MLS weekend preview: As Historic Crew Stadium hosts its finale, Austin FC's Q2 Stadium gets its first league game

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There's much still to be written about the 2021 MLS season, but the opening of three new stadiums in a single year will be one of the most memorable historic moments.

This week, Austin FC will open Q2 Stadium as the 20th soccer-specific stadium in MLS history and second new venue this year. The first game in Q2 was played Wednesday night, when the U.S. women's national team defeated Nigeria, 2-0. After Austin FC opened the season with eight consecutive road matches, it hosts the San Jose Earthquakes for its home opener.

Ironically, the new Austin stadium will hold its first MLS game the same day that the first-ever soccer-specific stadium in the league hosts its final game in Columbus, more than three years after Austin owner Anthony Precourt tried to move the Crew to Austin. Chicago Fire FC will help bring the curtain down on the venue, which famously has hosted four "Dos a Cero" USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifiers.

"New Crew stadium” finally received its official name – Lower.com Field on Tuesday. The Crew organization, which underwent a controversial rebrand earlier this season, is named for the online mortgage lender founded in 2018 by chief executive officer Dan Snyder. Terms of the naming-rights deal for Lower.com Field weren’t revealed, but were characterized as “long-term.” Lower.com Field hosts its first game on July 3 when the Crew hosts the New England Revolution. Earlier this season, FC Cincinnati opened its new stadium, TQL Stadium.

Here is what you need to know for the weekend in MLS:

MLS game of the week

Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN): Atlanta United isn’t the same team that the Philadelphia Union knocked out of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal in early May. Since the second leg matchup between the two clubs, Atlanta has gone four matches unbeaten in MLS against quality opponents such as the Seattle Sounders and Nashville SC. The challenges for the Union grows, as midfielder José Martínez is away on national team duty with Venezuela. Can the Union continue its three-match winning streak in Atlanta?

MLS player to watch

Alex Roldan, Seattle Sounders: Roldan has re-defined his craft as one of the better utility midfielders in MLS. He’s even played goalkeeper this year – the first field player to do so in club history on May 12 – when goalkeeper Stefan Frei exited the match with an injury. Roldan has started the majority of Sounders matches as a right wing back and with older brother Cristian in the attacking midfielder, has bolstered Seattle’s wide attack, adding two assists. Roldan will be back in action Saturday on the road against league-leading goal scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and the LA Galaxy.

Alex Roldan makes a save while playing goalkeeper against the San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on May 12.
Alex Roldan makes a save while playing goalkeeper against the San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on May 12.

MLS schedule: What are this weekend's games?

(ABC/ESPN games available to be streamed on Watch ESPN; FOX games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available on fuboTV.)

Friday

  • New York Red Bulls vs. Nashville SC, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Saturday

  • FC Cincinnati vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • New York City FC vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Toronto FC vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • DC United vs. Inter Miami CF, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Austin FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9 p.m. ET (UniMas/TUDN)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Los Angeles FC vs. Houston Dynamo, 11 p.m. ET (UniMas/TUDN)

Sunday

  • Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

MLS news and notes

Canadian men’s national team reaches final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying: We’re coming out of a FIFA international window, so let’s start with international news. The latest out of the Concacaf region is with regard to a resurgent Canadian men’s national team, which has advanced to the final round of World Cup qualifying in Concacaf for the first time since 1997 after defeating Haiti on aggregate, 4-0, over two legs. The Canadians now will join a final round “octagonal” qualifying competition for the World Cup in Qatar that includes Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, and a United States team that claimed the Concacaf Nations League title during the break. The Canadian national team features some prominent MLS veterans including Alphonso Davies (formerly of the Vancouver Whitecaps) and Cyle Larin (formerly of Orlando City SC), along with current Toronto FC goal-scorer Jonathan Osorio.

Familiarize yourself with the standings again: As we return to regular-season play across the league, the Seattle Sounders remain atop the MLS table on 18 points (5-0-3 record). Nashville SC, which currently sits in the seventh position in the Eastern Conference on a 2-0-5 record, is the league’s only other undefeated side. But that undefeated mark leaves Nashville lagging well behind the New England Revolution, which is setting the pace in the Eastern Conference on 17 points (5-1-2).

Jim Curtin extends his stay with Philadelphia Union: Curtin, the Coach of the Year in 2020 and leader of last season’s Supporters' Shield-winning side, extended his stay with the Union with the signing of a two-year contract extension. Curtin, already the second-longest tenured head coach in MLS, has been in the manager’s seat in Philly since 2014. He’s already led the Union to a piece of major silverware and has had the club knocking on the door of other trophies throughout his tenure. In addition to currently being No. 2 in the Eastern Conference going into this weekend (4-2-2, 14 points), Curtin has Philadelphia pressing forward in the Concacaf Champions League, which resumes play in August.

MLS power rankings: Top 10 power poll

1. Seattle Sounders: The Sounders remain undefeated, but the strong start to the season has been stuck in neutral as of late with three straight draws.

2. New England Revolution: With goals in three consecutive games and four on the season, Adam Buksa is making a move in the league's Golden Boot standings.

3. Philadelphia Union: Philadelphia's Kacper Przybylko has been a dangerous threat in front of goal so far in 2021, netting eight goals and registering two assists in 12 game in all competitions.

4. Los Angeles Galaxy: The Galaxy have four wins in four games at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. Will they keep the home fans happy with a signature win over visiting Seattle on Saturday?

5. Orlando City SC: After a six-game undefeated run to start the season, Orlando City is coming off its first setback of 2021.

6. Sporting Kansas City: SKC sits just one point behind Seattle in the Western Conference standings, but have played the most games in the league (nine).

7. New York City FC: NYCFC gets a big test this weekend against the New England Revolution in a "home" game at Red Bull Arena, which is the home stadium of the rival New York Red Bulls.

8. Colorado Rapids: On Saturday, Colorado faces FC Cincinnati - which currently sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference - for just the second time ever

9. Nashville SC: Nashville is one of just two MLS teams that enter this weekend's action undefeated, and put its unblemished record on the line on the road against the New York Red Bulls.

10. Columbus Crew: It's the end of an era in Columbus as the Crew says "good-bye" to Historic Crew Stadium. Can the Crew close out their soon-to-be former home ground with a victory over Chicago Fire FC?

USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Mike Craven, Austin American-Statesman; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch; Jim Reineking, USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS games this weekend: How to watch on TV, streaming info