MLS playoff hopefuls after the first fortnight of the season

I will admit it. I was completely wrong about the start to the MLS season. I truly believed that MLS and its players would be unable to find a level ground for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Turns out, the two sides were able to come up with a new agreement, which meant that the season would start on schedule. Good thing they did too because the last two weeks have been truly exciting. The parity in the MLS is incredible as well, with only one team having won each of its first games. With two weeks down, it’s time to take a look at who the playoff teams at the end of this year will be.

Eastern Conference:

Number 6: New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls were a goal away from pushing into the MLS Final. However, without Tierry Henry, it is unlikely New York will be as high up in the standings. With two different Designated Player positions yet to be filled, the Red Bulls will be candidates to land a game changing player to make a big push for the playoffs. It worked for New England last year with Jermaine Jones.

Number 5: New York City FC
Another New York team clocks in at five. NYCFC actually sits atop the Eastern Conference at the moment, but that likely won’t last. David Villa proved last week that he can be a force and Ned Grabavoy looked strong in the midfield. Bringing in Frank Lampard midway through the season will provide a nice boost NYC will need to stay afloat for the postseason hunt.

Number 4: New England Revolution
The defending Eastern Conference champions look a bit rattled right now. Through two games, they have failed to register a point, outscored five goals to nil. However, the losses came against Seattle and NYC, both of whom will be in the postseason. New England needs to make some changes, but with time to right the ship, they should be fine.

Number 3: Orlando City SC
Sitting just behind New York City currently is the other fresh face to the MLS. With four point in their first two matches and a group of talented, promising players, Orlando has the assets needed to finish in the top three in the East. Ricardo Kaká is their leader and when he plays well, this is a tough club to beat. Defense will carry this club as far as they go.

Number 2: DC United
DC will once again find themselves near the top of the East. Bill Hamid is tough to beat in between the posts and more often than not, DC can find the offense needed to get a win. United allowed the fewest goals last tied with LA. Once again, DC will find a way to win low scoring games on their way to a top playoff seed.

Number 1: Columbus Crew
With Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain and Ethan Findlay running the show in Ohio, the Crew will be a tough outfit to beat. Those three have Columbus in a good spot already to begin the season sitting third after just two matches. If the Crew’s defensive performance steps up even marginally this year compared to last, this team will finish atop the Eastern Conference.

Western Conference:

Number 6: Houston Dynamo
Landing Cubo Torres in the offseason was a great move for the Dynamo. For a team that struggled to score and really got beat badly on a regular basis, getting a top goal scorer was a top priority. Their victory over Columbus shows that this team is ready to turn the corner and become a threat in the postseason.

Number 5: Sporting KC
Despite sitting last right now in the West, I think Kansas City will find a way into the postseason. It will be close but with Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer running the show, this team has enough talent to reach the playoffs. Predicated on defense, this will be a tough team to out over the course of the season. Their loss this year came at Dallas, which is more than acceptable given how good Dallas is.

Number 4: Real Salt Lake
Salt Lake returns to the playoffs in 2015. Here is yet another team that wins with its defense, allowing the third fewest goals in MLS just a season ago. Kyle Beckerman anchor this group and with Nick Rimando in between the posts, this team is tough to score on. If the collection of strikers for RSL can muster up some more goals this year, they could finish even higher.

Number 3: FC Dallas
Currently sitting as the king of the hill in the West and this no fluke. The two wins come against San Jose and Sporting KC, which gives them some credibility. Dallas won’t remain on top come seasons end with the two powers who control the West playing as well as they do but they will be a title contender come the fall.

Number 2: Los Angeles Galaxy
This is where LA finished its 2014 campaign and then went on to win the MLS Cup. I think they won’t mind a repeat. With Landon Donovan gone and Steven Gerrard not set to join the club until almost July, look for the Galaxy to slip a little bit from their 2014 form. This team though still outscored opponents by 32 goals last season. I don’t think they will be that dominate this year but they will make another playoff appearance as a top seed.

