Teams and fans alike are already well on their way planning for the 2011 season, and with 2010 now in the history books, it is safe to say it was a landmark year for MLS. On the field, the 2010 season was marked by a series of surprising stories that culminated on a cold Toronto night with Colorado lifting its first ever MLS Cup. Equally important were the off the field developments that helped to secure the future for the league, which has certainly looked shaky at times. With that in mind, here are the moments that shaped the year 2010 in MLS for the Goal.com USA staff:
10. Strike averted: It seems like a long time ago now, but the players and owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement just five days before the 2010 season kicked off. It goes without saying that a lengthy strike would have been devastating to the league.
9. The Union debut: It was a successful inagural campaign for Philadelphia's newest team: promising young talent on the field and a brand new stadium that averaged over 19,000 a game.
8. Continued development of Academy talent: Will college soccer ever become obsolete? I doubt it. Is the continuing development and emergence of club academies a huge step forward for MLS? Absolutely.
7. Kansas City Wizards defeat Manchester United: Yes, it was a friendly, and not all of the top talent of the EPL team played, but the Wizards were also reduced to ten men for much of the game, so the 2-1 result was even more remarkable.
6. The return of the MLS reserve league: It was a glaring deficiency in the development of young players in the league that there were no reserve teams for them or recovering players to perform in these past few years. When commisioner Don Garber announced that the reserve league would return, this need was finally addressed.
5. Red Bulls sign Henry and Marquez: There can be a debate on the merits of signing older talent, but signing two internationally known stars near their peak is never a bad thing.
4. Supporters' Shield and playoff race tightens: With more teams in the league than ever, the playoffs weren't a foregone conclusion for many teams, meaning that many games had real tension througout the season. Even though the L.A. Galaxy led early on, Real Salt Lake chased them down to make the regular season trophy go to the final game.
3. Red Bull Arena opens: One of the worst stadium situations in the league turned into one of the absolute best. A top class facility and one that should be filled with fans for years because the club also signed well-known overseas talent to play alongside exciting youngsters like Juan Agudelo.
2. Los Angeles Galaxy versus Real Madrid - first half: A 2-0 lead on Los Blancos had Los Angeles looking mighty fine versus 90 thousand plus at the Rose Bowl. Jose Mourinho had left certain players out of the original friendly squad list, but the Special One was determined not to lose in his coaching debut and put on all of the top stars in the second half while Bruce Arena pulled his out, keeping an eye on the Supporters Shield race.
1. An unlikely MLS Cup: Both FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids produced surprising seasons, with Dallas riding a 19-game unbeaten streak to a playoff berth and Gary Smith getting the most out of a fairly thin squad with his old-school 4-4-2, but few would have predicted that the two would meet in the MLS Cup considering the amount of talent on display across the league. Nonetheless, the Rapids did just enough to get by Columbus and San Jose, while FC Dallas produced two shock victories over Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles to set up a title game that saw Colorado, one of the original MLS franchises lift the cup for the first time.