2018 Key Transfers: Toronto FC

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Toronto FC and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

The MLS Cup holders have got a lot to live up to. They head into the 2018 campaign on the back of an historic treble in 2017. Greg Vanney’s side really raised the bar last season and repeating that feat again this time around is going to take a huge amount of work. There have been some exciting new players come in, while Toronto have done well to keep the core of their squad together. With little improvement needed on the face of it, this has been a winter transfer window where the aim has been to keep the squad fresh and ensure there is enough depth to challenge on all fronts once again…

Key Signings

Gregory van der Wiel: Toronto have identified where they wanted to improve on their squad depth. They’ve certainly picked up a quality defender in Gregory van der Wiel. The Dutch fullback is a winner. He has league titles with European giants Paris Saint Germain and Ajax to his name. He was also in the Dutch side that came runners up in the 2010 World Cup. This is certainly an exciting signing for Toronto and further proof they are looking to dominate.

Ager Aketxe: This is a big statement from Toronto and for MLS. Ager Aketxe might not be a household name in European football but he has made the switch from La Liga at 24. He started his career with Athletic Bilbao and spent last season on loan at Cadiz. As a creative midfielder who is known for his ability to finish, Aketxe has the potential to be a real asset to Toronto.

Auro: Another defensive addition to Toronto’s ranks. Auro comes in on loan with the option to buy from Brazilian side Sao Paulo. He has represented Brazil at U17 and U20 level. He is a good option for Toronto due to his versatility of being to play on either the left or the right.

Notable Departures

Benoit Cheyrou: The experienced Cheyrou has called time on his playing days at 36, but his story with Toronto hasn’t ended. He is now working with the TFC academy, which is a huge bonus for the future stars of MLS. Keeping him at the club in some capacity is a good move by Toronto, given he was part of their rise to the top. His career saw him play at the top level in European football and while he is going to be a miss in the dressing room as well as on the field, he will still be a part of the setup for what looks like years to come.

Steven Beitashour: Toronto moved quickly in the winter window to ensure they had cover for their departing players. Beitashour featured 22 times last season for TFC and played in 51 games across his two seasons with the side. A solid fullback who pitched in with supply from the righthand side who will no doubt be a miss. He has moved to expansion side LAFC, who have picked up a good signing.

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2018 Key Transfers: San Jose Earthquakes

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at San Jose Earthquakes and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

San Jose Earthquakes had a solid 2017 campaign, finishing 6th in the Western Conference. They fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs and have changed some personnel to give the squad a needed freshen up. Mike Stahre is looking to stamp his footprint onto his side having come in as head coach in November and he will be hoping to get off to a good start in under a week’s time.

Key Signings

Joel Qwiberg: Signed from the Swedish first division, Joel Qwiberg comes in to bolster San Jose’s defence. The left back is noted for his technical ability who can also be deployed to assist as an attacking wingback.

Magnus Eriksson: Another signing with history in Swedish football. He has a consistent goal-scoring record which will be welcomed news to Chris Wondolowski. Eriksson will be expected to relive the pressure on his fellow forward while looking to impress during his MLS debut season.

Eric Calvillo: A 20 year old who looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Eric Calvillo has represented the U.S. at U15-U19 levels and has made a name for himself as a midfielder who can be deployed in a number of roles. While he probably won’t be a regular from the get-go, he will be looking to break into the team and continue to progress.

Notable Departures

Darwin Ceren: After spending two seasons at San Jose, Darwin Ceren is on the move. He made 33 appearances and had a good sense of when the time was right to push on into the attack. His ability to cover a lot of ground will need to be replaced.

David Bingham: After spending four seasons waiting patiently for his chance to become a regular between 2011-2014, David Bingham has left for LA Galaxy. He made 91 appearances over the last three seasons but lost his starting place during the 2017 campaign. Perhaps the right time for both parties to part ways …

Victor Bernardez: Given San Jose’s defensive frailties at times last season it’s not a surprise to see changes to personnel. However, Victor Bernardez’s departure may come as a bit of a strange decision considering his regular starting place over the last six seasons. His 162 appearances prove that San Jose are losing an experienced head but now at 35 they’re looking for the long term.

Marco Ureña: After 25 appearances in his only season with San Jose, Marco Ureña has moved onto new boys Los Angeles FC as the third selection in the Expansion Draft. He scored five goals in 2017 and is known for linking up the attacking play. The Costa Rican international will be missed.

