Saturday, March 8, 2014

MLS 2014 Preview - The Bump Season

It's time to fill the role of prognosticator as another Major League Soccer season is upon us.  Later today,I'll be standing and chanting in the Timbers Army among the Portland Timbers faithful as we raise the curtain on another season. This season, Release 19.0 is a "bump season" as the league expects an increase (or bump) in attendance (and hopefully television ratings) due to World Cup 2014 in Brazil occurring and raising interest as the world focus is on soccer for a month.

Already a Bump
There already seems to be an overall positive trend for MLS these days.  MLS is gaining traction over MLB according to a recent #ESPNFC poll among the valued 12-17 year old demographic. There's also talk of the sport breaking the Big Four for US Sports (you can see and take the ESPN SportsNation poll here) as more kids are exposed to the sport.  The league's footprint will be expanding next year with New York City area getting their second franchise along with much needed franchise in the south with Orlando coming on board.

The season ahead
For now the focus ahead is the season ahead.  All the teams have unveiled their new kits as part of Jersey Week and they are ready to take the pitch.  Wins will matter the most in the standings this year.  Having said that, I think my hometown Portland Timbers will be able to convert their 15 ties from their 2013 campaign to enough wins to take the West again. In the East, I can't find a good reason to pick against returning champion Sporting Kansas City and think Real Salt Lake will drop a notch without the leadership of Jason Kreis.  Who wins the MLS Cup final is anyone's guess so I am going with my Timbers, especially if it as home.  Below is the predicted order of finish for each conference - Enjoy the matches and let me know who do you like and why?

Eastern Conference
  1. Kansas City
  2. New York
  3. Columbus
  4. Chicago
  5. Toronto
  6. Houston
  7. New England
  8. Montreal
  9. Philadelphia
  10. DC
Western Conference
  1. Portland
  2. Los Angeles
  3. San Jose
  4. Real Salt Lake
  5. Seattle
  6. Vancouver
  7. Dallas
  8. Colorado
  9. Chivas USA