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Kick Off: Quakes' Wondolowski rewarded with Designated Player tag

Chris Wondolowski doesn't have an agent. Not that it seems to matter.

On Monday night, Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl reported the San Jose forward was reportedly joining Major League Soccer's Designated Player club after renegotiating his contract for the third time in three years. On Tuesday morning, the Quakes confirmed that they'd rewarded their uber-productive forward with a promotion and a raise,

The news comes as no surprise to those who've been following the talks this offseason, as Wondolowski set his target and successfully convinced the Earthquakes front office that his 61 goals over the past three seasons and a record-tying 27 during 2012 warranted a new deal. See why San Jose head coach Frank Yallop thought a deal was close Monday on ExtraTime Radio as well as how the Quakes plan to deal with their current injury crisis.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, it appears the writing on the wall regarding Designated Player Torsten Frings' status with the club was accurate. Frings is retiring after 18 years as a professional, leaving Toronto without a healthy DP as the season begins.

On the other end of the spectrum, Seattle are prepping for a big addition. Team officials are currently in Spain in an attempt to seal a deal for Levante striker Obafemi Martins, but the Nigerian could only join the club if one of the Sounders three current DPs take the money and run. We know Shalrie Joseph isn't going anywhere. Same for Mauro Rosales. That leaves Christian Tiffert, who has yet to report to camp and is the favorite to move on should Martins join MLS for what is being reported as a multi-million dollar transfer fee.

And with that transfer in mind, check out this breakdown of the discovery process. There's more to signing players from overseas than a signed contract.

And even if the deal doesn't get done, there's still plenty to look forward to as Major League Soccer kicks off its 18th season. For most fans, there is still hope. Hope that their team has done enough to make a run at the playoffs and MLS Cup. Admit it, that doesn't exist in many leagues around the globe.

Of course, some clubs still have higher expectations than others, and none may be under the kind of pressure that the trophy starved Red Bulls face from year to year.

Despite losing 18-goal man Kenny Cooper during the offseason, Thierry Henry & Co. expect year one of the Mike Petke experiment to usher in progress after everyone from the kit man to the executives in Austria bought into the new boss' vision.

“[Petke] is about fire, passion [for the team]. He’s the same way he was as a player, committed, passionate about the club. I think we’re all in the same situation, waiting for the league to start," Henry said at New York's annual media day. "Hopefully this year we won’t be meeting on Thursday saying this is a must-win game right until the end of the season. Hopefully we can do better. We’re not far from doing well.’’

If the Red Bulls do managed to stock their trophy case for the first time, fellow DP Tim Cahill will surely play a huge role. Cahill remains delighted by his move to the US, and is wasting no time predicting big things for the club.

"This year is going to be a special year for me, Juninho, Thierry, for the football club," he said. "Building from the start, not coming in last-minute and just picking up pieces. When I signed here, this is what I wanted – I wanted the professionalism, I wanted to see the vision of being part of the team for a number of years and building it and looking to do something special."

And while the squad underwent change in the Big Apple, for the most part the kit remained the same. Check out the Red Bulls new shirt, which is made of much lighter materials than previous editions.

Change was the name of the game in Colorado, however, as the Rapids took some risks, especially with their away jersey. They modeled it after the Colorado state flag, and I have to say it turned out wonderfully.

Like New York, Houston didn't make wholesale changes, although the design does bring in the Texas flag. Dominic Kinnear did do some roster shuffling, though, this offseason. Check out the Dynamo season preview as well as the squad's current depth chart ahead of Saturday's home opener vs. D.C. United.

Same goes for Houston's MLS Cup opponents in LA. There have been some changes, but expectations remain the same. What we do know is that Landon Donovan won't be in his usual place in the lineup come opening weekend.

Sporting Kansas City might still be smarting from last year's postseason loss to the Dynamo, but manager Peter Vermes is busy learning how to avoid that fate. He's apparently doing that at Barcelona.

Vermes certainly helped Kei Kamara get his career on the fast track. See what Canaries boss Chris Hughton had to say about the on-loan striker's impact.

North of Barça and south of Norwich, MLS academy coaches will get top-notch instruction on youth development from the France Football Federation. Find out what they'll undergo during an 18-month course.

Speaking of youth development, the US U-20s face a do-or-die match vs. Canada today (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer, sportsnet.ca in Canada) with a trip to the U-20 World Cup on the line. Head coach Tab Ramos joined ExtraTime Radio to discuss the match. Let's just say he isn't reading into any rivalry talk.

Moving onto expansion talk, outlets in New York published leaked photos of a proposed soccer specific stadium for NYC2 on Monday. MLS president Mark Abbott didn't waste time pouring cold water on those drawings, though.

In Orlando, things are moving quickly. The city is buying up land that seems to have stadium site written all over it, and the local paper examines what kind of financial impact a new facility would have on the economy,

Finally, here's a fascinating introduction to an American that helped build Japanese soccer into a regional power. Find out how former Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner influenced him.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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MLS Fantasy: Western Conference team-by-team breakdown

U-20s: Rapids' O'Neill expecting Canadian deluge in quarterfinals

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