By Cesar Hernandez
Published: March 13th, 2019
The 2019 Major League Soccer (MLS) season has kicked off this month. America’s highest tier soccer league is back for its 24th year and hopes to keep growing in all forms. After yet another enticing season in 2018, the league introduces its 24th team FC Cincinnati who in the USL (second division) averaged attendance numbers comparable to MLS. Last year, we saw a growth in viewership, attendance, merchandise sales, etc.
Local teams such as the New York City FC that play in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and New York Red Bulls who play in Red Bull Arena in the outskirts of Newark, will try to add on to their successes from the last couple of seasons. New York City FC placed 3rd place in the Eastern Conference in 2018, while their cross-town rivals NY Red Bull’s topped the Eastern Conference and also finished with the best regular season record in the league. Both New York teams made deep runs in the playoffs but got eliminated to the eventual champions Atlanta United.
New York City FC started their 2019 season with an away 2-2 draw to Orlando City SC on March 2nd, who in the off-season signed Portuguese star Nani. The New York City FC hopes to repeat the successful performances that their strong team brought them throughout last season. Captain Alexander Ring, attacker Maxi Moralez, and goalkeeper Sean Johnson, top players in the league at their positions, will hope to guide the team to an Eastern Conference Final or even MLS Cup run. This will come after the departure of superstar David Villa, who was replaced by top money signing Alexandru Mitriță (Mee-Dree-Tsuh).
On the other side of the Hudson River, the New York Red Bulls opened the season with a 1-1 draw last week against the Columbus Crew. They hope to achieve much more than a record-breaking regular season but for once in a long time, try to make the MLS Cup final and chase their first ever cup win. The core that has brought them success will be critical in maintaining form. Some of the leagues best, such as striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, goalkeeper Luis Robles, and Defender of the year Aaron Long will hope to stay in-form.
New York teams have served to be powerhouses of the league and will have to compete with teams around the country who seem to be full of depth like never seen before. The Champions, Atlanta United, have blown not only American sports fans away but soccer fans all around the world. They’ve managed to make the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta into an American cathedral for sports. The support from their fans comes to an astonishing degree which acted as a catalyst for their championship run last year. They hope to repeat the same in 2019, as over the off-season, former MVP Josef Martinez signed a new multi-year contract deal. The same player who scored 34 goals in 34 games setting a new record for most goals in an MLS Season. His success in the playoffs earned him the MLS Cup MVP credential, after scoring one of the goals that brought Atlanta’s sports championship drought to an end.
Many more teams around the Eastern and Western Conference hope to make a run for the MLS Cup in 2019. The likes of LA Galaxy who are being led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, DC United with Wayne Rooney, 2018 Western Conference champions Portland Timbers, along with other consistent performers like the Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, Los Angeles Football Club, and Toronto FC; bring talent on the field and remarkable support in the stands encapsulated in some of the most state of the art stadiums the sport has to offer in America. The 2019 MLS season can be kept up to date on ESPN and FOX Sports 1 from March until November. MLS can also be kept up to date by attending local venues at the Yankee Stadium and Red Bull Arena on match days.