The 2015 MLS season kicks off tonight with the reigning champions LA Galaxy taking on the Chicago Fire at Stubhub Center.
The campaign has somewhat snuck up on us thanks to the ongoing CBA negotiations and the threat of a strike that seemed completely certain until yesterday.
So, after an off-season that was bizarre, complicated and actually quite exciting, lets run through what you can expect from the 20th season of Major League Soccer.
Article continues below
1) New Stars
As MLS gets older, the stars that it manages to attract seem to get younger. This off-season we saw multiple Internationals with World Cup and major tournament experience cross the Atlantic and land in North America.
Toronto FC bought in Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus in arguably the biggest deal of the winter. The 'Atomic Ant' is just 28-years old and could easily have moved to another Serie A side or taken up the offer he supposedly had from a Premier League team but chose the Great White North and Toronto. Joining him on the Reds is Jozy Altidore, who will be hoping to recreate his AZ Alkmaar form instead of his performances at Sunderland.
Article continues below
Then there is David Villa who will playing for New York City FC and Kaka at Orlando City. Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will both be linking up with their new sides - the Galaxy and NYCFC - at the end of the EPL season.
2) New Teams
MLS is always growing and that is no more obvious than this season where two teams will be playing their first games in the premier league of North American soccer. Orlando City and New York City FC both paid the $100million fee to enter the league and they will both be eager to make an instant impact.
Orlando were previously playing in the USL Pro, the level below MLS, whilst NYC are completely new having been created by the group that owns Manchester City. Adrian Heath is in control of Orlando, while Jason Kreis heads up New York. Both teams will be looking to play a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 style and face each other on Saturday.
Major League Soccer has some major talents that could be set to take the league by storm this year. Tesho Akindele of FC Dallas is a goal scoring forward that was given the prestigious Rookie of the Year honour in 2014 and he will be hoping to carry that form over.
One of the most exciting players to keep an eye on however will be Tommy Thompson of the San Jose Earthquakes. The 19-year old is a star for the United States Under-20's team and could be the next big thing out of the USA since Landon Donovan. Thompson is a diminutive playmaker that boasts a quick first touch and an innate ability to get out of tight spaces. Just check out this video from one of his first ever starts in pro football to see what his game is all about...
4) Goal Celebrations
There is one thing that MLS does better than any other league in the world, goal celebrations. The league may not be the quickest, have the best defenses or spend the most on transfer fees but god damn do they know how to celebrate.
First there was the great Thierry Henry who gave us the gloriously photoshop-able Henrying. Then there's Timber Joey who whacks out his chainsaw and chops a block of wood off a tree whenever Portland score. And then there's the next level, the creme de la creme of goal celebrations, Dom Dwyer's selfie.
Here's a Top 5 for your eyeballs to enjoy:
5) Live on Sky Sports
For the first time ever, MLS is broadcasting games live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom so all you MLS-ites and interested rookie can enjoy the best the league has to offer.
MLS and Sky have a four-year deal in place that will see the behemoth broadcasters show two games a week on live television. That starts this weekend with Orlando vs New York City on Sunday which is followed by Sporting Kansas City vs New York Red Bulls from 9pm. What's not to love!
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms