This Sunday, Major League Soccer enters its 21st season. A total of 20 teams will compete to become MLS Cup champion. Last season, the Western Conference playoff teams were all decided but every position was up for grabs at the end of the season. This season, the conference will be as competitive than ever and will no doubt result in an exciting West half of the MLS season.
1) FC Dallas
FC Dallas is going to be strong, very strong. We saw glimpses of that last season when they shockingly rocketed up the standings to finish top of the competitive Western Conference and there is no doubt they can do it again. While they lost Blas Perez, FC Dallas did get Mauro Rosales in the trade as well as Max Urruti joining the team. This team is ready to take the next step.
2) Seattle Sounders FC
The Seattle Sounders are going to be fine in the regular season and will no doubt go on a Supporters Shield run, albeit fall a little bit short. Sounders fans are focused on the MLS Cup, among other things. They have won the Supporters Shield and won multiple U.S. Open Cups. It’s now time for them to win an MLS Cup, after multiple squandered opportunities to win. November is when the real season begins for Seattle.
3) Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Whitecaps finished runner up last season but will sadly seem to fall a spot this season. This isn’t to say that Vancouver got worse compared to this past season, but the other teams got better. Blas Perez will certainly give Vancouver some firepower, but it came at the expense of Mauro Rosales and Steven Beitashour on defense. Vancouver shouldn’t worry, they will solidly be in the playoffs and will attempt to become the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup.
4) Los Angeles Galaxy
The Galaxy made some signings, they made some big signings. The busy offseason meant losing Omar Gonzalez and Juninho but signed Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong, Dan Kennedy, Mike Magee and Jelle Van Damme. This is a team who is shedding the mix of both young and old and going with more and more experience. While this team would be a shoo-in for the 2007 UEFA Champions League title, it’s too old for an MLS title. Although Bruce Arena has worked miracles, he could do it again.
5) Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC’s big question will be if they have the additional firepower to replace Krisztian Nemeth. Sporting feels they have that with Brad Davis, Justin Mapp and newly signed Rubio Kostner but that is an unknown they won’t know will work until it’s too late.
6) Portland Timbers
The defending MLS Cup champions will struggle to make the playoffs this season. This isn’t new territory for them. Portland languished on the playoff bubble until moving up to 3rd on the final weeks of the season. This season won’t prove that the previous season was a fluke, but this season will certainly have less silverware than last year.
7) Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake is undergoing further transition and it may not be this season where we’ll see some real dividends. Even though they showed promise just last week against While they will fall short, next season could mean great things if they keep on track.
8) Houston Dynamo
If any of the teams on this list who are out of the playoffs, I believe the Houston Dynamo would be the team most likely to breakthrough and get into the top six. Tyler Deric is a young, top goalkeeper who is going to earn Houston some points. Houston also has a solid starting XI as well as a terrific manager who has had a season to get used to MLS and is more prepared now than ever. The question is, can they fit all those pieces together and make a run.
9) San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes have two things going for them, they are hosting the All-Star Game and are not going to finish last in the Western Conference. Everything else is very unlikely. San Jose has some great attacking power with Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart, Chad Barrett, Quincy Amarikwa and Innocent, but you know what they say, “Defense wins championships.” And Clarence Goodson alone just isn’t going to get it done.
10) Colorado Rapids
Colorado just isn’t making the moves necessary to get out of being the bottom of the league. Even if they get Tim Howard, that may put butts in the seats, but won’t result in any noticeable improvement. Tim Howard just isn’t going to solve their scoring trouble so it’s a puzzling move if they go through with this.