2018 Key Transfers: Philadelphia Union

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Philadelphia Union and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

There wasn’t really a lot for Philadelphia Union fans to shout about during in the 2017 campaign – finishing 8th in the Eastern Conference, outside of the playoffs. With that in mind it would be fair to say they could do with revamping their squad in hope of reaching the post season. They’ve signed just five players so far, while some notable players have been moved on. It’s going to require a big effort for them to force their way into a playoff spot considering how competitive the Eastern Conference is, but the squad will be ready and raring to go come the start of the season.

Key Signings

David Accam: Easily the biggest signing for Philadelphia Union during the window. David Accam comes in as a designated player from Chicago. He has an impressive MLS record in his three seasons so far, scoring 33 in 78, with a further 15 assists. His goal contribution makes him an ideal forward to help Philadelphia push in the right direction. At 27 they have picked up a player nearing the peak of his powers and the Union faithful will be hoping he can produce on their opener to give everyone a lift and positive start to the 2018 season.

Cory Burke: Firepower is what Philly have needed and this is another signing who will be hoping to make a difference. Cory Burke isn’t exactly a household name but he has international experience under his belt with Jamaica. Coming in from USL side Bethlehem Steel FC, he bagged an nine goals in 25 games last season. He will be looking to put pressure on his teammates Jay Simpson and C.J. Sapong for a starting place.

Notable Departures

Chris Pontius: Heading into his tenth MLS campaign having scored 45 goals in 215 games, Chris Pontius leaves Philly after two seasons. His experience will be missed but it seems a good time for him to be moved on as both parties look to freshen things up.

Roland Alberg: Having played 52 times for Philadelphia over two seasons Roland Alberg is on the move. He scored 16 goals and picked up four assists during his time at the club and will be a miss in the middle of the park.

2018 Key Transfers: Minnesota United

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Minnesota United and their key signings ahead of their second MLS campaign in 2018…

Minnesota’s inaugural season in MLS was average. They did relatively well with what they had at their disposal, finishing 9th in a very competitive Western Conference. But the points gap between them making the playoffs was as many as ten. Their aim for 2018 has to be to improve on last season, however as you’d expect all the sides who will be gunning for the playoffs will have also improved their squads. Signing just six players so far doesn’t suggest Minnesota are going to be automatic favourites for the playoffs, but they should be able to grow and with each passing game more experience will come. 2017 wasn’t good. But it wasn’t terrible either, given how tough it is for expansion sides.

Key Signings

Tyrone Mears: Having conceded a league high of 70 goals last season it is no surprise to see Minnesota bring in some defensive experience. At 34, Tyrone Mears has an MLS Cup to his name and will bring plenty to the squad both on and off the field.

Matt Lampson: Another defensive signing and this time in the goalkeeping department. Matt Lampson has been playing in MLS since 2012, however he has made just 51 appearances in that time. He may well be selected as the new number one for Minnesota, although last season regular Sammy Ndjock is still at the club. Lampson will be able to provide another experienced head at the club, even through just being part of squad as he heads into his sixth MLS year.

Harrison Heath: At 21, Harrison Heath is another solid signing for Minnesota. He is yet to really make a name for himself but this season may be his chance. His family connection with head coach Adrian Heath will see plenty expected from him and the pressure will be on him to deliver even more so when selected. One to watch…

Mason Toye: Picked up in the SuperDraft, there will not be a huge amount expected from Mason Toye in his first professional season. At 19 the forward comes in with a college soccer record of 10 goals in 25 games last season. He is 6ft 3 and will be hoping to get chances to prove himself.

Notable Departures

Kevin Venegas: While Minnesota’s defence struggled to cope with the pressures of MLS in their debut campaign there were some players who would have enjoyed a second shot at it in the coming season. Kevin Venegas is one of those faces but the club he decided he is not in their plans for the coming season.

Jermaine Taylor: While Jermaine Taylor only featured 14 times last season for Minnesota he is a notable departure in the respect that he has plenty of experience. Despite nearing 150 MLS appearances, he is one of those that the club have decided to part company with in their bid to find more defensive solidarity in the 2018 campaign.

