Today marks the beginning of MLS's 21st season. It is going to be a year of stability before the next round of expansion kicks in next season with Atlanta and Minnesota set to join the MLS fraternity. There are plenty of things to watch in America's top league this year, whether you like old Europeans or young, promising Americas, the top of the table should have something for everyone.
Here are my bold (or otherwise) predictions for the end result of this campaign:
Eastern Conference playoff teams: Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, DC United, New England Revolution.
Chalk, I know. These were the same six playoff teams from last year. I know Chicago and Philly won't compete for the playoffs yet and I don't think Orlando and NYC are quite there yet.
Western Conference Playoff Teams: FC Dallas. Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo
Again, much of the same members of the party as last year. Houston Dynamo are the only exception. This is where I expect to be more wrong, though. Really, everyone in the West except for Colorado can challenge for a playoff spot. I would be far from shocked if San Jose, SKC, or RSL make it.
Supporters Shield: Columbus Crew
Everyone is high on the Crew this year, for good reason. That probably means they will end up bombing out early in the playoffs, but not without a Supporters Shield to their name.
East Champion: New York Red Bulls
They get revenge on the Crew for last year's East Final. This feels like a crap shoot, though. This might be the year Toronto puts it all together and makes a run. Lots of experts like the Crew. So, who really knows.
West Champion: FC Dallas
MLS Cup Champion: FC Dallas
Dallas will be the most fun team to watch all season. Between young kids like Kellyn Acosta, experienced MLS stars like Fabian Castillo, and the brick wall known as Jesse Gonzalez in goal, this team really scares the crap out of me.
MVP: Sebastian Giovinco
Giovinco is too good for MLS. He will score about 100 goals and have as many assists on his way to another Golden Boot and MVP.
Rookie of the Year: Jordan Morris
He has already looked good with the USMNT. He had a solid debut at home against Club America. Sorry to all the other rookies, but you won't compete with Jordan Morris for anything.
Newcomer of the Year: Antonio Nocerino
Nocerino had become an outcast in Italy, so why can't he come over to MLS and make a lot of noise?
I look forward to how wrong I am when all is said and done.