MLS 2015 Season Preview

By: Juan Mesa

Last fall, the MLS sort of rebranded itself by naming its upcoming years MLS Next and presenting a new crest. The new era —one that is supposed to be the final stretch in making the MLS one of the best leagues in the world— is set to kick off this Friday with the 2015 season, one with many changes and plenty of new faces. Here is what to look for.

NEW TEAMS IN NYC AND ORLANDO. The MLS will become a league of 20 teams with the inclusion of New York City FC and Orlando City. Both teams are significant achievements for the league. The NYCFC means that the dream of having pro soccer within the confines of New York City (and not in New Jersey, physical home of the New York Red Bulls) is fulfilled, as the new team will be playing in Yankee Stadium while they find grounds for a new stadium. The NYCFC also means the beginning of a city rivalry with the Red Bulls, something that hopefully will merit to be called the New York Clásico somewhere down the road. Orlando, on the other hand, means the return of MLS to Florida after the folding of Tampa Bay and Miami in 2002.

NO MORE CHIVAS USA. The ambition of having a Mexican soccer institution in the MLS came to an end in 2014 with the failure of Chivas USA. The league decided to shut the franchise down after it failed to drive the expected numbers on and off the field in its 10 years of existence. Will it be missed? Not at all. An empty stadium, bad management and a weird name were the last things soccer needed to continue its expansion in North America.

GONE STARS. MLS won’t have two of their greatest entertainers of all time in 2015. The most notorious absence will be the one of Landon Donovan, who decided to retire at just 32. He left the league topping the all time goals and assists chart, and became an instant classic in American sports. The other gone star is Thierry Henry, who retired from soccer at 37 as a New York Red Bulls player. The French showman set new standards for MLS in terms of competition, talent and knowledge of the game.

NEW STARS. Fortunately for the MLS, the departures of Donovan and Henry will be tolerable with the influx of new stars. The NYCFC is bringing David Villa and Frank Lampard; the LA Galaxy will add Steven Gerrard in the summer; Orlando announced Kaká; and Toronto brought back Jozy Altidore and signed Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco. There is also a wide group of “middle class” players joining the league from different parts of the world. The spectacle is guaranteed.

A NEW HOME FOR A ROWDY CROWD. The San Jose Earthquakes will finally have their own home in 2015. The Avaya Stadium, located in San Jose, is the 14th soccer-specific stadium to be built by an MLS team in 11 years, and the first since 2012. Taking advantage of the neighboring Palo Alto geeks (the name belongs to a technology company), the venue will offer a myriad of technological features, including super-fast wi-fi and an app that offers, among other things, in-seat ordering of food and drinks. The north side will host a the largest outdoor bar in North America (3,467 square feet) with 45 beer tabs. The future of soccer looks bright.

LOGISTICS: Major League Soccer, official site

Juan Mesa is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covers soccer and Latin music. When he's not writing, you can find him watching soccer games, talking about soccer or collecting soccer memorabilia. To relax, he plays house music vinyls.