top of page
Search

2024 Soccer Almanac: Dates to note for the coming year

December 30, 2023 by Charles Boehm | Courtesy of www.mlssoccer.com




A year of soccer is gone; long live the year of soccer.


With MLS aiming for new heights, a Summer Olympics, the Copa América returning to North America and continental championship tournaments on tap for Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania, 2024 promises to be another jam-packed trip around the sun for soccer lovers.


Here are some key dates to track in the soccer smorgasbord ahead.


WINTER


Jan. 5: MAC Hermann Trophy ceremony

St. Louis, Mo.


The top individual prize in college soccer, this award recognizing the NCAA’s best is presented at a dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club, where past winners Alexi Lalas, Lori Chalupny and Mike Sorber will be special guests. Many others like them have gone on to successful professional and international careers.


The 2023-24 men’s finalists are Western Michigan forward Charlie Sharp (who was selected by Toronto FC in the 2023 SuperDraft), Clemson forward Ousmane Sylla (Houston Dynamo FC's second-round 2024 SuperDraft pick) and Wake Forest defender Garrison Tubbs (an Atlanta United homegrown who was traded to D.C. United on Dec. 21, 2023).


This season’s women’s finalists are Nebraska forward Eleanor Dale, Florida State University midfielder Onyi Echegini and Brigham Young forward Brecken Mozingo.


​January 8-20: US men’s national team January camp


Orlando, Fla.


The USMNT’s first official gathering of the year: usually winter workouts for MLS-based players and others based in leagues with similar schedules. The Yanks will train in central Florida before pulling up stakes for San Antonio, Texas, for a friendly vs. Slovenia on Jan. 20 at Toyota Field, home of USL Championship club San Antonio FC (3 pm ET; broadcast on TNT, Telemundo, Universo, Max and Peacock).


As these matches fall outside FIFA international windows, head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff will generally not be able to call in European-based players on duty at their clubs.


Jan. 10-14: United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA) Convention


Anaheim, Calif.


This annual wintertime gathering of thousands of coaches, players, referees, executives and many, many others from across the soccer world is perhaps the biggest event of its kind on earth. This year’s presenters include Javier Zanetti, Laura Harvey, Jermaine Jones and Tori Penso, and many figures from MLS past and present will also be among the dozens leading seminars and sessions. As it once did for MLS’s SuperDraft, the convention also plays host to the National Women's Soccer League’s draft, set for Jan. 12.


Jan. 12-Feb. 10: 2023 AFC Asian Cup


Qatar


With hosting rights shifted from China due to COVID-19 policies, the 18th edition of Asia’s quadrennial international men's championship will take place in the Gulf State that hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Originally scheduled for June and July of 2023, this event was moved to the Northern Hemisphere winter to sidestep the region’s sizzling summer heat while retaining the same name. Qatar also happens to be the tournament’s defending champs. Twenty-four teams from across the world’s largest confederation will vie for top honors at the event.


​Jan. 13: MLS preseason begins


The starting line for the annual MLS marathon, when players and coaches report to their respective clubs as preparations for the new season get underway. Many teams leave their local markets in search of mild weather and quiet settings conducive to focusing on the hard work of physical and tactical periodization on the training ground, interspersed with preseason matches. Eleven MLSers are confirmed to be taking part in the Coachella Valley Invitational in Indio, California from Feb. 7-17; official announcements of further preseason camps and events in Arizona, Florida and other destinations are expected in the coming days.


Jan. 13-Feb. 11: 2023 Africa Cup of Nations


Cote d'Ivoire


The 34th edition of Africa’s top international tournament will unfold this winter, with 24 teams playing at six stadiums in Abidjan, Bouaké, Korhogo, San-Pédro and Yamoussoukro. Like the Asian Cup, it was originally scheduled to take place in the Northern Hemisphere summer, but was later moved due to weather concerns in the West African host nation. Senegal are defending champions thanks to their 2021 triumph in Cameroon.


​Jan. 22-29: NWSL preseason begins


Players and coaches across the National Women's Soccer League, North America's top women's pro competition, report to their respective clubs as preparations for the new season, NWSL’s 12th, begin.


​Feb. 6: Concacaf Champions Cup begins


A familiar tournament puts an old name on a new iteration of itself for its 59th edition this spring, as North America's top club championship drops the “League” moniker in favor of a return to the “Cup” identity it carried from 1962 to 2008. The field of participants will also expand from 16 to 27, beginning with 11 first-round matchups.


