2014 MLS season predictions: Timbers picked as MLS Cup favorites

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City is the popular pick as Supporters' Shield winners. SB Nation 2014 MLS preview

There seems to be little doubt in our bloggers' minds: The Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City should be two of the best teams in MLS this season. In our preseason poll -- in which 27 bloggers representing 16 blogs cast ballots -- the Timbers were the popular pick to win MLS Cup and Sporting Kansas City were tabbed as Supporters' Shield favorites. The Timbers and Sporting KC were also, unsurprisingly, picked to win their respective conferences.

Neither result should come as a huge surprise. The Timbers were the Western Conference's top team during the 2013 regular season and Sporting KC is the defending MLS Cup champions. There's also no obvious reason to suspect either team has regressed, at least no reason that's apparent on paper.

All that said, our preseason poll suggests there's no overwhelming favorite to win either piece of silverware. While the Timbers may be the popular MLS Cup pick, there were six different teams that were picked by at least two bloggers to win MLS Cup and the Timbers were the pick on less than a third of ballots (8). The Seattle Sounders -- the Timbers' biggest rivals -- were coincidentally the second most popular pick to win MLS Cup (5 votes). The New England Revolution (3), LA Galaxy (3), Sporting KC (2) and Toronto FC (2) also drew multiple votes.

Sporting KC was a bit more of a consensus pick as Shield favorites, appearing on 11 ballots. The Timbers were actually the second most popular pick (6), but there were also six teams to be picked to win the Shield by at least two bloggers. The Galaxy (3), Sounders (2), Toronto FC (2) and New York Red Bulls (2) were the other teams to be picked by multiple bloggers.

The Western Conference race also seems to be relatively wide open in our bloggers' eyes, although very much a four-team race. The Timbers were relative favorites with an average position of 1.8 and were at the top of the heap on 11 ballots, but the Galaxy (2.6 and picked to win on seven ballots), Sounders (3.1 and five) and Real Salt Lake (3.5 and two) weren't too far behind. Virtually all of our voters had all four teams in the playoffs. The final playoff spot also promises to be a tight race. Four of the five remaining teams were picked to go to the playoffs on at least a handful of ballots, with Chivas USA being the lone exception. The Earthquakes (average position of 5.6) were a soft pick to be the final playoff team.

West Avg. position High pick Low pick
Timbers 1.8 1 4
Galaxy 2.6 1 6
Sounders 3.1 1 5
Real Salt Lake 3.5 1 9
Earthquakes 5.6 2 8
Whitecaps 6.6 1 9
Rapids 6.7 3 9
FC Dallas 6.7 1 9
Chivas USA 8.3 5 9

The Eastern Conference race was a bit more clear, at least at the very top. Sporting KC had an average position of 1.2, were picked as conference winners on 21 ballots and weren't lower than fourth for anyone. There's a lot more disagreement after that, though. The Red Bulls had the second highest average position (2.8), but were out of the playoffs on a couple ballots and as low as ninth on one. Toronto FC was third (3.8), but were out of the playoffs on six ballots. Rounding out our bloggers' playoff picks were the New England Revolution (4.2) and Houston Dynamo (5.4), but the conference's other five teams were all picked as playoff teams and in last place on multiple ballots.

East Avg. position High pick Low pick
Sporting KC 1.3 1 4
Red Bulls 2.8 1 9
Toronto FC 3.8 1 8
Revolution 4.2 1 9
Dynamo 5.4 2 8
Fire 6.8 3 10
D.C. United 7.1 3 10
Union 7.2 3 10
Impact 7.9 4 10
Crew 8.4 3 10

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