Preseason MLS Power Rankings: Portland Timbers start season on top after MLS Cup glory

1

 

If you win MLS Cup, you get to start the following season at No. 1 in the Power Rankings. And you get to hold onto it until someone wrests it from you.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Columbus (ESPN)

2

 

There's not much to pick at with this team – they seem poised to do at least a little bit better than last year, which would mean either a Supporters' Shield or an MLS Cup appearance or both.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Philadelphia

3

 

The MLS Cup runners-up return their entire starting XI and added reinforcements at every level. As long as things don't go stale – as long as the locker room stays together and Gregg Berhalter's message gets through – they're favorites in the East.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Portland (ESPN)

4

 

Building up Homegrown players who eventually get sold to the likes of Chelsea is a sign of a franchise's strength. In the long term, it's a win. In the short term, however, it'll be tough to replicate last year's magic.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Toronto

5

 

Is this too low? This feels too low. Don't sleep on the 'Caps.

 

6

 

TFC's first XI is legit, but there are significant questions up top in light of some late-breaking roster moves. This is also a new-look midfield, so don't expect them to be fast out of the blocks.

 

7

 

Turned a lot of heads with their performance against Club América, and the fact that their pieces seem to fit together quite well. Like TFC, though, they have real depth questions.

 

8

 

Had an understated offseason that focused more on continuity than making big splashes. But in Harry Shipp and Lucas Ontivero, they picked up two young, skilled attackers who can change the face of this team.

 

9

 

Their set-piece defense is a tire fire and their midfield is utterly bereft of creativity. Plus the forward combo of Robbie Keane & Gio Dos Santos does not work. There is a really, really good chance we have this team ranked way too high.

 

10

 

Yeah, this is too low. New England will be more stable than last year, deeper than last year, and have a huge collection of in-their-prime attackers. This team should consider 60 points a reasonable and reachable target.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Houston

11

 

So many nice pieces, but so many questions about where the goals will come from. Dom Dwyer's a workhorse, but he's not going to score 30 – he needs some help.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Seattle (FS1)

12

 

There are so many things to like about this roster, but nearly as many questions: Can Joe Bendik be a starting 'keeper for a playoff team? Can Kaká play another 2500 minutes? Can Cyle Larin avoid the sophomore jinx? If the answer to any of these is "no," they could be in trouble.

 

Next MLS match:  Sunday vs. Real Salt Lake

13

 

Their defense will be good, but the midfield and attack were works in progress against Queretaro. D.C.'s got a lot of work to do if they're going to pull out of the downward spiral that began early last summer.

 

Next MLS match:  Sunday at LA Galaxy (UniMás)

14

 

San Jose should be better than last year thanks to a bit of continuity and a bit more goalscoring from midfield. The Quakes won't be an elite team, but you should expect them to factor into the playoff race.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Colorado

15

 

Found more balance this offseason and, in Yura Movsisyan, have a center forward who could be a Best XI player. But the defense is still a huge question mark, as was shown against Tigres.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Orlando City

16

 

This team could use a Patrick Vieira-type central midfielder. It'll be interesting to see how Patrick Vieira the coach will eventually address that.

 

Next MLS match:  Sunday at Chicago

17

 

Houston's got a lot of question marks, but they also have a trio of double-digit goalscorers (Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, Cubo Torres) up top. It might not fit perfectly, but it'll be exciting for them to give it a look.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at New England

18

 

Lots of variables with this team, which is to be expected in the midst of a rebuilding project. The biggest one is probably at attacking midfield, since it's still not clear who'll shoulder the bulk of the chance creation burden.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Dallas

19

 

The Fire desperately need John Goossens to be healthy and effective for the entire season. Though even if he's not, this team looks like it's better than what they trotted out last season.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. NYCFC

20

 

Colorado don't have the pieces to compete with the best in the West, but they're much more balanced than last season and Shkelzen Gashi should help answer the main question – goalscoring – that pestered this team all last year.

 

Next MLS match: Sunday at San Jose

Only MLS league games will be reflected in the rankings. Rankings are voted on by MLSsoccer.com editorial staff and remarks are written by Senior Editor Matt Doyle (@MLSAnalyst).

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