A record 10 MLS teams will participate in CCC 2024. Cincinnati, Houston, Nashville, New England, Orlando, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Vancouver will begin their CCC runs in the opening round (see matchups here), while Columbus and Miami, as MLS Cup and Leagues Cup winners, respectively, are among five clubs earning a first-round bye who will thus join in the round of 16.


Those MLS-based qualifiers will compete with top clubs from Liga MX and other leagues across the continent in a knockout-style bracket with two-legged home-and-home series in each round save for the championship final, which will now be played as a single-leg match on a weekend date, this year’s on June 2.


​Feb. 6-Nov. 30: Copa Conmebol Libertadores


The top club competition in South America, Libertadores is a yearlong pursuit of that continent’s top club honor by 47 top clubs across 10 nations. With pride, passion and a hefty prize kitty on the line, it’s one of the most compelling tournaments in the world. This year’s winner will also qualify for the 2024 FIFA Intercontinental Cup, the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2025 Copa Libertadores group stage. Brazilian club Fluminense are defending champs.


Feb. 8-11: U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting


Dallas, Texas


The 2024 edition of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s annual gathering of board members, member associations and stakeholders. The fed’s board of directors usually meets on the Friday of AGM weekends, with the National Council Meeting on the following day.


​Feb. 13-March 13: UEFA Champions League Round of 16


US and Canadian players are featuring in record numbers in Europe’s top club competition. With the group stage complete, the stakes ratchet up that much further as the elimination phase of the 2023-24 tournament gets underway with eight two-legged ties across the continent.


Feb. 17-March 10: Concacaf W Gold Cup


Southern California and Houston, Texas

For the first time, the North American confederation will hold a women’s edition of its well-established regional international championship tournament, with Canada, the United States, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and three other to-be-determined Concacaf nations welcoming Conmebol guests Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay.


Matches will be held at the LA Galaxy's Dignity Health Sports Park, LAFC's BMO Stadium, Houston Dynamo FC's Shell Energy Stadium and Snapdragon Stadium, future home of 2025 MLS expansion debutants San Diego FC. Snapdragon will host the semifinals and final. At the start of the event, Haiti, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana and the Dominican Republic will compete for the three final places in the tournament proper.


Feb. 21: MLS regular season begins


Year 29 arrives, and with 29 member clubs on board. MLS’s earliest-ever start to a season takes place on a rare Wednesday standalone date, with Lionel Messi and his star-studded Inter Miami CF carrying great expectations as they host Real Salt Lake at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).


Most of 2024’s opening matchday takes place that weekend, including freshly-crowned MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew welcoming Atlanta United to Lower.com Field and a meeting of Western Conference powerhouses in LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders FC among a packed slate of games on Saturday, Feb. 24, as well as a trio of Sunday matches the following day.


Spring dates TBA: MLS NEXT Pro regular season begins

Major League Soccer’s lower-division professional league, MLS NEXT Pro, kicks off its third season of existence, welcoming the addition of two independent clubs, Carolina Core FC and Chattanooga FC. The competition provides an integrated player pathway from the MLS NEXT academy competition up to MLS first teams, offering young players and experienced pros the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents. Austin FC II won the 2023 league championship. Full schedules and other details are to be released in the coming weeks.


March 5-7 and 12-14: Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16


Will “CCL Fever” become “CCC Fever”? In any case, this tournament intensifies as the 11 survivors of Round One advance to join pre-seeded clubs Columbus Crew, Inter Miami, Alajuelense, CF Pachuca and SV Robinhood for another batch of two-legged, home-and-away ties at locales across North America.


March 9: USL Championship season begins


The United States’ second-division pro league kicks off its 14th campaign with 24 member teams playing a 34-game regular season slate. Expansion club Rhode Island FC make their debut, while North Carolina return to the second tier after three seasons in the third-division USL League One. The USL Championship uses a single-elimination, fixed-bracket playoffs format featuring the top eight finishers in each of its two conferences.


March 9: USL League One season begins


The third-tier pro league kicks off its sixth campaign with 12 member teams, each playing a balanced, 22-game regular season. The top eight finishers will take part in the playoffs in the fall. New for this year, League One will introduce an in-season cup competition with dedicated matchdays from late April through August.


