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Look, the honest truth is, I have zero fun watching Bruce Arena-coached teams. I have a dumb soccer brain and get bored by boring teams. But nobody in MLS history is better at winning boring games than Bruce Arena. He's the Tony Bennett of Major League Soccer, but when you put him on the big stage like the U.S. Men's National Team, he is Sean Dyche. We saw them blow one of their best chances to win the MLS Cup last season in a penalty shootout to a 10-man NYCFC team. They lose an excellent piece in Tajon Buchanan to Club Brugge but bring in nice, veteran players like Jozy Altidore, Omar Gonzalez, Sebastian Lleget, and explosive midfielder Emmanuel Boateng. Bruce Arena is bringing in his guys that know how his system works as well as anyone. They still retain the critical pieces in Adam Buska and MLS assist leader Carlos Gil. Say what you want about Bruce Arena, but this man knows how to win in Major League Soccer. I see them easily finishing atop the Eastern Conference and most likely the favorite to win the MLS Cup. According to the Barstool Sportsbook, they are currently +225 ($10 would win you $22.50) to win the Eastern Conference, and 7/1 ($10 would win you $70) to win the MLS Cup.
Surprisingly, the reigning MLS Cup Champions are coming into this season with arguably the best player in the league in Valentin Castellanos. Heavy rumors are swirling that he may be on the move to legendary Argentine club River Plate. NYCFC finishing second in the Eastern Conference solely relies on Castellanos being on this team all year and using their money wisely if they end up selling him. They did make a solid move bringing in Thiago Martins to try and tighten up the backline. The stadium situation seems to be a never-ending nightmare, but they continue to win still. If this team stays intact all season, I genuinely believe they will be right back where they started. If it gets blown up, we might see an ugly season from NYCFC. According to the Barstool Sportsbook, NYCFC is +300 to win the Eastern Conference and +900 to win the MLS Cup. I would steer clear of this due to the uncertainty of Castellanos and possible championship hangover.
We saw a horrendous start to the season for Atlanta; they rallied to an unbelievable finish to the regular season finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference. They made the biggest splashes in the transfer market by dropping $28 million combined on 20-year-old attracting midfielder Thiago Almada and Brazilian winger from LOSC Lille Luiz Aruajo. They still retain club legend Josef Martinez, who can finish top of MLS scoring charts this season. I love this Atlanta United team, and they are going to be one of the most exciting teams in Major League Soccer. They are currently 9/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 20/1 to win the MLS Cup. 20/1 to win the MLS Cup for Atlanta United is worth a sprinkle.
We saw an impossible situation for all Canadian sports teams last season. When almost every other team in your respective league is allowed to have fans, you either have to relocate to another city or play in empty arenas. I think any average soccer fan like myself always puts Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena in the same sentence. I still love both of these coaches in the MLS but not outside the MLS. Bob Bradley was tasked with an impossible task of winning with the Toronto side he had last year while forced to move to Sandy, Utah, for a period and not being able to play with any fans. They made possibly one of the biggest transfer grabs in recent MLS history by snagging the Italian star winger from Napoli, Lorenzo Insigne. He won't arrive at the team until July 1, 2022, which is crucial here. I still like their roster, and as long as fans can be at games all year, I see no reason they should miss the playoffs. Toronto is 9/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 20/1 to win the MLS Cup.
Before the start of the 2021 season, I could not have been more wrong in this Philadelphia Union team. I did not believe they had what it takes to be one of the better teams in Major League Soccer once again and I am here eating my words. They are predicted to finish third in the Eastern Conference by sportsbooks, and you're probably asking, "Why on earth are you still going against the Union?". The sole reason I have them fifth and not second or third is because of how much I love the moves the teams ahead of them have made. This team is solid; they are easily one of the most well-coached teams in this league. But, with a matter of one or two games, this team could have very easily finished sixth instead of second. I do not believe there is a massive difference between two through six in the Eastern Conference. I may eat my words once more, but I do not think they made the necessary moves to stay in the top two of the Eastern Conference, but I am a total believer in Jim Curtin. They are currently +550 to win the Eastern Conference, and they are 14/1 to win the MLS Cup.
Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. Last year, I believed in this Inter Miami squad, and star-studded names blinded me. Once again, I am putting faith in this Inter Miami team one last time. Star-studded names easily fog my dumb soccer brain, but I love the people they bring in this year. I believe Kieran Gibbs and Deandre Yedlin are perfect for the MLS and help Inter Miami's defense. This season will show whether Phil Neville is the right manager for this South Beach club. They are currently 20/1 to win the Eastern Conference on the Barstool Sportsbook and 40/1 to win the MLS Cup. The oddsmakers do not see this team making that leap, and I fully expect to eat more words once more.
The New York Red Bulls finished seventh last year, and I see no reason why they will end above or below seventh again. Retaining Caden Clark was crucial to this team's success, even if it was just for one more season. I've bought lots of Caden Clark stock, and I think it will only continue to go up. But what else is there? It's a middle-of-the-pack team playing in a great empty stadium. It's a tragedy what is happening with New York City soccer. If either of these teams could play closer to the city in a soccer-specific stadium, it would become one of the premier spots. Right now, the Red Bulls feel like the New Jersey Nets during the end of their run in New Jersey. The New York Red Bulls are currently 14/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 25/1 to win the MLS Cup.
