2018 MLS season: Five things to know, including LAFC's first season and the league's newest star
The season kicks off this coming Saturday
The 2018 MLS season is just days away from beginning, and there are plenty of storylines ahead of the ball rolling all across the United States and Canada. There's a new club, a potential new superstar, tons of young, new talent and more. Here are five things to know as the season gets underway.
1. Move over Galaxy, there's a new club in the city of angels
There's a new club in MLS, and it's Los Angeles FC. Owned by a huge group of people that include Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson and Will Ferrell, the team kicks off the season this weekend against Seattle. Their coach is Bob Bradley who knows a thing or two about leading an expansion franchise.
He was the first ever coach of the Chicago Fire and led the team, in its every first season, to the MLS Cup and also won the U.S. Open Cup.
And he's also got a very interesting roster to work with, including U.S. men's national team defender Walker Zimmerman at the back and a good amount of talent in the final third, with Mexico star Carlos Vela in his prime, Costa Rica international Marco Urena and Uruguayan youngster Diego Rossi, who joined in the summer from Penarol.
2. For NYCFC, it's now or never
The window may be closing on a NYCFC MLS Cup, and David Villa's age is the reason why. After a slow first start in the league under Jason Kreis, the team finished fourth in the east in 2016 and second in 2017, falling in the conference semifinals each time.
Now, it's time to win the cup or see the window closed. David Villa, the league's top striker, isn't getting any younger, having turned 36 in December. He has one, maybe two more good seasons left in him and NYCFC. Add the fact that Jack Harrison left NYCFC for partner/parent club Manchester City, and there's plenty of pressure on Maxi Moralez to be the guy in the final third to help Villa continue his pace.
3. A future superstar comes from Argentina
There's so much new talent in MLS, and lots from South America, and none more exciting than Ezequiel Barco. A Copa Sudamericana winner with Independiente of Argentina, he's the most expensive transfer in MLS history at just under $15 million and is worth the price. With the potential to be an Argentina national team member in the coming years, the speedy winger and score, can assist and can take over a match by himself by dissecting defenses.
When Miguel Almiron joined Atlanta United last year for just over $9 million, it was looked at as a steal and still is. Barco has the potential to make even more of an impact. He has enough talent to be playing in La Liga, the Premier League or Serie A, but he joins MLS as one of the brightest young talents in the Americas.
Now to the bad news - if you want to see him, you must wait. Atlanta announced he would miss 4-6 weeks with a hamstring injury he picked up on Tuesday, delaying his official debut.
4. Is it the Crew's last ride in Columbus?
With nothing set in stone, the Columbus Crew are entering a season with lots of strange, unfamiliar feelings. With owner Anthony Precourt being vocal about wanting to move the club to Austin, Texas, nobody knows what the future holds for the club.
But the club is stell trending towards a move. Just days before the season kicks off, owner Anthony Precourt once again brought up the prospect of moving, saying he is still looking for a stadium site in Texas, as the Chicago Tribune points out.
"Precourt Sports Ventures continues to work with the Austin community to secure an appropriate urban core site for a soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the home of Austin's first major league professional sports franchise," the statement said. "We announced our serious interest to work with Austin prior to the start of the 2017 playoffs, an announcement that embodied risk, urgency, and a genuine desire to work with Austin to find the right site.
"With the right site, we can build a world-class, privately financed $200 million soccer park and grounds. As we have said from the onset of this exploratory process, a location in the vibrant urban core where people live, work, and play is of paramount importance. This stadium location is a critical driver to the club's long-term success."
Nothing is final, but it looks like the Crew's days in Ohio are numbered.
5. Place your bets: MLS Cup odds
Here are the MLS Cup odds by Bovada, with the reigning champs the current favorites, with Atlanta United and Seattle Sounders second.
Toronto FC 7/2
Atlanta United 8/1
Seattle Sounders 8/1
Portland Timbers 9/1
New York City FC 10/1
FC Dallas 16/1
LA Galaxy 16/1
Houston Dynamo 20/1
NY Red Bulls 20/1
Chicago Fire 25/1
Columbus Crew 25/1
Montreal Impact 25/1
Sporting Kansas City 25/1
Orlando City 33/1
Vancouver Whitecaps 33/1
Los Angeles FC 40/1
Colorado Rapids 50/1
Real Salt Lake 50/1
San Jose Earthquakes 50/1
DC United 66/1
Minnesota United 66/1
New England Revolution 66/1
Philadelphia Union 66/1
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The action gets underway on June 11