The worst case for the Union’s 2024 schedule congestion

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

Were the Philadelphia Union to make every final of every tournament it plays during the 2024 regular season, it would play 54 games from February 20 through October 19.

This assumption may be unrealistic – fifty-four matches is an upper limit the Union will almost certainly not reach.

But Ernst Tanner and Jim Curtin will strive to get close. When the FIFA international breaks and their associated national team duties are added to considerably more than MLS’s  34 regular season games, the Boys in Blue face major schedule congestion.

In the worst case perhaps as many as three out of every four games will be played on the third or fourth day after the previous game.

An approximation only

Since this early in the offseason publicly available official data is incomplete, we present a worst case estimate and base it partially on a series of approximations.

Using the sources detailed below, we have laid out a combined schedule for that regular season upper limit. The layout is  of course unofficial, and  will prove inaccurate, but when you plan, it makes sense to plan according to worst-case scenarios, not best-case.

We count fifty-four possible matches from First Tap through Decision Day. The number excludes any MLS Cup playoffs. It is an upper limit. There can be no more than 54.

Here are the sources from which we have worked. We note those that are official. More are unofficial approximations, and the last one of those includes some partially educated guesswork.

  • Major League Soccer’s schedule has recently been published. Those 34 matches are firm data.
  • Round One of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup (CCC or C) is equally firm.
  • The date ranges for subsequent CCC rounds have been published, so assumptions about actual game dates can be plausibly made should advancement occur. When the published date range is three days, we have used the middle day. When only two days are given, we used the later one.
  • If last year’s rules still apply, the Union should enter the Lamar Hunt U. S. Open Cup (USOC or O) in the Round of 16. The date ranges of the USOC’s rounds are published. We estimated game placement using the same pattern as for the CCC described immediately above.
  • We have no official information whatsoever about the 2024 Leagues Cup (LC or L). Our estimate (the extensive Appendix below) assumes it will follow the same rules that governed 2023. The LC estimate also discusses our confidence levels in its three major components. To summarize, the seeding rankings of MLS and Liga MX are solid barring any rule changes. But the geographic placement of the unseeded teams is guesswork that is only slightly more reliable than throwing darts at a map, since we do not know how choices were made last year. NYC FC’s placement in particular exists because as good Philadelphia fans we all hate New York.

Our presentation gives a realistic  impression of the problem Philadelphia faces. But it is not reliable enough to plan family vacations or to sketch out future ticket purchases.

A general impression

In our worst case model 40 of the 54 games would be played on the third or fourth day after the previous match. Three out of every four Union games in 2024 could be played on only three- or four-days’ rest.

Of the dates charted below only the MLS ones (M) below are official. All others (C, L, and O) are estimated.

[4 games] [9 games] [27 games] [13 games] [1 game]
> 9th day 5th, 6th,  7th day 4th day 3rd day 1st day
19Oct M 28Sep M 2Oct M 5Oct M 2Jun C
14Sep M 24Aug M 22Sep M 25Sep O
15Jun M 2Aug L 18Sep M 31Aug M
24Apr C 29Jun M 28Aug O 20Jul M
11May M 18Aug L 13Jul M
4May M 14Aug L 6Jul M
30Mar M 10Aug L 22Jun M
23Mar M 6Aug L 1Jun M
20Feb C 28Jul L 25May M
24Jul L 18May M
17Jul M 27Apr M
10Jul O 6Apr M
3Jul M 27Feb C
19Jun M
29May M
22May O
15May M
1May C
14Apr M
10Apr C
3Apr C
16Mar M
13Mar C
9Mar M
6Mar C
2Mar M
24Feb M

The dates for the non-MLS matches should vary by only one day either way from the one given.

Appendix: Estimating the 2024 Leagues Cup

We assume the 2024 Leagues Cup will imitate 2023 exactly and play every fourth day. We recreate that pattern as congruently as possible without regard for adjustments demanded by TV and streaming.

Major League Soccer plays a Spring, Summer, and Fall single season totaling 34 regular season games, followed by a postseason playoff. Liga MX plays Fall, Winter, and Spring, with an Apertura sequence for the first 17 regular season games and a separate Clausera one for the second set of 17. Both the Apertura and the Clausera are each followed by playoffs, the Apertura Liguilla and the Clausera Liguilla.

Since the two leagues are not congruent, to create equitable seeding Liga MX complies a special table, an aggregate covering a single calendar year that combines the second half of a calendar year’s earlier season with the same calendar year’s first half of the next. Our unofficial calculation of the 2023 Aggregate Table follows below to the right of the corresponding MLS one.

Since there still are 47 teams in the two leagues, 47 teams will participate in the 2024 Leagues Cup tournament. Forty-five will be placed in 15 groups of three in the group stage. Placement, aka seeding, is based on two tables: the 2023 MLS Modified Supporters Shield (adjusted for MLS Cup playoff results), and the aforementioned Aggregate Table. 2023’s calendar years are therefore compared accurately in spite of the two leagues playing different calendars.

