crew SC playing in Columbus in 2019 marks another satisfying waypoint on the path to Saving the Crew. The league gave the potential new ownership group a deadline near the beginning of the new year to have things in place to keep the team in Columbus. Announcements of a new training facility on the current grounds of MAPFRE Stadium and a new downtown stadium for Crew SC were all part of the process of getting the league to transfer ownerships of the Black & Gold to the new group of former team doctor Pete Edwards and Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslan. This schedule announcement is another sign that things are quickly moving in a positive direction.