Johan Venegas: Minnesota have loaned out Johan Venegas after he made 22 appearances in 2017. They clearly see the value in looking to keep him in part of their long-term plans, with his departure not a permanent one as of yet.

2018 Key Transfers: LA Galaxy

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at LA Galaxy  and their key signings ahead of their MLS campaign in 2018…

LA Galaxy endured a season to forget in 2017. They finished bottom of the Western Conference and had very little to shout about. They won the least amount of games across MLS and they need to improve both offensively and defensively so they can push themselves back to familiar territory in the coming season. The Galaxy faithful have seen plenty of business during the window with some key faces coming in and departing.

Key Signings

Perry Kitchen: Solidity in defensive positions has been a must for Galaxy in the offseason and this is a signal of their intent. Perry Kitchen spent five good seasons with DC and had been a key member of the squad, starting 155 of his 158 games. He has returned to MLS following a spell in Europe. His experience and versatility is what Galaxy need and they will be hoping he can make an impact for them from the off.

David Bingham: Bingham is expected to be the new number one. LA Galaxy have decided to opt for the former Quakes ‘keeper as their new last line of defence. With three goalkeepers departing, including Brian Rowe, Bingham will be making his 100th MLS appearance in gameweek four providing he is the first choice. With that in mind he has plenty of experience and at 28 he has plenty of years ahead of him, so this looks a good signing.

Chris Pontius: Signed as a free agent after being released from Philadelphia, Chris Pontius looks to be a very good pickup for the Galaxy. An MLS veteran, Pontius is heading into his tenth campaign, having scored 45 goals in 215 games. He can be deployed in an attacking midfield role or as a forward, so he gives LA Galaxy options.

Ola Kamara: Galaxy needed to improve from front to back and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Off the back of two very impressive seasons, Ola Kamara has been picked up after scoring 34 goals in 59 games for Columbus Crew. There is going to be a lot of expectation on his shoulders with stats like that. Galaxy are also being linked with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Hernandez, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more attacking signings come in to support Kamara before the start of the season.

Notable Departures

Robbie Rogers: The 30-year-old defender has called time on his playing days, Robbie Rogers made 184 appearances over a 10 year MLS career. His ability to be utilised on both the right and left of the field means he is going to be an option the Galaxy will miss.

Jermaine Jones: LA Galaxy have decided to allow the experienced 36-year-old midfielder to move on. 2017 was the most appearances he’s made in one season since his move over to MLS from European football. Now may be a good time for both the player and club to seek new adventures with Galaxy needing to freshen up a side that underdelivered in 2017.

Gyasi Zardes: The last two seasons haven’t been too enjoyable for Gyasi Zardes, through injury in 2016 and Galaxy’s worst ever campaign last time out. Making 131 appearances and scoring 34 goals over five years at the club, he’s one the Galaxy fans will miss. A fresh start for him at Columbus is now in store, which he will be looking forward to.

Brian Rowe: The Galaxy have parted ways with Brian Rowe after six years. He made 45 appearances over the course of the last two seasons, although he isn’t being tipped as a number one choice for his new club Vancouver.

Jose Villarreal: LA Galaxy have decided to allow their second-ever homegrown signing to move on. At just 24, Jose Villarreal has 68 MLS appearances to his name, all with LA. There is more expected from him with plenty of time to continue to improve. A squad player who has the ability to make an impact and someone that will certainly need replacing if Galaxy want to keep good depth to their numbers.

2018 Key Transfers: DC United

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at DC United’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in the 2018 MLS season…

DC United head into the 2018 season with plenty to improve upon from the previous campaign. Finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference wouldn’t have been something they expected at the start of the season given they made the playoffs the year before that. Now it is time for them to push themselves back to more familiar territory and Ben Olsen’s side has seen some key names depart in a bid to freshen things up. Seven new faces have come in so far, with DC’s business unlikely to end there…

Key Signings

Yamil Asad: The Argentine attacker has joined DC United on loan for the season from Velez Sarsfield for the 2018 season. Asad spent the 2017 campaign on loan at Atlanta United, where he scored seven goals and 13 assists in 32 games. The Five Stripes wanted to make his stay permanent but an agreement could not be reached. DC United have been able to strike a deal though. They will send $500,000 in allocation money to Atlanta for Asad’s MLS rights, as well as $300,000 to Velez Sarsfield, with the option to make the move permanent in December for a further $700,000.

