The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) What's your New Year's soccer resolution?
Happy holidays from Starting XI and MLSsoccer.com – hopefully you and yours are enjoying the season. As our attention turns to 2014 in earnest, many fans are already planning their ticket purchases, travel plans and the like. Whether you're bound for the World Cup in Brazil or just a few more professional or college games in your town, put soccer at the center of your life and you might be amazed at the rewards you reap.
10) And how about your MLS team's?
New Year's Day often finds clubs at widely divergent stages in their offseason preparations, and this one will be no exception. Two organizations are still deciding on their next head coach, several others are in the midst of wholesale roster renovations while a few already appear close to the finished article, at least on paper. Is your squad falling behind the power curve? Remember, the SuperDraft is now less than three weeks away.
9) What frenzy does the January transfer window have in store for MLS?
Next month also brings with it the calendar's second-biggest event of the international player market, when buying and selling of top talent builds to a fever pitch as European clubs seek midseason reinforcements and MLS members eye up select acquisitions from overseas. Peruse the rumors and reports carefully.
8) Can Club Tijuana's Yanqui contingent return to the high life in '14?
North Americans are plying their trade in leagues literally around the globe these days, but the highest density of US or Canadian exports is found just across the border from San Diego at Estadio Caliente. It wasn't the best of years for Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo – to some extent through no fault of their own – but even amid keen competition for playing time, hopes are high as Los Xolos kick off their Liga MX Clausura schedule on Jan. 4. US national team fans should be keeping a keen eye on youngster Paul Arriola as well.
7) Who will succeed Matt Reis between the posts in New England?
Many positional battles are taking shape around the league as preseason approaches, and one of the most intriguing is the apparently wide-open competition for the Revolution's starting goalkeeper job. The Revs recently re-acquired Brad Knighton to vie with incumbent Bobby Shuttleworth, and this week the club re-signed 2013 backup Luis Soffner, a bulwark of Indiana University's 2012 NCAA national championship run.
6) How is the Frank Yallop era shaping up in Chicago?
It sounds as if those bracing for a Windy-City version of the direct, “Bash Brothers”-led teams Yallop conducted in San Jose may be in for a letdown when the two-time MLS Coach of the Year reveals a bit more of his blueprint for the Fire. The club's acquisitions – and departures – over the next three or four weeks could be very instructive for CF97 fans eager to turn the page to a new era at Toyota Park.
5) Is D.C. United's stadium plan still on track?
Speaking of blueprints, the specifics – and timeline – of United's proposed new home at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington, D.C., remain largely cloaked in mystery as the city's mayor, Vincent Gray, prepares to pitch the specifics of the plan to the city council next month. The complex project looks like a win-win for all involved but substantial work remains, to say the least.
4) Will Oriol Rosell get a chance to fly the MLS flag in Catalonia?
Sporting Kansas City's Spanish midfielder has received the rare honor of a call-up to the unofficial (i.e., non-FIFA-sanctioned) national team of his home region, who welcome the Cape Verde Islands to Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in Barcelona on Monday for an exhibition match. Rosell advocated for his adopted league in an in-depth interview with Sport magazine, and will hopefully get to prove his point with a run-out for La Selecció alongside illustrious stars like Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué.
3) Are Manchester City headed to North American shores this coming summer?
Rosell also appeared to let slip news of a high-profile friendly between Sporting and City next year, which would be a fairly monumental occasion on par with Manchester United's 2010 visit to KC. If true, a Citizens tour would add further firepower to an exhibition slate that already includes MLS All-Star Game opponents Bayern Munich.
2) What will top MLSsoccer.com's Stories of the Year list?
We're counting down our list of the most momentous storylines of the year gone by, and with just the top three left to go, there are plenty of contenders still out there. Those who post accurate guesses in time in the comments section below will win ... the respect and congratulations of Starting XI.
1) And what's your favorite MLS Moment of 2013?
Finally, there is one end-of-year list – the biggest end-of-year list, really – that you, the readers, have direct control over. What image from the 2013 season in Major League Soccer lingered longest in your mind? Please make your voice heard here.