MLS opens its 20th season on Friday. Here's our preview, and below our predictions:
EASTERN CONFERENCE1. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTIONSixteen of the 18 players who suited up for MLS Cup return for another go.2. TORONTO FCReds’ ninth season seems (again) to be the one where they finally break into the playoffs.3. COLUMBUS CREWEnded last season as one of hottest clubs in MLS, and arrow still pointing up.4. D.C. UNITEDEddie Johnson has health concerns, but key pieces from last season's resurrection return.5. ORLANDO CITY SCPurple passion in the stands, DP Kaka on the pitch and goalkeeping quality.6. NEW YORK CITY FCParts of the roll-out have been bumpy, but there’s ambition and Jason Kreis to drive it.7. NEW YORK RED BULLSEra ended with departures of Thierry Henry, Jamison Olave, Tim Cahill and Mike Petke.8. CHICAGO FIREReworked a roster that wasn't working, but, eh.9. PHILADELPHIA UNION2014 was a disappointment, and there’s no clear sign things have turned around.10. MONTREAL IMPACTLike Philadelphia – but more so – a team that couldn’t build on early expansion promise.
WESTERN CONFERENCE1. LOS ANGELES GALAXYLandon Donovan out, Steven Gerrard in; Galaxy remains the team to beat.2. FC DALLASPlenty of firepower, quality coaching, and now Dan Kennedy in goal.3. SEATTLE SOUNDERSSupporters Shield was nice but this veteran roster could be handled with eye to postseason.4. REAL SALT LAKEMore familiar faces move on, but RSL has knack for reloading rather than rebuilding.5. PORTLAND TIMBERSTrying to climb again after failing to build on breakthrough of 2013.6. SPORTING KANSAS CITYNo obvious magic pill, but SKC passed the eye test in Desert Diamond Cup.7. VANCOUVER WHITECAPSSolid defense a nice place to start, but will goals come consistently enough?8. HOUSTON DYNAMODynamo still seems in transition after rare playoff miss in 2014.9. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKESGoodbye Buck Shaw Stadium in 2015, good; goodbye Goonie identity in 2014, not good.10. COLORADO RAPIDSYoung and promising in 2013 somehow became young and utterly lost in 2014.
Playoff picks to come.