The top ranked two teams of the 47 will pass directly to the tournament’s single elimination knockout stage. They will be joined by the top two from each group to form a round of 32 to open the knockout stage. The knockouts proceed using single elimination through five rounds to a third-place match and a final. The winner, the runner-up, and the third-place finisher advance to the 2025 Concacaf Champions Cup.

All matches of the tournament will be played in MLS stadiums regardless of seeding rank. Philadelphia will have its two group-stage matches at Subaru Park. The third match of its group will occur at the non-seeded MLS team’s stadium. The pattern will be followed in the other 14 groups.

The two Liga MX teams in LA FC’s group and FC Cincinnati’s will play at LA FC’s and Cincinnati’s stadiums respectively when they play head to head.

Here are our unofficial estimates of the necessary seeding tables.


2023 MLS  Modified “Supporters’ Shield”



2023 Liga MX Aggregate Table

1 Columbus Bye 1 America Bye
2 LA FC 2nd 2 Monterrey 2nd
3 Cincinnati 3rd 3 Guadalajara 3rd
4 Houston 4th 4 Tigres 4th
5 Orlando 5th 5 Toluca 5th
6 Philadelphia 6th 6 Leon 6th
7 Seattle 7th 7 Pachuca 7th
8 Kansas City 8th 8 Pumas 8th
9 St. Louis 9th 9 Puebla 9th
10 Revolution 10th 10 San Luis 10th
11 Atlanta 11th 11 SantosLaguna 11th
12 Salt Lake 12th 12 Cruz Azul 12th
13 Nashville 13th 13 Queretaro 13th
14 Vancouver 14th 14 Atlas 14th
15 Dallas 15th 15 Tijuana 15th
16 NY Red Bull 16th 16 Juarez 16th
17 San Jose Not 17 Necaxa Not
18 Charlotte Not 18 Mazatlan Not
19 Portland Not
20 Montreal Not

Rules for classification:


1) Points;

2) Goal difference;

3) Number of goals scored;

4) Head-to-head results between tied teams;

5) Number of goals scored away;

6) Highest relegation coefficient;

7) Fair Play points


The first three differ-entiated 2023.

21 Minnesota Not
22 NYC FC Not
23 D. C. Not
24 Chicago Not
25 Austin Not
26 LA Galaxy Not
27 Miami Not
28 Colorado Not
29 Toronto Not
·       Non-playoff clubs are ranked in the order of their regular season points.
·        MLS Cup Playoffs  teams are then grouped by the round of the playoffs in which they were eliminated, with the teams earning the fewest regular season points being ranked the lowest within the group, etc.
·       The winners of MLS Cup are given the top place, and the losers are given second place.
Estimated Group Stage Matchups

Unless the rules for classification have changed, the two seeded teams in each group are almost certainly correct . But the geographic distribution of the non-seeded teams that follows may be wildly inaccurate.

MLS v Liga MX MLS Liga MX Group Non-seeded, Geography
2 v 16 LA FC Juarez West 1 ?Mazatlan?
3 v 15 Cincinnati Tijuana Central 1 ?Necaxa?
4 v 14 Houston Atlas South 1 ?Miami?
5 v 13 Orlando Queretaro South 2 ?Austin?
6 v 12 Philadelphia Cruz Azul East 1 ?Toronto?
7 v 11 Seattle Santos Laguna West 2 ?LA Galaxy?
8 v 10 Kansas City San Luis Central 2 ?Colorado?
9 v 9 St. Louis Puebla Central 3 ?Chicago?
10 v 8 New England Pumas East 2 ?D. C.?
11 v 7 Atlanta Pachuca South 3 ?Charlotte?
12 v 6 Salt Lake Leon West 3 ?San Jose?
13 v 5 Nashville Toluca Central 4 ?Minnesota?
14 v 4 Vancouver Tigres West 4 ?Portland?
15 v 3 Dallas Guadalajara South 4 ?NYC FC?
16 v 2 NY Red Bull Monterrey East 3 ?Montreal?

MLS Cup winner Columbus and Liga MX 2023 Aggregate Table winner Club America will bye directly to the Round of 32 in the Knockout Stage of the tournament.

Groups and Group Stage Dates

These are guesses based on last year’s rhythm that was described as being World Cup-like. Since that is in four day intervals, we think the group stage matches will be played on T/R, July 23–25, S/M. July 27–29, and W/F, July 31–Aug 3, 2024.

Here is an unofficial guess how that might look.

West 1 West 2 West 3 West 4
T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25
S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29
W/F, July 31–Aug3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3
LA FC, Juarez, &    ?Mazatlan? Seattle, Santos Lag-una, & ?LA Galaxy? Salt Lake, Leon &      ?San Jose? Vancouver, Tigres, & ?Portland?
South 1 South 2 South 3 South 4
T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25
S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29
W/F, July 31–Aug3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3
Houston, Atlas &   ?Miami? Orlando, Queretaro, & ?Austin? Atlanta, Pachuca, &  ?Charlotte? Dallas, Guadalajara, & ?NYC FC?
Central 1 Central 2 Central 3 Central 4
T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25
S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29
W/F, July 31–Aug3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3
Cincinnati, Tiju-ana, & ?Necaxa? Kansas City, San Luis, & ?Colorado? St. Louis, Puebla, &  ?Chicago? Nashville, Toluca, & ?Minnesota?
East 1 East 2 East 3
T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25 T/R, July 23–25
S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29 S/M. July 27–29
W/F, July 31–Aug3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3 W/F, July 31–Aug 3
Philadelphia, Cruz Azul, & ?Toronto? New England, Pumas, & ?D. C.? NY Red Bull, Mon-terrey, & ?Montreal?

