The Columbus Crew kicked off their new season Saturday and make their home debut this weekend at Lower.com Field.
This year, Columbus will play at least 19 games in Columbus’ Arena District: 17 regular season matches and at least two Leagues Cup games. That doesn’t include any potential games in the MLS Cup Playoffs or in-season tournament matches like the US Open Cup, a tournament that pits clubs from amateur to pro in a season-long competition to crown the best team in the nation.
That means there are countless opportunities to head to Lower.com Field and see the new edition of the Black & Gold live. Here are five matches that need an extra circle (in permanent marker) on your calendar, in order of when you’ll see them on the schedule.
Check out our Arena District Game Day Guide
March 4 vs. D.C. United
Saturday’s game isn’t on this list simply because it’s the first home match 2023. Widely known as Crewsmas, the name for the first home match of the regular season, it’s a time when fans who might have not seen each other since the fall reconvene to tailgate, catch-up and cheer on the yellow soccer team.
In 2023, there’s a little extra flavor to the match for two reasons. First, it’s a matchup of two MLS originals clubs. It’ll be the 86th match-up between the two teams, with D.C. United leading the historic series with 38 wins, 34 losses and 13 draws.
The second reason? It’s a homecoming for fan favorite Pedro Santos. After six seasons with the Crew, he returns to Columbus for the first time since moving to United in the offseason.
Santos scored 25 goals and had 34 assists across his MLS career, playing a big part in leading Columbus to the 2020 MLS Cup Final. Over the years, former Crew players have received mixed reactions when they return home to Columbus, but expect raucous support from the home supporters, with a few boos mixed in every so often for flavor.
May 17 vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
With continued expansion in MLS, the league is split between Eastern and Western Conference teams. That means that some of the familiar foes of the past don’t show up on the calendar as frequently as previous years.
A team in that discussion are the Los Angeles Galaxy. Another MLS original, the Galaxy have more MLS championships than any team, with five. While Los Angeles has more trophies, and often times over the years more attention with names like David Beckham and Landon Donovan playing for the West Coast side in their history, Columbus is connected to the Galaxy in major moments of the Crew’s history.
Take for instance Oct. 24, 2002. Only three years after Historic Crew Stadium opened, the Black & Gold were underdogs against the Galaxy when Los Angeles traveled to Ohio to defend their 2001 U.S. Open Cup title. Columbus came out on top with Los Angeles goalkeeper Matt Reis fumbling a pass in the penalty box, and Crew midfielder Freddy Garcia burying the loose ball for the lone goal of the game. It was the first trophy Columbus won in Central Ohio, but not their last.
The 2023 edition of the Los Angeles Galaxy is still filled with some of the most popular players in the league. For instance, Mexican National Team player and former Manchester United striker Javier Hernández, known by his nickname Chicharito.
When these two teams play, it elicits memories for supporters and goes back to when the league was just 10 teams strong, not the 29 playing today.
Between July 21 & August 19 vs. Club América
While there’s no official date yet for this matchup, it’s hard to ignore match between a historic MLS team and a historic team from Mexico’s Liga MX.
Club América has competed since 1916, and this summer will be their first match-up in a brand-new competition called the Leagues Cup. Across the United States, Mexico and Canada, 47 teams from across MLS and Liga MX play in a World Cup-style tournament.
The Crew and Club América drew into the same group and Columbus will host not only the legendary Mexican side but MLS expansion team St. Louis City FC.
Of the two matches though at Lower.com Field, Club América’s packs the biggest punch. Their visit will bring a passionate fanbase to the Arena District. In 2021, fellow Liga MX side Cruz Azul played the Crew in the Campeones Cup, a match between the winners of Liga MX and MLS, and it was a sea of blue and red of Cruz throughout the stadium. Get your tickets early for this one when they go on sale because it could turn into an away match atmosphere quickly.
August 20 vs. FC Cincinnati
There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said about this one. The two teams are separated by a two-hour stretch of interstate and although they only started playing against each other in 2017, the close proximity has created a heated rivalry on and off the soccer pitch.
It’s two fanbases where fans of the Crew for close to 20 years suddenly had a local option. Some fans left the Black & Gold and some stuck by them even as a new hometown team was born.
Since the Crew lost the first-ever meeting between the two teams, back in 2017 when Cincinnati was still in the USL, the second division of professional soccer in the United States, it’s been leaning heavily in Columbus’ favor.
This year is shaping up to be more heated than ever with how last season’s two matches went. The first was a 2-0 Crew victory in Columbus. Then, on Aug. 27 in Cincinnati, Columbus defender Steven Moreira scored a last second goal to earn a 2-2 draw. Aug. 20 will be the first time the two sides meet in Columbus, with the first leg in Cincinnati on May 20. Two more chances to add another chapter in what’s growing into one of the fiercest rivalries in MLS.
October 21 vs. CF Montréal
The final must-see home match is the regular season finale, and it could be the biggest match of the season.
Last year, the Black & Gold were 10 minutes away from securing the final spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. A late penalty against Orlando City SC in the 84th minute was the difference between the continuation of the season and a bitter ending. That’s how close things get over the 34-match MLS season. This match between Columbus and Montréal features two teams with playoff aspirations and it could be the deciding factor for the entire season.
To make things even more interesting, it’s also the first home game for the Crew’s new head coach Wilfried Nancy. The same coach who led Montréal past Columbus twice last year, both with late-game winners.
Use our Arena District Game Day Guide to make the most of your trip to Lower.com Field this summer.