Major League Soccer announced the opening match for every team today and Orlando City will host Atlanta United at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. It will be the seventh consecutive season since joining the top flight that the Lions will be home for the first game, but it will be the first time Orlando has faced Atlanta on opening day.
In addition, Orlando City will be the opponent for Sporting Kansas City’s home opener. That game will take place at Children’s Mercy Park at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 23. Each of the first two OCSC matches will be televised nationally. The season debut will air on Univision and TUDN with English commentary available on Twitter. The game at SKC will be on FS1 and Fox Deportes.
Limited capacity seating is available for the home opener. Season ticket members and partial ticket package holders are eligible to attend. Additionally, the club can accommodate premium hospitality seating for groups of at least 10, which will be arranged to comply with social distancing protocols.
Atlanta will become just the fourth different team City has hosted on opening day in the club’s seven years in MLS. The Lions have previously opened against New York City FC three times, Real Salt Lake twice, and D.C. United once.
Orlando will try to keep its unbeaten opening day run going. The Lions have only won once in the season opener, back in 2017 when the club christened Exploria Stadium (then known as Orlando City Stadium) with a 1-0 win over NYCFC. However, the club has drawn its other five openers for a combined opening day record of 1-0-5.
The Lions are currently riding a four-game unbeaten streak (2-0-2) against Atlanta, with all four of those matches taking place during the 2020 season. A little more luck would have seen the Lions capture all four meetings.
Orlando got its first ever win in the series on the road on Aug. 29 of last year, taking all three points in a 3-1 road victory. Junior Urso, Chris Mueller, and Nani provided the offense.
A 92nd-minute equalizer by Adam Jahn cost the Lions a second straight win in the series on Sept. 5, 2020. Benji Michel scored in first-half stoppage time in that 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium. The teams drew 0-0 in the second meeting in Atlanta last year, on Oct. 7. Some great saves by Brad Guzan and a couple shots off the woodwork were the difference between a win and a draw in that one.
Orlando got its first home win in the series on Oct. 28, 2020, in a decisive 4-1 affair at Exploria Stadium. Daryl Dike, Mueller, Tesho Akindele, and Matheus Aias all found the net in a complete rout of Atlanta.
The Five Stripes still hold a commanding lead in the all-time series, and they’ll be getting Josef Martinez back from injury for the 2021 season. The Lions are just 2-6-4 in league play against Atlanta and 2-7-4 in all competitions. At home, Orlando is 1-4-1 in MLS play against their northern neighbors, and 1-5-1 in all competitions.
The 2021 season and home opener for Orlando City will easily be the latest to date in the calendar year. The previous latest start for the Lions was in 2015 when the season kicked off at the Citrus Bowl on March 8. Prior to 2021, each successive season started earlier than the year before. Last year’s season opener took place on Feb. 29.
Orlando City MLS Season/Home Openers
2015: 1-1 draw vs. New York City FC, March 8
2016: 2-2 draw vs. Real Salt Lake, March 6
2017: 1-0 win vs. New York City FC, March 5
2018: 1-1 draw vs. D.C. United, March 3
2019: 2-2 draw vs. New York City FC, March 2
2020: 0-0 draw vs. Real Salt Lake, Feb. 29
2021: vs. Atlanta, April 17