By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Feb 25, 2019) US Soccer Players – Those countdown clocks set to signal the start of the 2019 MLS season are about to hit all zeroes. Three months after Atlanta United FC lifted MLS Cup, here we are again. The start of a brand new season is less than a week away and there’s plenty to look forward to this year.
There’s been plenty of action already. The National Team, loaded with MLS talent, has already played two games. The Concacaf Champions League’s round of 16 has been a tasty appetizer of what’s to come in March. There are storylines galore that will continue to captivate fans, pundits and journalists alike as the league enters its 24th season. This is a league that has grown so much in its maturity and professionalism over the past two decades, as well as when it comes to overall visibility, attendance, and quality of play.
Along with Mexico’s Liga MX, Major League Soccer remains the biggest and most prestigious domestic competition in Concacaf. This season is another opportunity to showcase the American, regional, and foreign talent that play here. The Gold Cup rosters will demonstrate that.
From whether Atlanta can repeat, to the debut of Cincinnati FC, to teams like the Los Angeles Galaxy looking to rebuild, these are just a few of the things fans can look forward to this season. There’s less than a week to go before the season officially gets underway. Twitter is already abuzz with #MLSisback, while players, coaches, and fans are counting the hours until kickoff.
With the start of a new season on Saturday, here’s 19 things – in reverse order – to look ahead to during the 2019 season.
19. The season starts earlier!
Yes, the long-awaited season comes a few weeks earlier this year after MLS decided to move up the MLS Cup Final by a month. As a result, there is a more condensed schedule.
18. Cincinnati FC are new to the league
Expansion is the name of the game for MLS in recent years. The former USL club from Ohio dazzled the nation in the US Open Cup a few years back. Will they do it again?
17. Atlanta United FC looks to repeat as champions
Repeating is no easy task. The arrival of Frank De Boer as coach and departure of striker Miquel Almiron means this team could take on a new look and feel. Question is, can they still win?
16. The LA Galaxy will try to make the playoffs
This former MLS glamour club missed out on the postseason on the final day of last season. They will be looking to bring glory back to the StubHub Center any way they can this year.
15. The New York Red Bulls and its quest for the title
New year, same old question. A mix of youth and experience means they could win it all. They never do. It’s that “curse” RBNY and its fans will have to contend with again.
14. Rookies galore to watch
The SuperDraft gave us a host of talent with the potential to do very well. One to keep an eye on include midfielders Frank Amaya (Cincinnati FC) and Siad Haji (San Jose Earthquakes).
13. Who will have a better year: Wayne Rooney or Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
This one’s a tossup. Both have what it takes to have great seasons, despite their ages. The one former European star that could do even better than these two? Nani at Orlando City.
12. Columbus will try to draw more fans
The team isn’t moving to Austin and the newfound excitement around the Crew could translate to better results on the field and more fans in the stands.
11. The Concacaf Champions League’s impact on the start of the season
Toronto FC got burned last season investing its energy into the tournament, while results in MLS were hard to come by. Did this year's field learn from the Reds?
10. FC Dallas and its youth system look to dominate the Western Conference
This is a team with a wonderful Academy system. It will be that system, and reliance on youth, that Dallas hopes to press the reset button to beat established powers in its conference.
9. The derbies will once again bring excitement
There are two that standout out: RBNY vs. NYCFC and Galaxy vs LAFC. This season, look at those as well as the first-ever Ohio derby between Cincinnati and Columbus.
8. Sporting Kansas City will trade a big name over the summer
Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, Ike Opara, Diego Rubio... you sense a pattern here? The team isn’t afraid to part ways with a big name midway through and it could happen again.
7. Tim Howard’s final season
This is his final season and expect celebrations wherever this beloved player goes. The ex-US star has been a big part of this country’s recent soccer history and the league will miss him.
6. The opening of Allianz Field
Another new venue will open this season, part of the league’s push for soccer-specific stadiums that has gone on for years. Minnesota United FC will finally have a worthy home starting in ’19.
5. The All-Star Game in Orlando
The All-Star Game, no matter how anybody feels about it, remains an important part of the season in terms of marketing the league here and abroad. This year’s no different in sunny Orlando.
4. Unpredictability of it all!
Europe’s major domestic leagues have all the history and cache, but they are often predictable. Not MLS. Any team can win it all and that’s something to relish as the season progresses.
3. New talent for the National Team pool
You never know who will emerge as a standout in this league. As the US prepares for the Gold Cup this summer, expect some fresh faces to emerge by the summer.
2. DaMarcus Beasley’s longevity
Howard may be retiring, but at age 36 DaMarcus Beasley keeps going. A major part of the Houston Dynamo’s lineup, Beasley marks his 20th season as a pro.
1. Another potential Decision Day to remember
The final weekend of the season is often where we learn playoff spots and seedings. If things remain tight, even the Supporters’ Shield could be up for grabs on the last day.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Atlanta, Toronto, and the Red Bulls in the Concacaf Champions League
- The 4-2-3-1 formation in MLS
- New coaches, familiar pressure in MLS
- FC Cincinnati plays the MLS game
Photo by MLS Communications