Union's 2012 schedule to be released at 2 p.m. Thursday
Another note: The Brotherly Game has been told by a source that the home opener is against the Colorado Rapids. That would not be what you would call a buzz-generating opponent.
Note: I updated this post after I originally wrote it to include the information about Houston.
Those of you frantically waiting for the release of the Union's 2012 schedule can rest a little bit easier. The announcement is set for 2 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday.
The date and time, which had been rumored for a few days, was officially confirmed in this press release from Real Salt Lake's communications department.
We already know the dates of five of the Union's 34 matches for the coming season.
Last month, Major League Soccer announced that the Union's season opener will be on March 12 at Portland, with a national TV broadcast on ESPN2.
Twelve days later, on March 24, the Union will face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. That was reported by Hot Time Old Town, a Fire fan blog.
We also know the dates of the Union's three meetings with Toronto FC, thanks to Canadian Soccer News. The Union will play at BMO Field on Saturday, May 26 and Saturday, September 15; and host TFC at PPL Park on Saturday, July 7.
The biggest question of the many that will be answered Thursday afternoon is which team the Union will face in its home opener on March 18. I would not be surprised if it is against the New York Red Bulls, the Houston Dynamo or David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy.
A matchup against the Galaxy would make it quite likely that the game would be televised nationally by NBC Sports Network. It appears that the channel has a liking for Sunday games, as evidenced by its opening-weekend broadcast of New York at FC Dallas on Sunday, March 11.
Since the Union are the only team with a home opener on March 18, it's easy to draw the inference.
It's even easier to see the appeal of Beckham visiting the Philadelphia area - especially with the headquarters of Comcast, which owns NBC Sports Network, just a few miles up I-95 from PPL Park.
But such a matchup would require the Galaxy to travel across the country on short rest, as they play a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal game at home on Wednesday, March 14. As MLS is trying to cut down on teams' travel costs this season, that might make a Union-Galaxy match less likely.
If the Union face New York, that would probably rule out a national TV broadcast. The Red Bulls would be on NBC Sports Network two weeks in a row, and the Union would be on an ESPN channel two weeks in a row.
A matchup against Houston could merit national TV, as it would be a rematch of a series from last season's playoffs. But the Dynamo are not as big a ratings draw as the Galaxy.
Those are all guesses on my part, nothing more. My track record isn't great on this stuff, but at least we have something to talk about.
What we know for certain is that seven teams are off the board. Based on the reports linked to above, you can eliminate Portland, Kansas City, Montréal, Chicago, Real Salt Lake, Toronto and Seattle.
So place your bets, and come back at 2 p.m. Thursday for the official announcement.