So many questions, so little time. With the final whistle blown on MLS Cup 2018 it marked the end of a wild, unpredictable season in the top level of football the United States and Canada. But as we have seen through the years in MLS the end of one season is really just the beginning of another.
What is in store for 2019? Here are ten questions ahead of the next campaign!
#10 What will the Vancouver Whitecaps do with all of their Alphonso Davies money?
It is a clean slate for Vancouver. After years of treading water, the club finally went into ‘rebuild mode’ this offseason scrapping pretty much their entire roster and firmly ending the Carl Robinson era. New Head Coach Marc Dos Santos has been given the keys to build the club from the ground up and he has a rather huge chip: the transfer money acquired from selling Alphonso Davies. Davies was sold for about $13 million dollars to Bayern Munich giving Vancouver some good cap flexibility. While not all of that goes back to the Caps a significant will still be coming in their direction and it will be interesting to see how dos Santos spends it.
#9 Will FC Cincinnati be Atlanta United FC or Minnesota United FC in year one?
Expansion sides either tend to be really good or really poor in year one with very little deviation. For every side like Atlanta United that takes the league by storm there is a Minnesota United that is still struggling to find its identity. What makes FC Cincinnati such an interesting case is that they have beaten MLS sides in US Open Cup play with some regularity. Can that success give them an edge in MLS season one?
#8 Will Wondo bag the all-time goal scoring record?
San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski came very, very close to taking home the all-time goal scoring record. He stands at 144, just one shy of Landon Donovan’s 145. Sounds like a simple task, right? On paper yes but the Earthquakes have gone through a reboot this season, adding Matias Alymeda as coach and clearing out a ton of contracts. A move seems unlikely so will he want to put his boots back on for one more season with less time and a new boss?
#7 Can the league and the Players Association agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement?
The current agreement will expire at the end of the 2019 season and it will be interesting to see what moves each party makes to avoid a lockout. Both sides have issues that they would like to revisit (free agency, travel, schedule, solidarity payments) and will likely take months to work out. The league has never had a work stoppage but given the economic strides the league has made that may change.
#6 Will Toronto FC bounce back?
Toronto FC may have proved last season that there is such a thing as a hangover season. After claiming a treble in 2017 TFC fell short of their CONCACAF Champions League goal, failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, and left 2018 with just a Canadian Championship crown. 2019 may be a bit different though with The Reds bringing back mostly the same crew and finally getting a rest (When they kick off CONCACAF Champions League play they will have been off since October). Will rested legs be enough to get TFC back on track?
#5 Can Ben Olsen keep his job?
D.C. United’s manager has survived years of penny-pinching, raccoons, and spurious roster decisions since taking the job in 2010. But can he now deliver an MLS Cup title? United were the hottest club in the league down the stretch. But their season ended in heartbreak. He is on his final year of his contract with the club so expectations are high that with Wayne Rooney, Lucho Acosta, and Bill Hamid they can get back to the top of the league.
#4 Zlatan and ?
The Los Angeles Galaxy are in crisis mode. After another disappointing season the legendary side enter 2019 offseason in which quite literally anything can happen. They have Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But other than that it is one big question mark. It is a strange spot for the five-time MLS Cup Champions to be in, given their past glory. But it is a necessary one. The club is in need of a fresh start and it looks like they will get it.
#3 Will more teams #PlaytheKids?
After years of waiting 2018 seemed to be the year in which MLS Youth Academy systems paid off. Sides like FC Dallas, Atlanta United, Sporting Kansas City, and the New York Red Bulls showed the value of giving kids minutes in significant matches. Will the rest of the league follow suit?
#2 Can an MLS side finally win the CONCACAF Champions League?
It was another year of heartbreak for MLS in the CCL with Toronto FC narrowly losing out to Tigres in the final. The Reds will be back in the 2019 edition, joined by Atlanta United FC, the Houston Dynamo, the Portland Timbers, and Sporting Kansas City. All five sides on paper seem to have the players and the skills to take it to the rest of the region. But so many times on paper doesn’t translate to the pitch.
#1 Can Atlanta get the band back together?
United have taken the league by storm and in just two years have re-written the rules when it comes to expansion teams. But the question is can they do it again in year three. Tata Martino is already gone and by the time this goes to press Miguel Almiron might be as well. Other role players will likely get huge deals with teams looking to taste glory so it will interesting to see what Atlanta does to maintain their hold on the league.