The 25th MLS season has officially arrived.
For FC Cincinnati, the Orange and Blue begin their second season in the league this Sunday at the New York Red Bulls. (Kickoff is at 1 p.m.) As for the league itself, it started play in 1996 and will celebrate its quarter century campaign throughout 2020.
Some tributes to the first year will be obvious like the 2020 adidas NATIVO XXV ball and the adidas EQT uniforms for all 26 teams. Others will be subtle hints. While the league wants to pay homage to its past, 2020 is still focused on the present and the future.
With that in mind, here are some storylines you should know ahead of the opening kickoff Saturday when D.C. United host the Colorado Rapids.
Can LAFC repeat their 2019 success?
Carlos Vela. Photo by Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports.
The club set a new standard last year when they earned 72 points from 34 games, winning their first Supporters’ Shield. They also won the Western Conference by a whopping 16 points.
As head coach Bob Bradley begins his third year with the team, what comes next? Can Carlos Vela, last year’s MVP, score 34 goals again?
While they lost in the Western Conference final to eventual MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders FC, LAFC are the standard for other clubs to match until proven otherwise.
Will the new stars shine in MLS?
When FC Cincinnati signed Jürgen Locadia, national media raved about the club’s new striker. But Locadia isn’t the only big name to enter the league this past offseason.
Chicharito. Photo by Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the LA Galaxy was the most high-profile signing this offseason, while Rodolfo Pizarro’s move to Inter Miami CF brought more international attention to the league.
In addition, other teams reportedly paid club-record fees to sign fresh faces, like Lucas Zelarayan to Columbus Crew SC and Alan Pulido to Sporting Kansas City.
Big-money moves means there’s more pressure for offensive firepower to produce. Which player has a breakout season? (And what does this mean for MLS center backs!?)
How will the expansion sides finish?
While FCC were the only MLS newcomer last season, Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC will be the 25th and 26th teams to join the league.
Miami joins the Eastern Conference, meaning Cincinnati will play the club twice this season. As for Nashville, it’s in the Western Conference, and the only matchup between FCC and its former USL rival will be May 30, at Nippert Stadium.
What should we expect in the swan song season at Nippert Stadium?
Sure, there’s plenty to be excited about for FCC’s West End Stadium, but that cathedral won’t open until 2021.
As FCC have grown in the past four seasons, much of that is owed the club’s current home.
We all remember the unforgettable matches in the stadium (Crystal Palace, beating Columbus and the Chicago Fire in the 2017 Open Cup and the MLS home opener), but what comes next in the fifth and final season at Nippert Stadium?
That’s another question that’ll be answered in the coming months. What we already know, though, is FC Cincinnati will have some of the league’s biggest crowds again in 2020.