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The Crew’s 2023 schedule: Breaking down the Black & Gold’s slate

What fans should be aware of when it comes to the Crew’s 2023 schedule.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Doral Chenoweth/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

In the middle of the holiday season and the waning moments of 2022, MLS and the Columbus Crew left a holiday present for Crew fans in the form of the 2023 MLS schedule. The 2023 schedule gives coaches, players and fans their first glimpse at the teams that will be making their way to Lower.com Field and an opportunity to block off the calendars for some important Black & Gold dates.

Let’s take a detailed look at what stands out about Columbus’ schedule.

2023 schedule by the numbers

MLS will once again set a 34 match regular season schedule, 17 at home and 17 on the road. Each team plays the other teams in their conference twice and fills the remainder of their schedule with teams from the other conference. With St. Louis City SC joining MLS and being placed in the Western Conference, Nashville SC moves back to the East, bringing the total to 15 while the West stands at 14. That leaves 28 Crew matches with East rivals and six matches against the West, three at home (Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids) and three on the road (Portland Timbers, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas).

The move to Apple TV+ for the league’s broadcasting package also signals a push by Apple and MLS to create nationwide windows for matches. Most matches will be played on Saturdays with Wednesday and Sunday matches scattered in. A handful of matches will be played on other days if scheduling purposes necessitate. As it stands, the Black & Gold have 26 Saturday matches, five on Wednesdays, two on Sundays and one on a Tuesday (which also happens to be July 4). As was the case in 2022, Columbus will have six multi-match weeks during the season.

The push to set national viewing windows will see the vast majority of matches start at 7:30 p.m. local time. The Crew has 27 matches that will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET four matches that are set to kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET and one match, against Portland, that will start at 10:30 p.m. ET. Two matches are TBA, away to New York City FC on June 17 and Decision Day’s home match against CF Montreal on Oct. 21.

The majority of matches will be on Apple TV+’s new MLS Season Pass, but the Black & Gold have two that will also be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 — at Nashville SC on May 28 and Hell is Real at Lower.com Field on Aug. 20.

Crewsmas 2023

Columbus opens the season on the road at Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Union on Feb. 25, which means Crew fans will be spared from a February Crewsmas. They won’t have to wait long, however, with the Lower.com Field home-opener on March 4 against old rivals DC United.

Hell is Real

The first Hell is Real match of 2023 will be at FC Cincinnati on May 20. The Black & Gold welcome their rivals to Columbus on Aug. 20 for a match broadcast on FS1.

Western Conference visitors

Three Western Conference foes make the trip to Columbus in 2023 with Real Salt Lake stopping by on April 1, the LA Galaxy playing a mid-week match at Lower.com Field on May 17 and the Colorado Rapids making their own mid-week trip two weeks later on May 31.

Two notable Western Conference absences on this year’s schedule are Austin FC and expansion side St. Louis CITY SC. The Verde are not on the schedule for 2023 so Crew fans will have to wait at least another year for that matchup. Similarly, Black & Gold supporters looking to make a road trip for a match in St. Louis will have to wait for the team’s first match against the expansion team.

MLS All-Star match and Leagues Cup

The upcoming season’s MLS All-Star match is scheduled for July 19 and will be played at Audi Field. An opponent has yet to be announced.

This season marks the first year of the Leagues Cup, played between MLS and Liga MX. This tournament will be played between July 20 and Aug. 19. Teams will be guaranteed two group stage matches, with the top two teams from each group moving on to the knockout round. By virtue of their 15th place finish last year, the Black & Gold earned the final seeded spot in MLS and will play host to two home matches during this window.

Notable home matches

With or without their star-power, the LA Galaxy are always a must-see team. LA’s original MLS teams make the trip to Columbus on May 17. Trillium Cup rivals Toronto FC come to Lower.com Field on Aug. 26, giving Crew fans their first chance to see Lorenzo Insigne in person. Pedro Santos returns to Columbus with D.C. for Crewsmas and Derrick Etienne Jr. will make his first trip back to Central Ohio following his offseason signing with Atlanta United on March 25. For new manager Wilfried Nancy, Decision Day on October 21 sees his former club, CF Montreal come to town.

Notable road matches

The Crew makes three trips to the Western Conference this year but only one trip all the way to the West Coast at Portland on July 15. The Black & Gold play longtime Columbus player Artur in Houston on Aug. 30 and will trek to former Crew owners, the Hunt family, and FC Dallas on Sept. 23.

Nancy will oversee his first return to Montreal following his departure from the club on Sept. 2

Messi? Probably not.

Rumors have been flying around the soccer world that World Cup winner Lionel Messi might be signing with Inter Miami following the conclusion of the 2022-23 Paris Saint-Germain season. Does that mean the Black & Gold could play the legendary Messi in 2023? Probably not.

Miami makes the team’s only trip to Columbus on April 29, more than a month before the final match for PSG. The Crew travel to Miami on July 4, so there is certainly a chance that Messi does play in that game (if he signs with Inter) but that match comes barely four weeks after the final match for PSG.

Competing sporting events

A minimum of six of the Black & Gold’s 17 home matches will be held on the same day as another major Columbus-area sports team in 2023 with the majority of those overlaps occurring with the Columbus Clippers. The minor league baseball team will have four games on the same day as the Crew host a match at Lower.com Field (May 17, July 1, Aug. 26, and Sept. 20). The 2022-23 Columbus Blue Jackets home schedule only overlaps with the Black & Gold home schedule on April 1, but there could be additional overlap later in the season as the Blue Jackets begin their 2023-24 campaign in mid-October.

In the biggest stroke of scheduling luck, the Ohio State football team and the Crew only share one home day in common, on Oct. 21 when Columbus host Montreal on Decision Day and the Buckeyes host Penn State. Unfortunately, these are two big matchups with game times not yet announced.