Number 1: Seattle Sounders FC
Once again, Seattle will finish on top in the West. After winning the Supporters Shield last year and qualifying for the playoffs every year in its existence, Seattle desperately wants a title. Making the postseason is no longer enough. The Sounders will certainly get their once again, but it remains to be seen if they can actually make the jump into the MLS Final, something this squad has still yet to do.

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Counting down the most successful sports city

So following the Super Bowl and now starting the long four-month lull until another championship game is played, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city makes the list.

The cities just missing the cut are Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Houston has two titles, both coming from their MLS club the Dynamo. The Astros made a World Series run in 2005 but got swept. The Texans haven’t helped. Philly has four appearances in the big game but only one victory. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 but then lost the next year. The Eagles lost in 2005 as did the Flyers in 2010. Baltimore has two titles but both came from the Ravens. The Orioles did not do enough to really pad Baltimore’s resume.

#10 Kansas City 2 total titles in 4 total appearances
Not exactly a massive market but Kansas City has been a pretty solid sports city since 2000 when it comes to success. The forgotten team here will be the MLS club. The Kansas City Wizards, who is now Sporting KC, won the MLS Cup in 2000 and later made it to the 2004 final. 13 years later, Sporting KC left its mark with a MLS Cup victory. Then just this past year, the Royals made a shocking run to the World Series, eventually losing to San Francisco. The Kansas City NFL team, the Chiefs, could have boosted this city up the list some but they have had very little playoff success since 2000, not coming anywhere near the Super Bowl.

#9 St. Louis: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The St. Louis Rams were actually the first team to win a sports championship in the new millennium, taking home the 2000 Lombardi Trophy (which I ranked as my most exciting Super Bowl game of all time). The baseball team in St. Louis has done most of the heavy lifting though as the Cardinals have been among baseball’s best in the past 15 years. The Cards have two World Series titles from the 2006 and 2011 campaigns. This MLB team also came up just short in both 2004 and 2013, at the hands of the Boston Red Sox on each occasion. A little help from the Blues in the NHL could’ve pushed St. Louis above the next few cities on this list.

#8 San Francisco: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The San Francisco Giants have been baseball royalty over the past five years. In that time span, they have nailed down three World Series titles. San Francisco also made a trip to the Series in 2002, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Anaheim Angeles. The football team in San Francisco is pretty good as well. The 49ers came close for years to making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They finally accomplished that goal in 2013, but came up short against the Baltimore Ravens. Close, but no cigar. That Super Bowl victory could have vaulted San Francisco past the number seven city on the list.

#7 Pittsburgh: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
If this were an all-time list, Pittsburgh would have to be higher up on it. As it is only since the year of 2000, the city takes a drop. This has still been a successful city though when it comes to sports titles. The Steelers have earned two of them, in 2006 and 2009. They also came up a touchdown short in 2011 of winning another one against the Packers. On the ice, the Penguins have been one of the top teams in the NHL for some time now. They are perennial contenders and managed to make a Stanley Cup run in 2008, losing to the Detroit Red Wings, before returning the following year to beat those same Red Wings. Unfortunately, the Pirates haven’t been much help to the Pittsburgh cause in a while. Pittsburgh has been good, just not as good as…

#6 San Antonio: 4 total titles in 5 appearances
Amazing that a city with only one professional sports team can make the list. Well that’s what happens when the San Antonio Spurs are that one team. After a win in the NBA Finals in 1999, the Spurs watched as the Lakers won three consecutive titles to open the 21st century. The Spurs retaliated by winning three out of the next five. After an eight-year finals drought, San Antonio got another shot at a ring in 2013, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Heat. The rematch the following year though fell the other way giving the Spurs their fourth title since 2000.

That is the bottom half of the list. Check back in tomorrow for the top half of the countdown.