March 15: NWSL Challenge Cup


It’s the starting line for the 14 clubs of the NWSL as the league’s 12th season gets underway. In a format shift from previous campaigns, each team will play 22 league matches, all on weekend dates, while the NWSL Challenge Cup will now run concurrently on midweek dates during the season, an additional six matches per team. The top four finishers in the Challenge Cup’s group stage will advance to a knockout phase in September.


​March 16: NWSL season begins


It’s the starting line for the 14 clubs of the NWSL as the league’s 12th season gets underway. In addition to a new broadcasting deal involving four media partners, two expansion sides join the field for 2024, with Real Salt Lake’s sibling side Utah Royals FC returning to the fold after a three-year hiatus and Bay FC (San Francisco Bay area) making their debut, based at the San Jose Earthquakes’ PayPal Park. The Kansas City Current will also make history when they open their new home, CPKC Stadium, the first privately-financed stadium purpose-built for a professional women's soccer team.


Each team will play a balanced, 26-match schedule with breaks for the Summer Olympics and other international windows, with the top eight finishers qualifying for the playoffs in November. Several NWSL teams play in MLS venues, and the Royals, Houston Dash, Orlando Pride and Portland Thorns are affiliated with their hometown MLS clubs.


​Spring dates TBA: NISA spring season begins


Another third-tier league, the National Independent Soccer Association, will embark on its season with around a dozen member clubs competing. Flower City Union of Rochester, New York are defending champions. An adjunct amateur/pro-am competition dubbed the NISA Independent Cup will also take place, comprising clubs across the United States.


​March 16-26: FIFA men’s international fixture window


National teams across the globe will convene during this time, a period in which clubs must release their players for international duty. In North America, this will feature the championship weekend of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League, set for AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.


Jamaica and the defending champions United States will face off in one semifinal while Mexico meet Panama in the other, a doubleheader set for March 21. The winners will meet in the CNL final on March 24, while the losers take part in a third-place match on the same day.

Meanwhile, Canada will try to book one of the final two spots in the summer’s Copa América in this window when they face Trinidad and Tobago in one of two play-in matches at FC Dallas’ Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on March 23; Costa Rica and Honduras will duel in the other.


​March 19-21: 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup begins

The 109th edition of one of the oldest soccer tournaments in the world, the United States’ national cup competition kicks off in earnest with First Round action.


​April dates TBA: Canadian Premier League begins


Canada’s pro league will kick off its sixth season this spring, with Forge FC (Hamilton) defending their back-to-back 2022 and ‘23 championships. Other member clubs include Atletico Ottawa, Cavalry FC (Calgary), HFX Wanderers (Halifax), Pacific FC (Langford, BC), Valour FC (Winnipeg), York United and Vancouver FC. After 28 matches apiece in the regular season, the top five finishers qualify for the playoffs. Both the North Star Cup winner (playoffs) and regular-season champions (the CPL Shield, won by Cavalry in ‘23) now earn berths in the expanded Concacaf Champions Cup.


April dates TBA: 2024 Canadian Championship begins


Every year Canada’s pro and top semi-pro teams, 14 in all for this year’s edition, compete in this riveting tournament for possession of the Voyageurs Cup, national bragging rights and a Concacaf Champions Cup berth. Vancouver Whitecaps FC are the back-to-back defending champions; they, along with CF Montréal, will receive byes to the ‘24 quarterfinals by virtue of reaching the previous year’s final.


Apr. 2-4 and 9-11: Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals


Champions Cup continues with four matchups featuring the eight round-of-16 winners.


Apr. 6-9: SheBelieves Cup


Atlanta, other site(s) TBA


The US women’s national team welcomes three other elite women’s sides to the States for this annual spring tournament hosted by US Soccer, albeit in a revised format. Due to the advent of the Concacaf W Gold Cup, SheBelieves is shifting from a six-game format to four games across two dates, the first of which has already been announced as a doubleheader at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of Atlanta United, with the USWNT playing a yet-to-be-revealed opponent at 12:30 pm ET, followed by a match between the tournament’s other two participants at 3:30 pm ET.


That day’s winners will meet in a championship final on Apr. 9, while the losers take part in a third-place match on the same day. While the site for those matches has not yet been announced, holding SheBelieves’ opening date in Atlanta is a nod to its recent selection as the site for US Soccer’s new headquarters and training facility, with construction set to begin on the 200-plus-acre facility in Trilith, Georgia in the spring.


​Apr. 23-25 and Apr. 3-May 2: Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals


CCC continues with the final four survivors vying for a place in the tournament final.


