The 24th season of Major League Soccer (MLS), the elite of football, will resume this Saturday with the game Philadelphia Union – Toronto FC (19 hours). Here's what to know at the dawn of this new season.
The MLS 2019 will live a small revolution in its play-offs. Now, the knockout stage will be played on one-off games (more on the round-robin formula), and the field advantage will be for the top ranked team in the regular season. 14 teams will qualify for the finals. This new formula is designed to better reward teams that have shone during the regular season (the first of each Conference will be exempted from the first round) and to increase the recovery time of players between the regular season and these play-offs. Also, this should allow to adjust the calendar in view of the World Cup 2022. The final phase will start on October 19th and will end with the final on November 10th.
The other novelty of the season will be the appearance of a new franchise, FC Cincinnati. The Ohio franchise, which incorporates the Eastern Conference, had evolved to date in USL (US D 2). 24 teams will take part in the exercise.
Who are the favorites?
Although difficult to clear a favorite for this new season, even if the outgoing champion Atlanta United seems well armed, especially as he has retained his fatal weapon, the Venezuelan international Josef Martinez, author of a record number of goals last season (31). Atlanta, however, will have to adapt to the methods of the former Dutch international Frank de Boer, who replaced in the offseason Gerardo "Tata" Martino, new coach of Mexico.
Most successful franchise in league history with five crowns (2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014), the Los Angeles Galaxy is also a serious competitor. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's team missed the play-offs last season and returns hungry. She hired a renowned coach, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who knows the league as a player (Colombus Crew from 2007 to 2010) and who remains on a very successful passage to the head of Boca Juniors (two titles of champion, a Copa Libertadores final). The extension of Ibrahimovic (37 years, 22 goals in 27 games last year) was obviously the big blow of the offseason for the Galaxy.
DC United, with his star Wayne Rooney (33, 12 goals) and midfielder Luciano Acosta, a time quoted at PSG this winter, also has a formidable team on paper. Finally, we will still have to rely on New York Red Bulls, regularly at the top, and on Portland, finalist of the last edition.
What are the stars to follow?
The followers have used to designate the various franchises by hanging them up to their crack. So, this season we will watch the LA Galaxy from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Chicago Fire of Nicolas Gaitan and Bastian Schweinsteiger,the Orlando City of Nani, Atlanta United from Gonzalo Martinez and Josef Martinez, the DC United of Wayne Rooney and Luciano AcostaColorado Rapids Tim Howard, who will play his last season, the New York Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips or the Los Angeles FC of Carlos Vela, non-exhaustive list.
Which stars have left the MLS?
Several key players in recent MLS seasons will no longer be on American lawns this year. The Italian Sebastian Giovinco went to Saudi Arabia after leading Toronto to the coronation in 2017. Paraguayan Miguel Almiron, brilliant with Atlanta, has yielded to the sirens of Newcastle. The Spanish world champion David Villa left New York City to join his friend Andrés Iniesta at Vissel Kobe (Japan). Author of 14 goals last season with Galaxy, the Norwegian international Ola Kamara flew to Shenzhen (China), while Grégory van der Wiel slammed the Toronto gate for "Differences with the staff". Former England international defender Ashley Cole (38) was not selected by LA Galaxy and bounced back in Derby County (D 2 ANG). The famous American Clint Dempsey stopped his career last August.
Where will the Frenchies evolve?
Fifteen French will start the new season of MLS. Not surprisingly, the biggest colony is at the Montreal Impact, coached by OL coach Rémi Garde, with four players: Harry Novillo, Rudy Camacho, Bacary Sagna and Zakaria Diallo. The New York Red Bulls have two Frenchies, Vincent Bezecourt and Florian Valot. The others are scattered in different franchises: Romain Alessandrini (LA Galaxy), Yohan Croizet (Kansas City), Wilfried Zahibo (New England Revolution), Claude Dielna (Portland Timbers), Frederic Brillant (DC United), Aurélien Collin (Philadelphia Union) and Paul Marie (San Jose Earthquakes).
Finally, a Frenchman will make his debut in the league: the defender Mathieu Deplagne (formerly Montpellier and Troyes) in Cincinnati. Two well-known former players in Ligue 1 will also discover the MLS: the Malagasy international Romain Metanire (Minnesota, former Metz and Reims) and the Guinean international Florentin Pogba (Atlanta, former Sedan and Saint-Etienne).