Experts' predictions for MLS season

SI.com's experts make their predictions for the 2010 MLS season.

Grant Wahl: Seattle. The Sounders were a remarkable story in 2009, reaching the playoffs as an expansion team, winning the U.S. Open Cup and averaging a league-record home attendance of 30,897. Look for Seattle to go all the way in 2010, using a mix of cagey veterans (Freddie Ljungberg, Kasey Keller), rising stars (Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani), smart-buy contributors (Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans) and a championship coach (Sigi Schmid). Last year, the European-style atmosphere at Qwest Field was unmatched in MLS. This year it could go off the charts.

Steve Davis: Columbus. The Crew still have a deep team and manager Robert Warzycha will never (ever, ever!) underestimate what Guillermo Barros Schelotto's presence means in a big match. (The rookie Crew manager outsmarted himself and rested the indomitable attacker in an opening-leg playoff loss to Real Salt Lake last year.)

Luis Bueno: Columbus. Warzycha's men return a deep and battle-tested squad ready to make up for last season's unfortunate playoff exit. With Schelotto pulling the strings, the Crew are as dangerous as any club in the attack, and el Mellizo will once again guide the Crew to glory.

Jen Chang: Seattle. The Sounders play an open, attacking game and try to pass it through the middle, one of the few teams in MLS to do so. Last year, their Achilles heel was the lack of clinical finisher to support Montero, but the addition of Blaise Nkufo gives the team a lethal pairing.

Grant Wahl: Columbus, New England, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake, Houston.

For the first time, MLS will have a balanced 30-game regular-season schedule in which each team plays the 15 others home and away. Sounds like a good reason to go single-table and junk the playoffs altogether, right? But this is America, so postseason it is. MLS won't lose many players to the World Cup, and I think once again the balance of power will tilt toward the Western Conference. Schelotto has one more big season left in him in Columbus, which wants to redeem itself from last year's playoff fiasco. New England, Chicago and New York are all rebuilding, but I like what Steve Nicol, Carlos de los Cobos and Hans Backe bring to the table, respectively. In the West, I see Seattle, L.A. and Salt Lake pulling away, while Houston recovers from the losses of Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark to grit out the last playoff berth.

Steve Davis: Real Salt Lake, Columbus, Seattle, Chicago, Toronto, New York, Colorado, Los Angeles.

Luis Bueno: Columbus, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas

Jen Chang: Columbus, Chicago, New England, Toronto, Seattle, Colorado, Real Salt Lake, Houston.

Grant Wahl: Fredy Montero, Seattle. This is the year that the electric 22-year-old Colombian striker will realize his vast potential and validate the promise that he showed during the first half of 2009. Good thing the Sounders own his full contract now instead of having him on loan. Montero won't be long for this league, but I'm seeing a Stern John-like impact this season.

Steve Davis: Juan Pablo Ángel, New York. The classy striker finally has things around him arranged favorably and he'll truly shine if he can stay healthy (which should be easier now that he's not on that back-and-ankle-wrenching artificial turf).

Luis Bueno: Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus. Once again, the best player on the best team gets the nod.

Jen Chang: Shalrie Joseph, New England. The Revs' midfield powerhouse will finally get his long overdue recognition.

Grant Wahl: Tim Ream, New York. The St. Louis U. product was only the 18th pick in the draft, but he looks like he'll start in the central defense for the revamped Red Bulls and provide some much-needed stability on the back line.

Steve Davis: Ream.

Luis Bueno: Danny Mwanga, Philadelphia.

Jen Chang: Michael Stephens, L.A. Galaxy.

Grant Wahl: Montero.

Steve Davis: Angel.

Luis Bueno: Jeff Cunningham, Dallas.

Jen Chang: Angel.

Grant Wahl: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Seattle. El Presidente nearly won this award last year but was nosed out by two-time defending DOY Chad Marshall of Columbus. This time the Colombian turns the tables.

Steve Davis: Hurtado.

Luis Bueno: Jimmy Conrad, Kansas City.

Jen Chang: Hurtado.

Grant Wahl: William Hesmer, Columbus. It certainly helps that Hesmer has a solid back line in front of him, but don't sell this goalkeeper short. The Crew will be near the top of the Supporters' Shield race again this season, and Hesmer will be a big reason why.

Steve Davis: Kasey Keller, Seattle.

Luis Bueno: Pat Onstad, Houston.

Jen Chang: Donovan Ricketts, LA

Grant Wahl: Los Angeles. I know it may be hard to envision the glam Galaxy as anyone's dark horse, but think about it: David Beckham may not play at all for L.A. this season, and Landon Donovan may be sold to Europe in the summer transfer window. Bruce Arena has shown that he knows how to put together a team, though, and the Galaxy could well make a deep playoff run without their two big stars.

Steve Davis: Colorado.

Luis Bueno: FC Dallas.

Jen Chang: Chivas USA.

Grant Wahl: Landon Donovan, Los Angeles. Donovan's impressive 10-week loan spell at Everton set the table nicely for him to have a good World Cup and follow that by transferring to a team in Europe. I'm not sure Everton will have the money that MLS will be looking for, but I have a hunch that some team will.

Steve Davis: Donovan.

Luis Bueno: Montero.

Jen Chang: Donovan.

Grant Wahl:

GK William Hesmer, ColumbusD Wilman Conde, ChicagoD Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, SeattleD Chad Marshall, ColumbusM Dwayne De Rosario, TorontoM Shalrie Joseph, New EnglandM Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt LakeM Guillermo Barros Schelotto, ColumbusM Freddie Ljungberg, SeattleF Fredy Montero, SeattleF Juan Pablo Ángel, New York

Steve Davis:

GK Kasey Keller, SeattleD Wilman Conde, ChicagoD Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, SeattleD Chad Marshall, ColumbusM Julian de Guzman, TorontoM Shalrie Joseph, New EnglandM Brad Davis, HoustonM Freddie Ljungberg, SeattleM Landon Donovan, Los AngelesF Omar Cummings, ColoradoF Juan Pablo Ángel, New York

Luis Bueno:

GK Pat Onstad, HoustonD Ante Jazic, Chivas USAD Jimmy Conrad, Kansas CityD Chad Marshall, ColumbusM Kyle Beckerman, RSLM Shalrie Joseph, New EnglandM Guillermo Barros Schelotto, ColumbusM Freddie Ljungberg, SeattleM Landon Donovan, Los AngelesF Jeff Cunningham, FC DallasF, Conor Casey, Colorado

Jen Chang:

GK Donovan Ricketts, Los AngelesD Kevin Alston, New EnglandD Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, SeattleD Danny Califf, UnionM Julian de Guzman, TorontoM Shalrie Joseph, New EnglandM Geoff Cameron, HoustonM Guillermo Barros Schelotto, ColumbusM Osvaldo Alonso, SeattleF Robbie Findley, RSLF Juan Pablo Ángel, New York

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