Rejoice, soccer fans! We're back in a World Cup year. 2014 should be one of the most exciting years in a while for soccer fans in North America and beyond. Here are some dates to circle on your calendar.
January 1: Fulham-West Ham, London, England | On-loan Clint Dempsey’s first opportunity to represent the Cottagers again.
January 3: Liga MX Clausura 2014 opens | The Mexican top flight gets going, and USMNT fans hope Herculez Gomez finds his goalscoring form.
January 10-14: MLS Combine, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. | The best college players strut their stuff for the coaches (and agents).
January 13: FIFA Ballon d'Or awarded
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Bayern's Franck Ribery, and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo vie to be named the world's best men's player, while German Nadine Angerer, Brazil's Marta, and USWNT's Abby Wambach are the women's finalists.
Mid-January: New issue of Howler Magazine | Everyone's favorite North American soccer journal returns with a profile of Ray Hudson by Robert Andrew Powell.
January 26 - February 14: MLS preseason at IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. | Six MLS clubs descend on the Florida training center to get ready for the season.
January 29: Mexico vs. South Korea, San Antonio, Texas | The circus that is El Tri takes the next step in its attempt to get things in order before Brazil.
February 1: USA vs. South Korea, Carson, Calif. | A friendly preview of a Round of 16 match in Brazil?
February 2 - July 20: Fútbol: The Beautiful Game art exhibit, Los Angeles, Calif. | Los Angeles County Museum of Art highlights the artistry of the game, including works from Miguel Calderon, Robin Rhode, Kehinde Wiley, and Andy Warhol.
February 8: Seattle-Portland preseason game, Tucson, Ariz. | Here's hoping the two cities' brilliant tifo-makers make the trip, too.
February 19 - March 1: Desert Diamond Cup, Tucson, Ariz. | Chicago, Chivas USA, Colorado, New England, and Real Salt Lake take turns pounding on their lower-division hosts FC Tucson.
February 22 - March 1: Carolina Challenge Cup, Charleston, S.C. | Houston Dynamo, D.C. United, and Seattle Sounders join hosts Charleston Battery for the annual preseason tournament.
March 5: International Date | Who would you like to see the USMNT play on this day?
March 8-9: MLS Opening Weekend | Let’s do this.
March 11-20: CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals | MLS vs. Liga MX. Rinse. Repeat.
- LA Galaxy vs. Tijuana
- Sporting KC vs. Cruz Azul
- San Jose Earthquakes vs. Toluca
- Alajuelense vs. Aribe Unido
March 13: New edition of Alex Bellos's Futebol released | The best book on Brazilian soccer (in English, at least) gets an update ahead of the World Cup.
March 27-April 1: 11 mm Internationales Fussballfilmfestival, Berlin, Germany | The world's first soccer film festival puts on its 11th edition.
April 8-11: Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival, New York, N.Y. | The world's second soccer film festival puts on its 6th edition. (Full disclosure: I am one of the cofounders of K+S.)
April 12: NASL Spring season kicks off | The second division gets under way with two new clubs.
April 23 & 30: CONCACAF Champions League Final, legs 1 & 2 | No MLS team has won the continental title since the Galaxy did it in 2000.
May 11: Premier League final day | Every match kicks off at the exact same time (7 am PT) at the always-dramatic close of the EPL season.
May 11: AS Roma vs. Juventus, Rome, Italy | USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley lines up for the Giallorossi with, potentially, the Serie A title on the line. He would be the first American to ever win the Italian Scudetto.
May 13: FIFA World Cup 2014 30-man provisional roster deadline | The USMNT and the other 31 nations headed to Brazil must submit their "release list" of players to FIFA (UEFA tournament finalists excepted).
May 14: Europa League final, Turin, Italy | The best of the second best.
May 22-June 3: CINEfoot International Football Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro & Sao Paulo, Brazil | The cultural events in Brazil get underway a few weeks before the real games begin with this fun, two-city event.
May 24: UEFA Champions League final, Lisbon, Portugal | The two best clubs in Europe face off at the wonderfully named Estadio da Luz. We wouldn’t bet against a Bayern repeat.
June 2: FIFA World Cup 2014 final roster deadline | The "final list" of 23 players heading off to Brazil carrying the hopes of a nation.
June 12: FIFA World Cup 2014 kicks off, Sao Paulo, Brazil | Brazil and Croatia kick the Brazuca in anger in the opener.
June 16: Ghana vs. USA, Natal, Brazil | OK, Klinsi, time to earn your money.
June 22: Portugal vs. USA, Manaus, Brazil | One word for all you AOs heading to the rumble in the jungle: hydrate.
June 26: USA vs. Germany, Recife, Brazil | What will Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low say to each other after the final whistle?
July 13: FIFA World Cup 2014 final, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | For all the marbles at Estadio do Maracana. (Sidebar: The Maracana is officially named Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, which makes it the only stadium we know of named for a journalist.)
Mid-August: Copa Libertadores final | The South American champions will be crowned a little later than usual this year due to the World Cup.
August: Group stage of the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League | The Portland Timbers make their debut in this regional round-up of the best professional clubs of CONCACAF
August 6: AT&T MLS All-Star Game, Portland, Ore. | Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger is eager to come to Portland as MLS' annual soccer showcase event puts on a big party in the Rose City.
August 30: NWSL championship match | The crowning moment for the women's league.
September 1-9: International Date | And the cycle begins all over again.
September 15-19: MLSsoccer.com’s 5th annual “24 Under 24” | Counting down the best young talent in MLS.
Late October: MLS Playoffs begin | Win or go play golf.
November: AFC Champions League final | Asia's best of the best is decided. (Check out #3 in the video below. You'll thank us.)
November: CAF Champions League final | Can Egyptian club Al-Ahly defend their title and further cement their claim to the best club in African history?
November 10-18: International Date | It’s never too early to start thinking about the 2015 Gold Cup.
Early December: The 19th MLS Cup final | Can Sporting KC repeat? Or is there a new champion to be crowned?
December 10-20: FIFA Club World Cup, Morocco | Fingers crossed, an MLS club will be there.