The wintry weather in the Boston area on Monday afternoon provided an ample reminder of why the New England Revolution have opened 14 of their 15 seasons on the road.
Biting cold spells and frequent bouts of precipitation – like the snow showers that passed through the area on Monday – often hound New Englanders from November to the waning stages of March.
The possibility of encountering those troublesome atmospheric occurrences usually contributes to the decision to start the season with trips to warmer climates, according to Revolution chief operating officer Brian Bilello.
“For us, it's always about the live fan experience and trying to maximize that for our season ticket holders and our other fans,” Bilello told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday. “That's really why we've historically tried to keep a fair number of games on the road early in the season and then make up for that at another time where it is better for our fans.”
Those same Revolution fans may have to bundle up in a few months after MLS and the Revolution revealed the team would host D.C. United for its home opener – and its second match of the season – on March 26.
It is a date that sets a new precedent for Revolution home openers. New England have opened their home campaign in March just once – a 3-0 victory over Houston on March 29, 2008 – and will set a franchise mark for the earliest start to the home slate with the date against United.
In recent years, the Revs have generally played their home opener in the first or second week of April. Although the time table will shift into March for the second time in four seasons in 2011, the transition does not necessarily ensure the two teams will encounter poor conditions, but it may make them slightly more probable to occur, according to Bilello.
“All of [the MLS] markets have their own challenges,” he said. “For us, the primary one is weather.”
[inline_node:325293]New England will encounter no such foibles when they travel to Los Angeles to open the season against the Galaxy on March 20.
The date with the reigning Supporters' Shield holders marks the second consecutive season opener against the Galaxy and the third in succession in California.
This opener, however, comes with an added boost for those Revs fans hoping to watch the match on the East Coast. While the previous two season openers started in prime time for those in the Pacific time zone, the Galaxy-Revolution match is set to kick off at 8 pm ET.
Bilello called the earlier start time “a big advantage” as the Revs seek to plan events around their first match of the season, and noted the start time – as well as the earlier home opener – resulted from working with the league to sort through the difficulties posed by assembling the MLS schedule.
“It's a little bit of a give and take for everyone,” Bilello said. “Every team has what they need, what their priorities are and what they'd like to have happen.
“I think the league, in fairness, always tries to give priority to the home team in terms of scheduling. If there are things that are innocuous in the scheduling for the home team – like the start time – and it really helps the road team, they'll try and work through that.”