The Chicago Fire made my favorite transfer of the offseason by getting the ex Liverpool winger Xhedrian Shaqiri. I believe his attitude will not be an issue; I think he will cook the MLS, I think he'll have the best "House of Highlights" MLS season, but I do not believe he can stay healthy for an entire season. We have yet to see him stay healthy for a long extended period. Ezra Hendrickson should come in and make drastic changes from the previous regime. He's been a part of many successful MLS teams as a coach and player. This team is not quite there yet, but I feel we will see a trend in the positive direction for the Fire. They finished 12th in the Eastern Conference, and with more structure, better coaching, and new blood coming in, I could see this team close the season right outside the playoffs. The Chicago Fire is currently 20/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 40/1 to win the MLS Cup.
This first part has nothing to do with where I believe the club finishes this season, but Orlando has one of the most underrated stadiums in this country in any sport. It is a phenomenal place to watch a game but let's talk about this upcoming season. They lose the big man up top in Daryl Dike and Portuguese legend Nani. They bring in 21-year-old winger Facundo Torres, who looks like he has unreal potential. I believe they are in the same boat as Chicago. The clubs ahead of these teams have just made bigger jumps while they haven't made that big splash yet. We saw them finish sixth in the Eastern Conference last year, and losing a goal-scoring threat like Daryl Dike will drop them a few spots. They are currently 16/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 30/1 to win the MLS Cup.
The Columbus Crew finished ninth last season in the Eastern Conference. They did nothing in the transfer market, and nothing much has changed. It may be a stretch, but I would be genuinely shocked if this club makes the playoffs. As we know, the MLS might be one of the most unpredictable leagues in all sports, but this club has done nothing and will still probably finish in the same spot. They feel like an NBA team that is just content being the last team in the playoffs or finishing right outside with zero chance to win the actual title at the moment. They are currently 16/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 30/1 to win the MLS Cup.
What a weird 2021 season for every sports team in Canada, and Montreal is no exception. They were not allowed to play in their home stadium like Toronto, so they had to play their home matches in Miami until the end of July, when they were finally allowed to come back. Also, when coming back to Montreal, the most fans they were allowed at a game were 2,500. So all around, it was a nightmare season for every sports team in Canada. But let's talk about C.F. Montreal; I don't believe they have improved much at all. Their best players are aging stars like Kei Kamara, Victor Wanyama, and Dorde Mihailovic. Mihailovic is arguably the best attacking midfielder in the MLS right now which concerns me he may leave to play oversees. They finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last season, and I see them finishing around the same spot. We still don't know whether Canada will allow full capacity matches throughout the season, and that uncertainty scares me like Toronto. This team is not good enough to sustain another weird COVID season. They are currently 30/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 60/1 to win the MLS Cup.
We saw D.C. United finished one spot outside the playoffs and one win away from being in the MLS Playoffs. They lose their star USMNT star in Paul Arriola to FC Dallas and Kevin Parades to VFL Wolfsburg, which are significant losses. They only got worse in the offseason and in no way improved. Everybody else around D.C. United improved, and D.C. United just has not done enough. The bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference almost seem like a lock, and D.C. is one of them. They are currently 25/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 50/1 to win the MLS Cup.
Soccer has finally arrived in the best state in this country. But, that does not mean they will have a phenomenal season. This picture might tell the stoy, we have season expansion teams that have drastic results in their inaugural season. Some clubs like Atlanta United have won the MLS Cup in their first season, and some teams like F.C. Cincinnati finished dead last in their first year. The absolute best any Charlotte fan could hope for is a playoff berth, but that seems like a crazy dream. The home opener in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium should end up being a fantastic sell-out, but it could get ugly quickly. It is not a great sign when your manager says in an interview two weeks before the season starts saying, "Right now. We are screwed!". Unless a couple of big signings happen after the article is written, I would be surprised if they finished higher than 11 in the Eastern Conference. I could go on for about 100 pages on this Charlotte FC situation, but we'll leave it at that. The Carolina Club is currently 30/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 60/1 to win the MLS Cup.
It seems as if 99% of people who watch Major League Soccer will flip flop between Charlotte FC and F.C. Cincinnati to finish last in the Eastern Conference. They finished dead last in the Eastern Conference, only totaling 20 points and finishing eight points behind the 13th seed in the Eastern Conference. They were easily the worst team in the MLS, and not much changed this offseason. They bring in Coach Pat Noonan from the phenomenal run the Union has been on, but it seems as if we will see a lot of growing pains. They gave up 74 goals last season, 74!!!! They were giving up over two goals per game last season and only scoring a little over 1 per game. They did not make drastic enough changes to jump anybody in the standings. Obviously, it can't get much worse than last season, so they have to improve but not by much. They are currently 60/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 100/1 to win the MLS Cup.