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MLS is officially back and while there's plenty to sort out off the pitch with officials being locked out and the uncertain status of the U.S. Open Cup, a new year is always a time to project who will collect hardware at the end of the season. Expectations may be for Inter Miami to sweep the board but with 28 other teams vying for league supremacy, the Herons will have stiff competition. 

Let's take a look at who could grab MLS awards:

MVP: Lionel Messi, Inter Miami

There are plenty of players who may end up deserving this award at the end of the season. League stalwarts like Hany Mukhtar, Carles Gil, and Luciano Acosta come to mind but this award is Lionel Messi's to lose. Almost winning MVP last season despite only playing in the league for half of a season, it doesn't feel like there is anything but an injury that can deny Messi from winning the award in his first full season in Major League Soccer. Already with an assist under his belt in an opening-day victory over Real Salt Lake, Messi will end up with at least a goal contribution per game played which will be plenty to justify taking MVP honors.

Young Player of the Year: Diego Luna, Real Salt Lake

While reigning young player of the year Thiago Almada is still eligible for this award, it will take a miracle to keep him in Atlanta past the summer. Almada has his eyes set on Europe and there's no reason why a team won't be able to meet Atlanta's valuations, taking the top contender for this award out of the league. For RSL, if they're going to make the playoffs this season, it will come down to two people on the roster. Cristian Arango and Diego Luna. It's a lot of pressure on the 20-year-old but it will give him plenty of time on the ball to make things happen. A driven individual, Luna wants to win everything that there is to win and earn a transfer to Europe so there's plenty of motivation to win this.

Golden Boot: Giorgos Giakoumakis, Atlanta United

Coming close to lifting the award last season with 17 goals in 27 appearances Giorgos Giakoumakis has established himself as a force to be feared in a short time in the league. He'll have tough competition but leading a loaded Atlanta United attack, Giakoumakis will have plenty of chances to score in every match this season. He has the added benefit of facing Toronto FC twice and even getting the LA Galaxy as Atlanta will face some of the worst defenses in the league. If Almada is sold abroad, goals from Giakoumakis only become more important and if he stays, the Atlanta attack is almost unstoppable making it a win-win situation for Golden Boot.

Newcomer of the Year: Hugo Cuypers, Chicago Fire

Quietly the Fire have had an excellent offseason bringing in Tom Barlow, Andrew Guyman, Kellyn Acosta, Tobias Salquist and Hugo Cuypers while also appointing Frank Klopas as their manager. Coming from Gent in Belgium, Cuypers scored 51 goals and assisted 15 more in only 90 matches with the squad in what has been an impressive career seeing him score a total of 99 goals and assist 36 more in 214 appearances. Simply put, the man knows how to find the back of the net. There is a level of skepticism that comes with signings in Chicago after seeing top players fail to perform there but it feels like even if the team is poor overall, Cuypers will still rack up enough counting stats to even rival Luis Suarez for Newcomer of the Year but this will be a hotly contested award.

MLS Cup winner: FC Dallas

With Jesus Ferreira, Paul Arriola, and Petar Musa, FC Dallas boasts one of the best attacks in the league while also not being burdened with Champions Cup play to focus on keeping players healthy. Despite boasting one of the best academies in the league, FC Dallas has never won the MLS Cup finishing as runners-up in 2010 but this is the year that things change. Ferreira came close to departing before a deal to move to Spartak Moscow was cancelled by the league but with summer commitments such as the Copa America, he may make it the entire season with Dallas to push the team to win the cup. If Ferreira departs, that's where things get a little tricky but at full strength, I'm backing Dallas.