​May 11-18: Rivalry Week


This celebration of MLS’s most heated matchups includes a Hell is Real rematch of the epic 2023 Eastern Conference Final between Columbus and Cincinnati, CF Montréal and Toronto FC’s Canadian Classiqiue, New York's Hudson River Derby, in-state showdowns in Florida and Texas and more.


May 17: 74th FIFA Congress meeting


Bangkok, Thailand


This grand conclave of the leaders of world soccer’s governing body usually features a full slate of funding and policy deliberations. Upwards of a thousand delegates from Canada, the United States and 209 other member associations are expected to congregate at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, with the awarding of hosting rights for the 2027 Women's World Cup among the chief items on the docket; a joint US-Mexico bid is competing with Brazil and a joint Belgium-Germany-Netherlands proposal.


May 22: UEFA Europa League final


Dublin, Ireland


Europe’s second-tier club competition often serves up just as much entertainment as the Champions League, particularly the latter stages of the knockout phase. This year’s final will be hosted at Aviva Stadium in the Republic of Ireland’s capital city, and a new winner is guaranteed thanks to seven-time champions and current holders Sevilla having crashed out of European competition in December.


SUMMER


​June 1: UEFA Champions League final


London, United Kingdom


One of the biggest games in the world every year and the summit of European club soccer, this time hosted at Wembley Stadium, England’s cherished, 90,000-capacity home.


June 2: Concacaf Champions Cup final


The top club honor in North America will be decided this year via a single-legged tie for the first time ever. Will another MLS team match the Seattle Sounders’ 2021 breakthrough, or will Liga MX resume their streak of superiority? Or perhaps a dark horse from elsewhere in the region will surprise?


​June 3-11: FIFA men’s international fixture window


National teams around the world will gather for the first fixture dates of the Northern Hemisphere summer to play up to two matches, with the exception of UEFA nations, given the proximity of that region’s Euro 2024 tournament.


June 14-July 14: UEFA European Championship


Germany


Historically revered as one of the few tournaments that can compare to a World Cup, the Euros return to the center of the continent this year after the far-flung experiment of hosting the 2020 edition in 11 different countries, some of them thousands of miles apart. Ten cities will welcome 24 participating nations; Italy are defending champions.


June 15-30: OFC Nations Cup


Vanuatu


Looking for a soccer occasion well off the beaten path? Eight teams from across Oceania, the world game’s smallest and perhaps quirkiest confederation, will gather in a tiny island chain between Australia and Fiji to hold the region’s international championship for the first time in eight years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic having forced the cancellation of the 2020 OFC Nations Cup. Oceania’s sole “giants,” New Zealand, have won five of the tournament’s previous 10 editions and are defending champs thanks to their 2016 success in Papua New Guinea.


June 20-July 14: Copa América


Fourteen venues across the United States

After the massive success of the Copa América Centenario on US soil in 2016, Conmebol and Concacaf decided to run it back eight years later, with the South American confederation’s 10 member nations again joined by six qualifiers from North America. MLS stadia in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Kansas City and Orlando are among the venues, with the championship final set for Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.


The USMNT have already booked their place in Copa América by virtue of their Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals victory over Trinidad and Tobago in November, and were allotted into Group C along with Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia at the tournament draw in December. T&T, Canada, Costa Rica and Honduras will vie for the final two spots in two play-in matches in Frisco, Texas on March 23. Given their automatic-qualification status as co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup, Copa América represents a vital opportunity for Canada, Mexico and the United States to test themselves during this cycle.


​July 24: MLS All-Star Game


Columbus, Ohio


This year MLS’s midseason exhibition showcase and its many surrounding events take place at and around Lower.com Field, the glittering downtown home of the 2023 MLS Cup-winning Crew, whose head coach Wilfried Nancy will lead the MLS squad. The opponent is yet to be announced.


July 24-Aug. 10: Olympic football tournaments

France


The Paris Summer Olympics will include men’s (a predominantly under-23 tournament with 16 teams) and women’s (12 teams, full senior squads) soccer tournaments held at seven venues across the country, with ample North American involvement. Brazil are the current men’s gold-medal holders; Canada are the reigning gold medalists on the women’s side, while the USWNT won bronze four years ago in Japan.


Both the Canadian and US women qualified for Paris out of the Concacaf region; this time around, the US men are also taking part, thanks to their first successful qualification campaign since 2008. Several MLS-based players are in contention to make US U-23s coach Marko Mitrović’s final roster.