Frederic Brillant: DC have opted to bring in some experience into their back line in the form of Frederic Brillant. The 32 year old made 54 appearances for NYCFC over two seasons, starting the majority of them. With two defensive departures so far Brillant will bolster Ben Olsen’s options and the DC faithful will be hoping he can tighten up a backline that conceded 60 goals in 2017.

Darren Mattocks: The Jamaican forward comes into DC looking to accelerate his MLS career. Having been in the league since 2012, he has netted 24 times in 136 games but now could be the time for him to become a more influential provider. Last season saw him used in a bit-part role at Portland but you could suggest more is expected of him here as he is the only forward DC have signed so far.

David Ousted: This looks set to be the new number one for DC with the departure of Bill Hamid. David Ousted made 142 appearances for Vancouver over five seasons with the club and at 33, the Dane has plenty of experience under his belt. He has been one of the more consistent ‘keepers in MLS over the last few years and a fresh start will do him good.

Oniel Fisher: Another defensive addition for Olsen, Oniel Fisher comes in from Seattle. The 26 year old can play in either of the fullback positions. Having made just 27 appearances in his last three seasons – all with Seattle – now will be the time for him to lock down a permanent starting place. He joins fellow Jamaican Mattocks and has shown his ability to use his pace to provide attacking support from the flanks.

Junior Moreno: A player many might not be overly familiar with is Junior Moreno. The 24-year-old Venezuelan comes in with international experience and could be the midfield option that DC have been missing. A box-to-box/central midfielder who has been noted for making an impact on the game both offensively and defensively. His flexibility to play in two key positions will be a breath of fresh air for Olsen and at just 24 he has the potential to become a long-term success, providing he settles in well. One to watch…

Notable Departures

Bill Hamid: The departing fan favourite and last line of defence, Bill Hamid, is moving on after eight seasons at the club. He made 184 appearances for DC and will go down in the history books for the club, as their first Homegrown Player. He won Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 and is tipped to be the long term option for USMNT. With all that in mind it comes as a bit of a surprise that he has left but now might be the right time for both parties to try something new. Time will tell with this decision…

Chris Rolfe: The MLS veteran has called it a day at 35 after making 239 appearances across a 13-year career. A sad end for Rolfe but the right decision, having not played since April 2016 due to a concussion, his experience is going to be missed.

Lloyd Sam: The English winger departs DC after two seasons with the club. He played a key part in pushing DC into the playoffs in 2016 despite only playing in 13 games after joining from RBNY. He started 23 of his 30 games in 2017 but at 33, D.C. have decided now is the time to find a longer term replacement.

Patrick Nyarko: Another winger who has been shown the exit door. Patrick Nyarko spent the past two seasons with DC, who have decided not to renew his contact. He departs having scored five goals in 40 appearances and he has been a good provider but perhaps not enough in the opinion of DC having decided to allow him to move on.

Sean Franklin: A regular starter at right back since his inception into MLS in 2008, Sean Franklin is going to be missed by the DC fans. He’s been at the club since 2014 and has been a key feature of the side during those four seasons. His experience will also be a loss for the DC dressing room, highlighted no more so than being part of an LA Galaxy side who won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 12.

2018 Key Transfers: Atlanta United

As the 2018 MLS season closes in, we will run through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we look at all Atlanta United‘s key transfers and what it could mean for them in their second MLS campaign…

Atlanta United’s debut MLS season was undoubtedly a success. The Five Stripes grew into one of the most exciting teams the league has ever seen but more importantly, they created a passionate and vibrant soccer culture in the city of Atlanta. They set records for the highest average attendance per game as well as the total season attendance record. Mercedes-Benz Stadium won’t be an easy place for anyone to visit again in 2018. Atlanta’s aim will be to ensure they build on an excellent debut campaign by once again making the playoffs, but with the expectation to go further than the Knockout Round this time around…

Key signings

Ezequiel Barco: The biggest signing of the MLS offseason so far. The 18-year-old Argentine winger joins Atlanta from Independiente as the most expensive signing in MLS history at around $15 million. His capture has turned heads across the league and surely in Europe too, given how highly regarded he is. This is not the sort of signing MLS clubs make. Barco is an agile, creative midfielder who can play wide or behind the striker. He is rapid with and without the ball and will undoubtedly get Atlanta fans off their feet. The prospect of Barco, Almiron and Martinez together will strike fear into any opponent and his signing should only increase the number of chances the Five Stripes create.

