MLS: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2015 Season
MLS's 20th season is set to be one of the most competitive and exciting campaigns in league history because almost any team could feasibly contend for a playoff spot in 2015.
There are two new teams with a few international stars, plus several clubs bulked up this winter and are ready to qualify for the playoffs.
Once the season is underway, there promises to be a lot of surprises because MLS is so unpredictable.
Here are five bold predictions for the 2015 season.
LA Galaxy Will Repeat as Champions
The LA Galaxy are the favorite to win the MLS Cup, according to Odds Shark.
Predicting the defending champions to repeat isn't out of the ordinary, but it will be a lot tougher for the Galaxy to claim their sixth MLS Cup this year.
The expanded playoff field, the strength of the Western Conference and loss of key players will make it incredibly difficult for L.A.
Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas are no longer with the team. Steven Gerrard will arrive in the summer, but the Galaxy will have to cope for the first few months without the Englishman.
The Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers will all compete with L.A. in the West. There are also plenty of teams who can qualify for the MLS Cup final, including last year's finalists, the New England Revolution.
However, as long as the Galaxy have Bruce Arena as head coach, they will always be competitive.
Both Expansion Teams Will Make the Playoffs
Orlando City SC and New York City FC will begin their inaugural campaign against one another at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday. It's highly likely both clubs will finish the regular season as playoff teams as well.
Orlando City and NYCFC built formidable squads that will compete in the Eastern Conference. New York has David Villa, Mix Diskerud and (eventually) Frank Lampard. Orlando has established players such as Kaka along with young stars like Bryan Rochez.
It's clear both teams want to make an instant impact in MLS. Their offseason moves indicate they're serious contenders for postseason berths.
Orlando and New York may have some defensive issues, especially in the center, but other Eastern teams also have problems at the back. New England and Columbus Crew SC don't have a lot of depth in this position either.
Fitness and international call-ups will be crucial, but Orlando and New York have squads who are more than capable of making the playoffs.
At Least 2 Canadian Teams Will Qualify for the Playoffs
Toronto FC have never made the playoffs, the Montreal Impact qualified once and the Vancouver Whitecaps have participated twice in the postseason. However, none of these Canadian teams have made it past the first round.
Only one team has represented Canada in the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. This year should mark the first time two Canadian clubs qualify for the postseason.
TFC's winter spending spree on Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and others makes them an instant favorite in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto's spine has undergone major changes, but the previously mentioned Altidore and Giovinco, along with Benoit Cheyrou and Damien Perquis, should give the Reds valuable experience and quality.
The Vancouver Whitecaps finally acquired the goalscoring striker they've needed in Octavio Rivero. The Whitecaps also added depth at center back with the additions of Pa Modou Kah and Diego Rodriguez.
Montreal's winter wasn't too shabby either. Laurent Ciman, Nigel Reo-Coker, Marco Donadel and Bakary Soumare are just a few of the offseason arrivals for the Impact, although the lack of a goalscorer hurts the Impact's playoff chances.
On the western side of the country, Vancouver has a distinct advantage. Almost every member of its starting XI is returning from last year. Chemistry is vital for MLS success.
Jozy Altidore Will Win the MLS Golden Boot
Jozy Altidore struggled mightily at Sunderland, scoring just one goal in 42 Premier League appearances. However, with Sebastian Giovinco playing behind him, Altidore will be a perennial All-Star striker in MLS.
Giovinco will be a candidate for both Newcomer of the Year and the MVP. His speed, technique and vision will not only help himself; it will also boost Altidore's goalscoring output.
The midfield duo of Benoit Cheyrou and Michael Bradley will also contribute in attack. Bradley will have freedom to make forward runs, which will open up space for Altidore.
The 25-year-old will have a lot of critics. However, as Altidore told Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Sun, he wants to help TFC make the playoffs and rejuvenate his career. A determined Altidore will be tough to contain for opposing defenses.
Clint Dempsey Will Win MLS MVP
An American has won the MLS MVP eight times if the Serbian-born Preki is added into the mix. The amount of international stars indicates a non-U.S. player will be given the award, but that might not be the case.
Kaka, David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco, Robbie Keane and many others are potential candidates, but there are a few Americans who can challenge this formidable group.
Clint Dempsey is one American who could be in the hunt for the MVP. He scored 15 goals and recorded 10 assists last season, which are solid numbers.
Keane, the current MVP, scored 19 goals and recorded 14 assists in 2014. The Seattle Sounders have the potential to be one of the best attacking teams in MLS, so Dempsey could reach similar levels.
The MVP is usually awarded to an attack-minded player, but since Dempsey is on an MLS Cup contender, he has a realistic chance of winning the award.