Return of Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer returned to our television sets and American football pitches last weekend. It is the league’s 29th season and is undergoing some growing pains in preparation for its 30th anniversary next year.
Recent expansion has set the number of clubs in the league at 29. St. Louis City SC joins MLS this week. They have also negotiated a new streaming deal with AppleTV, offering one of the most comprehensive streaming soccer packages fans can find.
The league also added some new tweaks to the playoffs and season calendar. The league’s playoff format added best-of-3 match-ups to the first round. The catch? They will skip the traditional extra time and go directly into a sudden death penalty shootout.
Finally, MLS will pause its season starting in July for a month-long tournament called the Leagues Cup featuring all teams in MLS and Liga MX. What a busy year!
After last year’s breathtaking Major League Soccer Cup final between LAFC and the Philadelphia Union, it’s clear that the level of competition in the MLS is no longer a punchline. This league is hard to win. There hasn’t been a repeat winner of the MLS Cup since 2011-2012, when the LA Galaxy repeated back-to-back.
Due to the prevalence of other competitions like the U.S. Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League, it’s hard for teams to repeat in MLS. LAFC is defending champion in that position. They’ll be chasing trophies in the Leagues Cup with Liga MX, the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup, the U.S. Open Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League.
They’ll have a demanding schedule, and with the lack of repeat champions, it’s fair to say that we’ll most likely be looking at a new Major League Soccer champion this year. If placing a bet on a team to win the MLS Cup this year, check out what other competitions they’re playing in. Teams without too much burden outside the league are the ones to target for winning the MLS Cup.
The growth of Major League Soccer is driving a higher caliber of talent to the league. Recently, MLS has started beating other North American soccer leagues, like Liga MX, in sending talent from North America to Europe.
This year, in a continuation of that trend, a couple of MLS teams broke their previous transfer records by bringing new talent into the league. The Portland Timbers broke their transfer record by signing Brazilian midfielder Evander from a Danish club, where he put up 50 goals and 38 assists over 167 appearances. The Timbers will look to him as a replacement for Diego Valeri, who retired last summer and returned to Argentina.
Real Salt Lake also broke their transfer fee on Andres Gomez, a 20-year-old Colombian striker. Gomez had nine goals in 49 appearances in Colombia’s top league. His signing will hopefully bolster a Real Salt Lake team that struggled mightily last season, finishing near the bottom of the Western Conference.
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