With frustrating time off for all sports, we want to look around the major football territories and get their vision of the MLS. We asked journalists from France, England and Germany their views about our league progression
Not necessarily the most anticipated franchise last season, the Seattle Sounders won the second title in their history in Major League Soccer by defeating the Toronto FC. A historic club in the North American championship, the Washington-based team will try to keep its title. A performance that has not been performed since 2012 when the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Houston Dynamo for the second season in a row. For this 2020 season, Seattle has not done any consequent expenses and keeps a fairly similar group with their striker Jordan Morris (13 goals in 30 games) and especially the captain Nicolas Lodeiro (9 goals and 12 assists in 32 games) last season. Named best player in the MLS final, Spaniard Victor Rodriguez Romero will also be expected at the turn. Three men that will be precious to have a chance to keep the title.
However, the competition will once again be tough. With now 26 franchises, the Major League Soccer is delivering a new format. To avoid the chaining of matches (and we still don’t know how the league will cope with this unexpected time off, nor when it will resume), the teams will play 34 regular-season games. Two confrontations against the 12 franchises of their conference and a match against 10 of the 13 teams of the other conference. This means that not all MLS teams will meet with each other this season. Historically stronger, the Western conference is increasingly challenged by Eastern franchises. Recently crowned champions, Toronto (2017) and Atlanta (2018) support this trend. These two teams will once again be expected to play troublemakers. Finalist last season, the Canadian franchise has not really experienced any upheaval in its group. Pablo Piatti even joined the team from Espanyol Barcelona. One of the biggest threats last season was Spaniard Alejandro Pozuelo (14 goals and 10 assists in 34 games).
A race for the title which promises to be complicated
Atlanta United for its part will continue with Frank de Boer at its head. If the Dutch technician has failed to retain the title, the Georgia-based team will once again be in the running for the and is keen to join the play-offs. The stars Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, and Gonzalo Martinez stayed. However, the invaluable German Julian Gressel with 8 goals and 12 assists in 36 games last season left for rival DC United. Always present in the race, New York City and the New York Red Bulls will still be dangerous this year. NYC will be expecting marvels from the Finnish Alexander Ring but also Maxi Moralez as the creative playmaker. The Brazilian Héber who scored 15 goals last season will be a real danger as well. Less armed, New York Red Bulls is in transition. New coach Chris Armas will, therefore, have a lot to do after the successful passage of Jesse Marsch, now making an amazing season with Red Bull Salzburg.
On the west coast, the competition is also looking exciting. Los Angeles FC’s semifinalist last year will have one of last season’s top scorers and one of the best assisters Carlos Vela (34 goals and 15 offerings). Best player of the regular season in 2019, the Mexican has formed a prolific duet with Diego Rossi (13 achievements). They had no difficulty to beat Inter Miami CF in the opening game. The arrival of young Brian Rodriguez (19) combined with that of experienced Bradley Wright-Philipps (New York Red Bulls) and Kenneth Vermeer (Feyenoord) could strengthen the young franchise. In its third season, Bob Bradley’s team is armed to take the title. Their rival Los Angeles Galaxy put the means to play the final victory also. Zlatan Ibrahimovic left for AC Milan, but the recruiting of Chicharito (Sevilla FC) and the form of Christian Pavon (still on loan from Boca Juniors) could compensate for the loss of the Swedish legend. A little further on the starting grid, franchises like the Dynamo of Houston, FC Dallas, and especially Real Salt Lake will not lack arguments.
Inter Miami CF and the new franchises
Particularly awaited all over the world, Inter Miami finally saw the light of day during this (short) season. The project led by David Beckham for many years is getting real. The former English midfielder, who will experience the full pressure of a football team president, knows he will be scrutinized. For this first season, the Florida club will try to follow the good examples of Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC. Two teams that have reached the playoffs in their first season. The club made the best of it with the appointment of Diego Alonso to head the team. The Uruguayan technician won two CONCACAF Champions League with Pachuca and the Rayados de Monterrey and now intends to dominate the MLS. He took Rodolfo Pizarro from Mexico in his luggage. Another good force is Will Trapp, American international in the heart of the game, and also the rough Jorge Figal in defense.
The two young Argentinian hopefuls Matias Pellegrini (19) and Juliàn Carranza (19) have both arrived from La Plata and Banfield students. Very promising, they will try to take advantage of the growing exposure of the MLS to export themselves like Miguel Almiron (Newcastle), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) or Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) recently. Another newbie, the Nashville SC will try to be more than one to argue. Among the newcomers to the past few seasons, teams like Orlando, Minnesota United and FC Cincinnati have had a tough start. If the Tennessee team can expect to experience a first experimental season, many experienced players have come to the image of defenders Brayan Beckeles and Daniel Lovitz. In the midfield, the main arrival comes from Brondby. Nashville did not hesitate to spend 2.7 million euros to welcome the German Hany Mukhtar. The MLS keeps getting better!