​July 26-Aug. 25: Leagues Cup


All of MLS and Liga MX – 47 clubs in all – will again take part in this summer tournament, with both leagues pausing their domestic regular seasons for a month. Messi and Inter Miami mounted a dramatic run to the trophy in 2023, the first edition of its expanded rendition. The top three finishers will again earn berths in the following year’s Concacaf Champions Cup.


​August/September, details TBA: 2024 Campeones Cup


This year’s supercup-style clash between the champions of MLS and Liga MX’s Campeon de Campeones will feature Columbus vs. the winner of the annual meeting between the fall (Club América claimed the 2023 Apertura title) and spring season champs of the Mexican top flight.


Aug. 31-Sept. 22: 2024 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup


Colombia


A key women’s youth international tournament, this time freshly expanded to 24 participating teams, including the US and Canada, who qualified from Concacaf’s regional championship event in late spring 2023. Defending champions are Spain, whose 2022 title at under-20 level turned out to presage their senior side’s breakthrough victory at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.


AUTUMN


​​Sept. 2-10: FIFA men’s international fixture window


National teams may gather full-strength squads to play as many as two matches during this period.


Sept. 25: 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final


The decisive match for the United States’ oldest and most beloved cup competition.


​Oct. 7-15: FIFA men’s international fixture window


National teams may gather full-strength squads to play as many as two matches during this period.


Oct. 16-Nov. 3: 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup


Dominican Republic


One of FIFA’s tentpole youth tournaments returns to the Concacaf region, with 16 of the world’s top under-17 national teams gathering in the Caribbean this autumn. Canada and the United States will aim to book their places when Concacaf’s qualifying event takes place in Mexico in February.


​Oct. 19: Decision Day


The MLS regular season concludes in dramatic fashion with synchronized kickoffs of games across the Eastern and Western Conferences, with final places in the standings and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs bracket on the line.


​October/November dates TBA: Audi MLS Cup Playoffs


The final sprint to MLS Cup. Format and schedule to be announced in the months to come.


​November 9-23: 2024 NWSL playoffs


The NWSL season concludes with its top eight finishers vying for the league title, currently held by New Jersey-based Gotham FC. The championship game will take place on Nov. 23 at a predetermined site yet to be announced.


​Nov. 11-19: FIFA men’s international fixture window


National teams may gather full-strength squads to play as many as two matches during this period.


Mid-November dates TBA: NCAA Division I tournament selection shows


College soccer’s version of March Madness, the NCAA tournaments unfold in autumn after the regular season and conference tournaments, with the men’s version generally a week behind the women’s. The respective fields – 48 teams on the men’s side, 64 on the women’s, a mixture of automatic and at-large berths – are announced on these dates, one day after the conclusion of the regular season, charting the path to the College Cup.


​December dates TBA and Dec. 13-16: Women’s and Men’s College Cups


Cary, North Carolina


The NCAA soccer season reaches its crescendo as the Division I men’s and women’s tournaments’ final four on each side will gather on separate weekends (dates for the women’s event have yet to be announced, while the men are set for Dec. 13-16) to decide who will be crowned Division I national champions. This year, both College Cup events will be hosted at WakeMed Soccer Park, home of North Carolina FC and the North Carolina Courage. Clemson are the reigning men’s champs and Florida State are the reigning women’s champs.


Dec. 7: 2024 MLS Cup


Site TBD

The league’s new champions will be crowned, unless current holders Columbus Crew claim the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy again. The match will be held at the home ground of the finalist with the superior regular-season points total.


December 14 and 18: FIFA Intercontinental Cup


Site TBD


As part of its expansion plans for the Club World Cup, which becomes a 32-team quadrennial tournament next slated to take place in the United States in 2025, FIFA is bringing an old event back to life. The original Intercontinental Cup was held in partnership between Conmebol and UEFA from 1960-2004, usually pitting the winner of the UEFA Champions League vs. the winner of Copa Libertadores, first as a two-legged tie and later as a one-off match.


The new version will be an annual event involving the club champions of all six continental confederations, with African, Asian, Oceania, North and South American representatives taking part in single-elimination qualifying matches to determine who meets the European champion in the final. (This includes the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup winner.) The first two rounds of that process will take place in the participating clubs’ respective home countries, before the final qualifying match and the final itself are played on the dates above at a predetermined host nation yet to be announced.


Charles Boehm -@cboehm

17 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page