The various SB Nation soccer editors have been dutifully running our preseason MLS power rankings about every other week for the last six weeks or so. In that time, we've seen some minor changes, but nothing particularly significant. We've seen FC Dallas fall out of the first tier and the Houston Dynamo fall out of the second tier. But this week there was even less change, as the only movement was a point or two within the individual tiers.
To change it up a little, I broke the the tiers into four separate groups and took an extended look at each team and chose a storyline that I felt would define each of their seasons. Here's what I said about the Seattle Sounders, who were one vote away from making the first tier:
Seattle Sounders: Taking the next step
Two U.S. Open Cup titles and two playoff appearances in two years is obviously nothing to be embarrassed about. But Sounders officials have not minced words as they've made it clear that simply repeating those feats will not be satisfactory. At the very least, the Sounders expect to compete for the Supporters' Shield, advance deep into the MLS Cup playoffs, as well as continuing to perform well in the Open Cup and CCL. They are bold goals, to be sure, but this is a team that has spent as heavily as anyone outside of New York and Los Angeles and has done everything in its power to eliminate the standard excuses.
In order to do that, they'll need to stay healthier than they were last year, as well as have a more varied attack. Last year, Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani combined for more than half of the team's goals. With Designated Players Alvaro Fernandez and Blaise Nkufo benefitting from full training camps, they'll need more production out of both of them. The Sounders should also benefit from a fully fit Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who has made great strides in returning from last year's knee injury. The ingredients for a special season are there.
After the jump, I explain my own personal rankings:
I was one of the nine editors (19 submitted ballots) who had the Sounders in the top tier. On my ballot, they were joined by Real Salt Lake, the LA Galaxy, the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas. Those were the teams I feel will be competing for the Supporters' Shield.
My second tier thinned out a little bit once the teams started to come into better focus with the Colorado Rapids, Sporting Kansas City, the Philadelphia Union and Chivas USA. That I have the Union and Chivas in my second tier probably comes as a bit of a surprise, but I feel like both have really improved over the off-season.
Originally, I had the Houston Dynamo and the Portland Timbers there, too, but right now I feel like they still have a bit more to prove. I feel like those two are likely playoff contenders, along with the teams like the San Jose Earthquakes and DC United, but there are big questions with all of those sides. My other Tier 3 teams are the Columbus Crew, New England Revolution and the Vancouver Whitecaps. I don't think I'd be totally shocked to see any of those teams make the playoffs, either.