The 2010 MLS season is nearly upon is, which means its time to look at how we see the teams stacking up.
The Columbus Crew has been the class of the league for the past two years, and that shouldn't change in 2010. What should change is Real Salt Lake's form in the regular season. With a title under its belt, RSL should have the confidence to start playing up to its ability on a consistent basis.
Who will struggle? We see Chivas USA falling off, and New England could be poised to see a dip in form. Toronto FC looks poised for an awful year unless reinforcements arrive.
Here are the SBI Pre-Season MLS Power Rankings:
2010 MLS PRE-SEASON POWER RANKINGS
1. COLUMBUS CREW
Strongest team in MLS is a good bet for third straight Supporter Shield. The real question is whether Robert Warzycha learned some lessons from last year's playoffs.
2. REAL SALT LAKE
Defending MLS Cup champions have the talent to win the West, and adding Alvaro Saborio could clinch it.
3. LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Defending West champions will struggle to match last season's accomplishments, but with Landon Donovan in the fold, anything is possible.
4. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Won't win the West in the regular season, but we can see Sigi Schmid's squad winning it all once Blaise Nkufo arrives.
5. HOUSTON DYNAMO
Lost Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, but Dom Kinnear still has plenty of talent at his disposal, led by Brian Ching and Geoff Cameron.
6. CHICAGO FIRE
Hard to rank higher considering they just handed keys to an inexperienced goalkeeper, but there's still plenty ot talent to finish near the top of the East.
7. D.C. UNITED
Some late additions to the defense (Juan Manuel Pena, Carey Talley) should help D.C. reach the playoffs, but the attack will need some upgrading to do anything more.
8. COLORADO RAPIDS
Additions of Jeff Larentowicz and Marvell Wynne should boost the defense, but midfield service to the Conor Casey-Omar Cummings tandem will be key to returning to playoffs.
9. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Adding Cory Gibbs to a defense that includes Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston is promising, but lack of dependable options at forward leaves Revs in danger of missing the playoffs.
10. KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
Peter Vermes completely overhauled the roster, meaning we might not know for a while whether all the new pieces fit together.
11. NEW YORK RED BULLS
The Red Bulls were just plain awful in 2009, but there are reasons for optimism in 2010. Joel Lindpere, Tim Ream and Roy Miller look legit, but NY probably needs another Designated Player to really challenge.
12. CHIVAS USA
How does a team that reached the playoffs in 2009 fall this far? Zach Thornton's heroics in goal helped cover up for lots of problems. Osael Romero will need to be a star and Thornton will need another stellar season for the Rojiblancos to return to the playoffs.
13. FC DALLAS
Dallas boasts some dangerous attacking players, but the defense remains suspect and not good enough to help FC Dallas reach the post-season. Loss of Dave Van Den Bergh will also come back to haunt FCD.
14. TORONTO FC
With no reliable forwards and a central defense that looks downright tragic, Toronto has little reason to feel optimistic about 2010. Of course, TFC has been known for making late roster changes, so TFC could move up the charts if they add some high-quality talent.
15. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
A strong pre-season is something to build on, but it doesn't change the fact that the Earthquakes simply lack star quality in their attack. Even if the defense comes together, San Jose will struggle in the rugged Western Conference.
16. PHILADELPHIA UNION
Peter Nowak built his team with an eye toward the future. With no real stars in attack, the Union will rely on stingy defense to try and gain points. That won't be enough to contend in the club's first season.
What do you think of our rankings? Who did we rate too highly? Who didn't get enough respect?
Share your thoughts below.