Major League Soccer's 15th season officially kicks off tonight when the Seattle Sounders face first year team the Philadelphia Union at Qwest Field in front of a capacity crowd of 35,500 screaming fans. Kickoff is at 9:30 PM ET and it'll be on ESPN 2.
Coached by Sigi Schmid, the Sounders were the darlings of the MLS last season as they advanced to the playoffs and had the best attendance and fan support that was noticeable by the entire league.
With excellent defense, they finished with a 12-7-11 record and were tied with the Houston Dynamo for first in goals allowed. Led by Freddie Ljungberg and Fredy Montero, this Sounders team has a balance of youth and experience capable of winning the MLS Cup this season.
For the Philadelphia Union, this is their inaugural season. Coached by veteran Peter Nowak, the Union will be faced with five young players transitioning and adapting to the level of MLS play. Drafting intelligently, the Union may have a championship team in three years. This is a squad that it's future core may include No. 1 draft pick Danny Mwanga, followed by Amobi Okugo (No. 6 draft pick), Jack McInerney (No. 7), Tony Stahl (No. 17), and Kyle Nakazawa (No. 33).
What a way to kick off the 2010 MLS season! A 2010 season which consists of 16 teams, 240 matches, and 21,600 minutes. In addition, American soccer's cathedral, Red Bull Arena, opened last week to a crowd of 25,000 fans as they witnessed the NY Red Bulls throttle Santos F.C. 3-1 in their friendly match. Realistically, it's safe to believe that the Red Bulls will finish better than 5-19-6.
This has the potential of being the best MLS season yet. The players and owners have reached an agreement with the CBA and neither side lost. With that settled, this is the year that Major League Soccer needs its fans to be vocal and prepared to defend their league.
Seriously...enough is enough! When it comes to league operations, Major League Soccer is one of the best soccer leagues in the world. It's a competitive league where the quality has evolved over the years. MLS being a "single-entity" league, the teams are more financially sound than some of the teams in the EPL.
Comparing MLS to the EPL, La Liga, or the Serie A is simply ridiculous and there's no need for it. When was the last time basketball leagues from China or Italy were compared to the NBA? Yes, those soccer leagues are fun to watch and they have more athletic talent but it's usually two or four good teams competing for their respectable title.
Competing against MLB, the NBA, and NHL the NFL? Major League Soccer doesn't have to compete against those leagues. If most fans would follow all the sports economically and from a time management perspective...MLS has all those leagues beaten.
What makes MLS great is the fact that the games are affordable for individuals and families. Second, there's no commercials or timeouts to disrupt the follow of the game. Third, both the NBA and the NFL may be on strike in 2011 if they're unable to reach an agreement by.
If you're a Major League Soccer fan, this is the year to be show it! Be proud! Be loud!
Enjoy the 2010 MLS season!
Cesar Diaz covers soccer for Latino Sports (www.latinosports.com). Send Cesar a question or comment for potential use in a future column at email@example.com.