The predicted order of finish in MLS this season is …
I have no idea. And neither do you, no matter how many thousands of words you’ve written or podcasted to the contrary.
We really should get over the concept of being able to predict this league. This isn’t the NBA, where well-established veterans are joined by players we’ve seen for at least a year in college. Or the NFL, where Mel Kiper and his clones thoroughly vet every draftee and no one comes in from Europe. Or the NHL and MLB, where only the top junior phenoms skip the minor leagues. (Sure, it’s much more common in hockey, but even then, we know the players who are ready to make the jump.)
I’m not going to pretend I know how any of these scores of newcomers are going to fare in MLS. The only thing more ridiculous than pretending I can project a draftee’s MLS potential from a dark FSC college soccer broadcast is pretending I can tell you whether the Whitecaps have bought wisely from the Swiss Super League.
I didn’t scout the Uruguayan league to find out if Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari are the answers up front for Chicago. I know far more about Ole Einar Bjorndalen than I do about Jan Gunnar Solli.
Some of these guys will be the next Christian Gomez or Joel Lindpere. Some of them will be the next Franco Niell or Isaac Romo.
Of the expansion teams, Portland has more proven MLS players than Vancouver has. That means Vancouver’s first year could be a Chivas USA redux, or maybe the Swiss league is to the Northwest what Eastern Europe was to the 1998 Chicago Fire.
This much we know: A couple of teams (Salt Lake, Seattle) have solid cores and didn’t make too many changes. New York has a solid core but made a few more changes than the others. Los Angeles and Dallas made a few high-profile tweaks.
Predicting the newcomers’ success is really a question of judging the recent track record of the people who brought them in. With Steve Nicol in charge, New England can maintain some cautious optimism. Houston also has management with a solid track record.
Other than that, let the crapshoot begin. And when Team X wins it all, I’ll be the first to say I didn’t tell you so.