M = Monday, T = Tuesday, W = Wednesday, R = Thursday, F = Friday, S = Saturday, U = Sunday


  1. James McCrone says:

    This is a sound argument (warning?) for more depth in the lineups. There was a definite malaise in the final third of the season last year, due largely, I think, to the packed schedule.

  2. Awesome grouping of information here, thank you.
    I know there is a lot of arguing online as to weather the Union need to spend more and be more aggressive. I certainly think they need to be, but at the very least there needs to be a good amount of depth brought in, much more than we had last year.
    The other adjustment, which doesn’t get mentioned as much, is Jim’s willingness to actually play other people and make earlier subs, so that the depth we do have doesn’t get run down.

  3. Add the possibility of McGlynn, Sullivan, and maybe Harriel being gone for the Olympics. Gazdag and Baribo gone for the Euros. Blake and Lowe gone (for Gold Cup?) Martinez and Bueno being gone for a South American tournament… How many of these international tournaments is MLS stopping play for ?

    • Blake, Lowe and Martinez will be gone for the Conmebol Copa America in cooperation with Concacaf. It will be played in the United States.

      • Thanks, I wasn’t sure if that was this year or next year. MLS isn’t shutting down for that “international break” however are they ?

      • Soccer Dad, the situation is complex.
        1. The “regular” FIFA international break runs from 3-June Monday to 11-June, Tuesday, except for UEFA. Euro 24 and Copa America 24 that do not occur in that break.
        2. FIFA’s international match schedule recognizes both UEFA’s Euro 24 and CONMEBOL’s 2024 Copa America in cooperation with Concacaf. (see Wikipedia. Search “FIFA International match calendar.”)
        You are correct that MLS and the US Open Cup play right through the two tournaments.
        The prestige of the two is such that players will be excused to play in each. I do not know for certain that FIFA requires them to be excused, but in the case of the Union past behavior, specifically what Jim Curtin always says when asked, strongly suggests they will be.
        So, the short answer is “No, MLS is not shutting down for that extra international break.”

      • Prediction: Martinez takes out Blake in the Venezuela – Jamaica Copa America game with both being out injured for multiple months.

  4. Don’t care about tournaments and other Apple Nonsense. SIGN Wagner or upgrade which will be hard to do. Acquire a Good back up goalie. No More Bendiks. Replace Caranza with a quality Forward. Not much faith in Baribo and Donavan is no starter. Resign Bedoya for leadership skills. Start Mc Glynn. Dump Torres,there is a reason Montréal let him go. Need to aquire a quality attacking midfielder who can play on the left when Wagner is out of the Line or the Union are foolish enough to let him walk. This team can not afford to not upgrade every year. Play your scrubs in meangless tournaments. The goal should be hit your peak Performane in September with Healthy rested starters.

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    A couple additional dates can be modified rather than estimated. If the Union make it to the second round of Champions Cup, the games will be on March 5 (in Chester) and March 12 (at Pachuca). Those were announced a couple of weeks ago on the Union’s website.
    Also, it’s worth noting that the March 23 game (in Portland) is during an international break so it’s likely that the team won’t even be able to field a full bench for that one.

  6. That is a lot of games, and management needs to be prepared. As far as I am concerned, backup goalie ought to be first priority because a good goalie can keep the team in games when the field players play poorly (or when they are dog-tired). Over the past 5 years we have seen Andre Blake “steal” points. He needs a sidekick this year.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      If this was Europe, I would agree. But in a league with a salary cap, you can’t afford to spend too much money on a player that is unlikely to play more than 10 or so games (barring injury). I think they are better off giving the time to the kids on the roster and see if they are worth keeping and developing further.

      • MLS Salary Cap Scam and Garbers Inner Circle …….Miami and LA are paying players under the table with creative financing.Other team have done this as well. They have found lots of ways to avoid the salary cap. ie. give them a % of apple revenues (Messi, Alba ,Suarez etc. ), free homes, free cars , paying the players wives via some business arrangement (Bale)LAFC 2 years ago . The salary cap only applies to cash poor owners with crappy sponsors. who are not part of Garbers inner circle. Its a bunch of FN BS. At least FIFA and the Elite leadership get their hands slapped once in a while or investigated by the sports media. Apple and Garber have no integrity. No MLS coach will risk his future career to challange the corruption going on in the MLS. It would be an interesting topic for Philly Soccer Page, the Players association or ESPN to investigate. The salary cap is a joke fellas.

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