A Fourth of July game at Steinbrenner Field against in-state rival FC Miami highlights the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies’ inaugural schedule, released by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Monday afternoon.
“That’s the one that stands out, isn’t it?” Rowdies head coach Paul Dalglish said. “I know it’s a tradition here to make a big deal of the Fourth of July game with the Rowdies, and we want to keep that going.”
The Rowdies will open and close the 30-game schedule against the same opponent, Crystal Palace Baltimore, with the Rowdies travelling to open the season on April 16, the second weekend of the season. The Rowdies will play their first regular season game at Steinbrenner Field on May 8 against the Austin Aztex.
“It’s going to be brilliant,” Dalglish said. “The first home game of our inaugural season is going to be exciting, and hopefully we can put some good performances in the first three games on the road and have people be excited to come and watch the team.”
Six of the Rowdies first nine games will be on the road, but the Rowdies will have a chance to make hay at home with a four-game stand at Steinbrenner Field coming in July and a three-game stand in August allowing for an opportunity to make a playoff push in front of home fans.
“The fact that we’ve got a lot of home games in the second half of the season is an advantage,” Dalglish said. “But it’s important we win the games in the other part of the season to build confidence going into these home games.”
Eight teams of the 12 will advance to the playoffs, with the top team in each conference gaining the No.1 or No.2 seed and the remaining six positions being determined by point. The playoffs will begin the week of October 4, with each round being contested over a home-and-home series, the winner being determined by total aggregate goals.
The league’s championship match will be contested the same way, instead of a single championship game.