Darlington Nagbe: Not only have Atlanta improved their attacking threat by adding Barco, but they’ve acquired one of the league’s most consistent and dangerous playmakers in Nagbe. Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra said he was their top target this offseason and they wasted no time in making a blockbuster trade with Portland back in December. Nagbe is entering his eighth consecutive MLS season and first away from Portland. If he can settle into his new surroundings quickly, he’ll ensure Atlanta are one of the league’s top contenders, as they plan to be.

Franco Escobar: Atlanta have also focused on their backline this offseason and the addition of Franco Escobar is important as the young Argentine should slot straight into the starting lineup. He will be versatile enough to play as part of a three-man defensive setup, or alternatively as a right-back in a more traditional four-man defence. He arrives from Newell’s Old Boys where he broke through three years ago and will be expecting to develop well under the guidance of Tata Martino.

Notable Departures

Yamil Asad: The loss of Asad is significant for Atlanta but it might not be felt if Nagbe and Barco hit the ground running in the way that is expected of them. Asad was on loan for the 2017 season from Velez Sarsfield and despite Atlanta’s best efforts to agree a deal that would bring him back for 2018 and beyond, Asad has decided to move on. The club couldn’t agree a suitable deal with the midfielder and his rights are now being sold by the club. He scored seven goals and added 13 assists in 2017 and so those numbers will need to be replaced by the likes of Nagbe and Barco.

Carlos Carmona: He started 31 games last season but Carmona won’t be returning to the Atlanta midfield for the 2018 season. The club agreed to sell the experienced Chilean to Colo-Colo after weeks of speculation, with personal reasons the main factor in the end. His loss leaves a hole in the defensive midfield spot for Atlanta, with Jeff Larentowicz the only established name ready to play the position. Expect additions in that area before the season begins.

Tyrone Mears: He might have only played in 21 of the 34 regular season games last season but the loss of Mears will have removed some key experience from the Atlanta dressing room. The English defender scored one goal and added one assist last season and has now joined Minnesota after the Five Stripes declined his option for 2018. He might not be the biggest miss on the field but his absence might well be felt off of it.

MLS 2017 Season Preview and Predictions

The 2017 MLS Season is here at last. A record-high 22 teams will battle for this year’s MLS Cup in what is Major League Soccer’s 22nd season. Two new expansion franchises enter the league this year, with Atlanta United joining the Eastern Conference and Minnesota United joining the West, while Orlando City’s brand new soccer-specific stadium will host MLS matches for the first time too. The top six in each conference will make the playoffs once again, but with 11 sides now in each, things are sure to be more competitive than ever before in what could be the most unpredictable season in the league’s history.

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The New Boys

It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta and Minnesota, with both sides dealing with the challenge of building a squad that can jump straight into MLS and compete. No expansion side has made the playoffs at the first attempt since the Sounders did in 2009, and that will undoubtedly be the aim for both of this year’s new sides in 2017.

Atlanta have splashed the cash to build a team that, on paper at least, looks good enough to earn a place in the postseason at the first attempt. Former Barcelona head coach Tata Martino is the man in the hotseat tasked with getting a talented young group of players to deliver on their preseason promise. Three south American Designated Players have been signed – all under the age of 23, with each expected to get fans off their seats from the first whistle.

They’ll be plenty of fans in those seats too, given the fact Atlanta have already sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before a ball has been kicked. Expansion sides tend to flatter to deceive in their first campaigns, but Atlanta looks like the sort of team ready to make a real splash.

By stark contrast, Minnesota United have been much more careful in terms of spending. They have not signed a single DP ahead of the opening weekend, with any big spending likely to take place in the summer once the squad has found its feet. Instead, Targeted Allocation Money has been spent to build the squad, along with some clever trading to bring in the likes of Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino. Molino in particular is expected to shine under former Lions boss Adrian Heath, who has his second chance to get an expansion side into the playoffs at the first attempt this season.

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The Loons have also kept a host of names from their NASL days, and they now have to hope that their trust in those players pays off in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive Western Conference. There have been some suggestions that this Minnesota side will be one of the worst in MLS history, but they look to have enough about them to prove those critics wrong.

