The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. United tentatively to open season at home against defending champion Atlanta

D.C. United had a 12-2-1 record in its first season at Audi Field. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

[UPDATE: DCU will open against Atlanta at Audi Field on March 3 at 6 p.m. The second match is March 10 at New York City FC. Remainder of schedule comes out next month.]

D.C. United is tentatively scheduled to open the 2019 season with a heavyweight clash at Audi Field against MLS Cup champion Atlanta United on March 3, the Insider has learned.

The league is aiming to finalize and announce the home openers for all 24 teams this week and unveil the entire schedule in January. ESPN or Fox Sports would seem certain to carry the high-profile match.

MLS did not respond to a message seeking comment. D.C. and Atlanta spokesmen said their respective organizations did not want to comment.

D.C. has not faced the reigning champion in the season opener since 2004 (San Jose).

Audi Field opened last July and served as the backdrop for D.C.'s late-season renaissance, sparked by English superstar Wayne Rooney. The team posted a 12-2-1 record at the 20,000-seat venue in the southwest part of the city before losing to the Columbus Crew in a penalty-kick tiebreaker in the first round of the playoffs.

Ben Olsen’s squad will enter the 2019 campaign on a 10-game regular season unbeaten streak (7-0-3).

In just its second season, Atlanta won MLS Cup on Dec. 8, defeating the Portland Timbers, 2-0, before a sellout crowd of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the largest attendance in the league’s championship history. The venue is not available on MLS’s opening weekend because of prior commitments to stage Monster Energy Supercross, a motorcycle-racing tour passing through the city March 2.

Atlanta is likely to make its home debut the following weekend.

Last season, after two defeats at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, D.C. defeated Atlanta, 3-1, on Labor Day weekend at Audi Field.

MLS training camps will open on or around Jan. 21. D.C. will return most starters, while Atlanta will need to hire a coach after Gerardo Martino’s departure; he is pegged to become the Mexican national team boss.