With his next goal, LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan will become the MLS all-time scoring king, breaking a tie with Jeff Cunningham. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/AP)
The 2014 MLS season kicks off Saturday, when defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City heads to CenturyLink Field for a high-profile clash against the Seattle Sounders. Thus embarks a nine-month journey to MLS Cup.
Along the road, records will fall and statistical landmarks will be achieved. Here are five milestones worth keeping an eye on as the season approaches:
Landon Donovan's quest to become the league's all-time scoring king
If you factor in postseason goals, he's long held this crown, but the fact remains that Donovan is level with Jeff Cunningham on 134 regular-season goals. Perhaps it is because the achievement is inevitable that it is being met with such little fanfare, but with a penalty kick, classic counterattack or some other form of tally against LA nemesis Real Salt Lake on Saturday (or another opponent in the near future), Donovan will stand alone atop the league's scoring charts. Maybe it's just another bullet point on his resume, but it's one that surely should be celebrated appropriately. Fun fact: Donovan's first MLS goal came against Tim Howard. No. 135 could very well come against RSL's Nick Rimando. All three are expected to be on the USA's plane to Brazil this summer.
ABNOS: 2014 MLS Eastern Conference primer
Edson Buddle's quest to reach 100 goals
The Colorado Rapids veteran is two shy of the landmark, which only seven other players (and two active -- Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario) have achieved. Almost 33, Buddle may no longer be the same player that he was in Columbus and LA, and with Vicente Sanchez, Gabriel Torres and Deshorn Brown providing competition for minutes, he won't necessarily get the Rapids' lion's share of chances. Buddle still managed five goals last season, though, and he's a safe bet to net at least the two he needs to reach the Century Club.
BIRD: 2014 MLS Western Conference primer
Chris Wondolowski and Alvaro Saborio's quest for a fifth straight double-digit scoring season
Only one player in MLS history, Carlos Ruiz, has done what Wondolowski and Saborio are attempting to do in 2014. By scoring double digits in goals four seasons in a row, Wondolowski (72 goals in that time) and Saborio (52) put themselves in exclusive company with six other players (Fredy Montero, Juan Pablo Angel, Diego Serna, Giovani Savarese, Jaime Moreno, Roy Lassiter). Another double-digit campaign would have them match Ruiz's feat, which El Pescadito accomplished from 2002-2006 with the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas. Expect Wondo to come out firing, too, with a U.S. World Cup roster berth at stake.
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Nick Rimando's quest to set the league record for clean sheets
Rimando, RSL's anchor in the back, is four shutouts shy of matching Kevin Hartman's league record (112). He is likely to miss some time for the World Cup -- projected as the USA's No. 3 goalkeeper -- but there is still plenty of time for him to match and set the mark. Odds are he'll do so: He has no fewer than seven clean sheets in each season since joining RSL in 2007 and has hit double digits in three of those seasons.
BIRD: MLS Power Rankings - Sporting KC at No. 1
Sigi Schmid's quest for 200 wins
Some may say that Schmid is fortunate to remain in Seattle after falling short of sky-high expectations again in 2013, but he is indeed back on the Sounders' bench, and with 13 wins this season, he'll become the first MLS manager to reach the 200-win mark. Schmid is currently the league's all-time leader in wins (his 187 exceeds active managers Bruce Arena's 159, Dom Kinnear's 128 and Frank Yallop's 117), and all indications are that he will achieve the milestone. He has reached at least 13 victories in all but one of his five seasons in Seattle (the club won 12 games in its inaugural 2009 season).
SI Now: One-on-one with MLS star Landon Donovan
On Tuesday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated soccer writer Brian Straus sat down with LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan to discuss MLS opening weekend, his future with the Galaxy and his hopes for Team USA in the World Cup.