Standout Signings

As always, there have been a host of changes to squads over the course of preseason. But unlike any other year, MLS clubs have started to look for younger talent as it has become clear all 22 sides are starting to prioritise longer-term goals. Atlanta’s trio of young DPs have already been mentioned, but they weren’t the only side to splash the cash on younger Designated Players this winter. FC Dallas have added striker Cristian Colman, Real Salt Lake have landed Albert Rusnak, Vancouver have brought in Yordy Reyna and Sporting Kansas City have moved to sign Gerso Fernandes. All of those names are sure to make an impression in 2017, along with a host of more ‘traditional’ DPs that have joined the league, although the following five are all still under the age of 30.

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LA Galaxy have added some raw pace by bringing in Roman Alessandrini from Marseille, NYCFC have added creativity by signing Maxi Moralez to replace Frank Lampard and Chicago have added firepower by bringing in Nemanja Nikolic. On top of that Portland have signed Sebastian Blanco, while Fredy Montero is back in MLS after four seasons abroad. He has joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and will be hoping to pick up where he left off with Seattle, where he scored 47 goals in 119 regular season games.

What’s for certain is that the new DP signings will give MLS a fresh feel in 2017. More quality should mean more entertainment and more goals. Oh, and more selection dilemmas for MLS Fantasy managers…

Emerging Stars

With MLS getting younger this year, there will be plenty of focus on some of the league’s emerging talents. Some were here last season and left an impression, while others are looking to prove their worth as early as possible. The average age of squads in MLS this season is now 26.3, with FC Dallas boasting the youngest squad with an average age of 24.31. Walker Zimmerman will look to continue his improvement as an MLS defender, but will also be hoping to make an impression on the international stage if he can keep getting better. Elsewhere, the likes of LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison will be looking to have breakout seasons so long as they can nail down regular starting roles.

Jack Harrison, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Cody Cropper will be hoping this is the year he can become a standout goalkeeper. He had struggled for game time in England in the past but is now in New England, where he’ll expect to impress. While in New York, Sean Davis has the seemingly impossible task of trying to fill the void left by Dax McCarty’s departure to Chicago. But he should be giving the time on the field to prove his worth and will be looking to help lead the Red Bulls to the top of the East once more.

Who Will Be MVP?

As with any season, making a prediction like this before the first ball has even been kicked is brave stupid, but why not do it again? There are a host of new unpredictabilities all over the league this year but the same star names will expect to be challenging at the top end of the scoring charts, and for the MVP award too as a result. Sebastian Giovinco was probably shocked not to pick up the 2016 MLS MVP award, with David Villa instead scooping that award, and both attackers will once again be tipped to dominate defences from day one.

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Strikers have dominated the MVP award over the past five seasons, but playmakers such as Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Sacha Kljestan will fancy their chances of making a case for the honour if they can have standout campaigns.

But it’s impossible to overlook Giovinco. The Atomic Ant has scored 39 goals and picked up 31 assists in 61 regular season games and is arguably the greatest player to ever play in Major League Soccer. If he stays healthy, he’s surely going to be MVP.

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Who Will Win MLS Cup?

The only thing that’s even more brave stupid to predict than the MVP is picking the team that will lift MLS Cup nine months on from now. But hey, why not give that a go too? The way the Sounders marched to MLS Cup glory last season from a seemingly lost position in the summer was incredible, but is unlikely to be repeated this term given the increased competition and quality in the league. No side has retained the trophy for four seasons but the Sounders still have the tools at their disposal to put up a strong defence. LA Galaxy are usually in the mix but they are set for a transitional year and don’t look to be in a position to go and get their hands on a sixth title this year.

MLS Cup Final 2016 - Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

What does look likely is that the winner will come from the Western Conference for the eighth time in nine seasons. FC Dallas have still never lifted MLS Cup, which seems insane considering they’ve finished top of the West for two-straight seasons. They have all the tools to go all the way this year. Mauro Diaz is out for the first four months of the new season, which is a huge blow, but he’ll be back at a key time of the season and will be able to help Oscar Pareja’s men go all the way in 2017.

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Vancouver Whitecaps also look like contenders this year, as the addition of Montero should make them much more of a force this term. Toronto FC were one shootout away from winning the title last term, and if Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, they will likely be there or thereabouts again.