There are 27 teams in this Major League Soccer season and there’s enough intrigue around the new season to justify at least one thought on the task at hand for every team from Atlanta to Vancouver (unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time).
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Which, by the way, is one of the longest road trips in MLS, the equivalent of going from Old Trafford to the Camp Nou, returning to Manchester, and then doing half of a second trip to Barcelona.
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That’s not as much of a thing this MLS season, though, where the Western Conference and Eastern Conference are staying apart during the regular season, and the league’s three Canadian teams are posting up with American hosts for the start of the season (Vancouver will play early home matches at Real Salt Lake, Toronto at Orlando and Tampa, and Montreal at Inter Miami).
Who’s the worst?
Keeping in mind that this is a league in which more than half of the field will make the playoffs, it says something that five clubs are considered massive longshots to even make the postseason.
New boys Austin FC (80 percent), relatively new boys FC Cincinnati (91%), and much-changed DC United (87%) join displaced Montreal (75%) and Vancouver (89%) are the only clubs with missing the playoffs in more than 60 percent of simulations by fivethirtyeight.com.
Might the worst team come from outside this group? Absolutely, this is MLS, but I’m comfortable saying that FC Cincinnati has enough intrigue to be the biggest positive surprise of the group.
How will the Philadelphia Union replace the kids?
The Supporters’ Shield winners by three points, will Jim Curtin’s men be able to overcome the transfers of Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie? The latter may be the bigger loss given the lack of standout center backs of his ilk readily available in MLS.
How quickly can Ronny Deila settle much-changed NYCFC?
Gone are Alex Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Alexandru Mitrita. with Alfredo Morales, Chris Gloster, and Thiago Andrade among those arriving in New York City.
That said, the union of Morales and Keaton Parks will be something to watch if NYC to adapt quickly to life without Ring, who chewed up minutes in every season after arriving from Koln.
Speaking of Morales, which moving USMNT alum or former prospect will have the best season?
Bobby Wood has joined Rubio Rubin at Real Salt Lake, a double addition in the same ballpark as NYCFC’s pickups of Morales and Gloster. Gedion Zelalem is with Delia, too, while FC St Pauli youngster Leon Flach has moved to Philadelphia while Wolfsburg II center back Michael Edwards went to Colorado but will head on loan to Switchbacks FC.
As for names who’ve had their most success in MLS, Djordje Mihailovic and Mason Toye are in Montreal, Matt Polster in New England, and Matt Besler, Nick Lima, and Joe Corona are with Josh Wolff in Austin.
Wil Trapp and Juan Agudelo join Adrian Heath’s Minnesota United, while Corey Baird hopes to kickstart his USMNT career under former national team coach Bob Bradley at LAFC.
Who will have a better first season: Greg Vanney at LA Galaxy or Chris Armas with Toronto?
Obviously we aren’t talking strictly about points, or are we? What Vanney did with TFC last season despite the Reds playing outside of their country was pretty remarkable, and he heads to an LA team which was bad but does have some pieces in the form of Efrain Alvarez, Jona Dos Santos, and Chicharito, old TFC pal Victor Vazquez, and arriving wild cards Kevin Cabral and Yony Gonzalez. As for Armas, he’s already got a banner CCL win over Club Leon and a well-established leadership group.
Who will be the most over-discussed personality in the league?
We bet you think we’re talking someone like Chicharito or Josef Martinez, alas, we are not.
Have you heard that Austin is owned by Matthew McConaughey? Well do you know David Beckham hired his old pal Phil Neville to manage Inter Miami and signed Stoke City’s Ryan Shawxcross?
Yes. Yes, you have.