2017 MLS SEASON PREVIEW
Good thing Sebastian Giovinco didn't end up leaving MLS for China after offseason rumors linked him to the big-spending CSL.
If you think Giovinco is the best player in MLS and perhaps the face of the North American league, you're not alone. Goal surveyed general managers, technical directors and sporting directors from 16 MLS clubs, and the Toronto FC star was the overwhelming favorite to be named the 2017 MVP and the one current MLS player they'd choose to build a franchise around.
But just because Giovinco is clearly viewed as the top player MLS has to offer, Toronto isn't the best team in the league, according to our poll. That honor goes to 2016 Supporters' Shield winner FC Dallas, which has been selected as the favorite to win this year's MLS Cup.
Our survey suggests Dallas defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta will have a breakout season, which will only make FCD stronger in 2017. Plus, it helps when the club's coach, Oscar Pareja, is viewed by front office personnel as the best tactical mind in MLS.
New York City FC, with all its star power and reigning MVP David Villa, is right up there with FC Dallas as the most fun team to watch. NYCFC made a splash when it entered the league two years ago by adding European icons like Andrea Pirlo and David Villa, but it's not the only league newcomer to spend big early on to build a solid foundation.
Atlanta United brought on former Barcelona and Argentina coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino, and the club has already used all three of its designated player spots as it looks to make an instant impact once the regular season begins Friday. Atlanta was voted as the team to make the best offseason moves, with Miguel Almiron being named the most influential acquisition so far.
Also, it doesn't hurt that Atlanta United won the draft, according to the survey. Despite fellow expansion side Minnesota United winning the chance to pick first in the MLS draft, Atlanta used the No. 2 slot to select a player in Miles Robinson who front office personnel see emerging as the best of the draft class in five years.
The rules of the survey were simple. The general managers, technical directors and sporting directors were given 12 questions to answer about the teams, players, offseason moves and MLS rules. They were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Some teams declined to participate in the polling.
Which team will win the 2017 MLS Cup?
1. FC Dallas (43%)
2. Toronto FC (21%)
T-3. New York City FC (14%)
T-3. Seattle Sounders (14%)
Others receiving votes: New York Red Bulls
Who will be the 2017 MLS MVP?
1. Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC (63%)
2. Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders (13%)
Others receiving votes: Miguel Almiron, Carlos Carmona, Ignacio Piatti, David Villa
Which MLS player would you build a franchise around?
1. Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC (60%)
2. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC (13%)
Others receiving votes: Kellyn Acosta, Miguel Almiron, Cyle Larin, Nicolas Lodeiro
Who is the most underrated player in MLS?
1. Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact (19%)
T-2. Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas (13%)
T-2. Matias Laba, Vancouver Whitecaps (13%)
T-2. Dax McCarty, Chicago Fire (13%)
Others receiving votes: Osvaldo Alonso, Sam Cronin, Mauro Diaz, Felipe, Matt Hedges, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Valeri
Which player is most likely to break out in 2017?
1. Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas (13%)
Others receiving votes: Luciano Acosta, Juan Agudelo, Miguel Almiron, Sebastian Blanco, Jay Chapman, Sean Davis, Jack Harrison, Nicolas Lodeiro, Kekuta Manneh, Kevin Molino, Jordan Morris, Harry Shipp, Walker Zimmerman
Which team has made the best offseason moves?
1. Atlanta United (38%)
2. Houston Dynamo (19%)
T-3. Chicago Fire (13%)
T-3. FC Dallas (13%)
Others receiving votes: Portland Timbers, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC
Which player will be the most influential acquisition?
1. Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United (33%)
2. Sebastian Blanco, Portland Timbers (20%)
T-3. Cristian Colman, FC Dallas (13%)
T-3. Dax McCarty, Chicago Fire (13%)
Others receiving votes: Carlos Carmona, Fredy Montero, Nemanja Nikolic
Which rookie will be the best player in five years?
1. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (43%)
2. Abu Danladi, Minnesota United (21%)
3. Ian Harkes, D.C. United (14%)
Others receiving votes: Reggie Cannon, Jeremy Ebobisse, Hassan Ndam
Which MLS coach is the best tactical mind?
1. Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas (25%)
2. Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew (19%)
T-3. Mauro Biello, Montreal Impact (13%)
T-3. Jesse Marsch, New York Red Bulls (13%)
T-3. Gerardo Martino, Atlanta United (13%)
Others receiving votes: Greg Vanney, Peter Vermes, Patrick Vieira
Which current MLS coach is the best motivator?
1. Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City (40%)
T-2. Ben Olsen, D.C. United (20%)
T-2. Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas (20%)
Others receiving votes: Dominic Kinnear, Pablo Mastroeni
Which MLS team is most fun to watch?
T-1. New York City FC (36%)
T-1. FC Dallas (36%)
3. New York Red Bulls (21%)
Others receiving votes: Columbus Crew
What is the MLS rule that most needs to change?
T-1. Eliminate allocation money and allow teams to spend from a pool of funds (15%)
T-1. Revamp the discovery claims process (15%)
T-1. Increase the salary cap (15%)
Also receiving votes:
- Add a fourth designated player slot
- Free up loans from the USL
- Increase discipline for dissent and obvious tactics to delay restarts
- Change the number of international roster slots to a maximum of six
- Revamp the disciplinary committee
- Do not force players who miss the All-Star game to sit out their next league match
- Eliminate the away-goals rule in the playoffs