CARSON, CA - APRIL 23: David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy waves to the fans after the Galaxy defeated the Portland Timbers 3-0 in their MLS match at The Home Depot Center on April 23, 2011 in Carson, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
The top and bottom of SB Nation's Preseason MLS Power Rankings have lots of agreement, but there's much less in the middle.
The MLS power rankings are here! The MLS power rankings are here! OK, probably not that big of a deal, especially considering no team has yet to play a competitive match. But we would be doing our sport a great disservice if we didn't tell you how we felt about these teams before a single goal has been scored.
With that little introduction, it's probably good to note that we've changed up our system from years past. In previous years, we asked our voters to place each team in one of four tiers. Those tiers vaguely corresponded to how we thought they would do that year; contend for a title, make the playoffs, contend for the playoffs, bring up the rear. With five teams from each conference automatically making the playoffs, our power rankings needed some freshing up.
This year, what we decided to do was ask our various bloggers from SB Nation/Soccer as well as those from the team blogs to rank each team from 1-19. We then took those rankings and placed them in one of five tiers, which were a bit more vague in nature. At some point, we'll give them names, but for now, they'll just be numbered. The idea here is to group teams together in more of a competitive sense, ie which teams are relatively equal in any given week.
Without further ado, our rankings:
These are essentially the teams we see as being a step above everyone else.
1. LA Galaxy (Average ranking: 1.16): There's definitely a question about their defense as rookie Tommy Meyer may be one of the starting centerbacks, but our voters don't seem very worried. All but 2 of 19 voters had them ranked No. 1.
2. Seattle Sounders (2.42): The offseason turnover was some cause for concern, but our voters still see them as an elite side. Just one voter (guess which team he covers) had them outside of the Top 3.
3. Real Salt Lake (3.05): There were no big additions, but not any big losses either. None of our voters see them as any worse than a Top 5 team.
These teams are generally seen as a step below the top tier, with a little more variety in their rankings, but shouldn't have any trouble qualifying for the playoffs.
5. Sporting Kansas City (4.89): For the most part, our voters saw them very similarly. A couple had them as high as No. 3, but all but one voter picked them in the Top 6. Interestingly enough, one blogger ranked them No. 11.
6. Houston Dynamo (6.52): We saw our voters fray a little bit more here, but not so much as to knock them into the next tier. Their ranking went as high as No. 3, but no one had them any lower than No. 10.
This is where we put teams we think are going to be struggling a bit more. It's a big group, as it probably will all year, and anyone is really where the mediocre teams will reside. There is a lot of mediocre in MLS.
7. New York Red Bulls (8.84): One of our voters liked them enough to put them No. 4, but only two had them as high as No. 6. Five voters had them ranked No. 11 or worse.
8. Colorado Rapids (9.73): The most notable move of the offseason was a change of coaches, but no one seems to love or really hate this team. Their high was No. 6, their low was No. 14.
9. Portland Timbers (10.05): A fair amount of change during the offseason has our voters putting them all over the place. One had them as high as No. 5, but another had them as low as No. 16. Just one team had a bigger gap between high and low ranking.
10. Columbus Crew (10.68): While there was some somewhat extreme views of this team, a high of 6 and a low of 15, most of our voters really thought of them as very average.
11. Philadelphia Union (11.05): Like the Timbers, there was a large bit of variance. Their high rank was 5 and their low rank was 16.
11. Chicago Fire (11.05): There was far less variance in their ranking, but the Fire ended up with an identical average as the Union.
13. Toronto FC (11.74): If you're looking for a team that really seems to be polarizing, this is them. We had two voters put them as high as No. 6, one put them at 17 and another put them at 18.
14. D.C. United (12.16): Another member of the no-agreement club. Their high ranking was 6 and their low was 17. Maybe not so curiously, their two highest rankings came from people who cover them closely.
This is where you'll find teams that we generally expect to struggle, but have a shot at being competitive.
15. Vancouver Whitecaps (14.37): Lots and lots of change in the offseason, but most of our voters were that impressed. One had them as high as No. 8, but no one else had them higher than 11.
16. Chivas USA (15.26): Aside from one outlier who had them ranked at No. 9, no one seemed to really like this team. Everyone else had them somewhere between Nos. 13-19.
17. San Jose Earthquakes (15.84): Another one-hit wonder with one voter pegging them as high as No. 7. Another voter had them as high as 12, but almost everyone had them ranked between 15-18.
There was a lot of agreement on these teams. Unfortunately, none of it was good.
18. New England Revolution (17.95): The highest anyone ranked the Revs was No. 14. They might be better than they were last year, but our voters are still very unimpressed.
19. Montreal Impact (18.21): Aside from one extreme outlier who ranked them No. 12 and another who put them No. 17, just about everyone agreed the Impact were one of the worst two teams in the league.
Who participated: Jeremiah Oshan (SB Nation, soccer); Aaron Campeau (SB Nation, soccer); Ryan Rosenblatt (SB Nation, soccer); Drew Epperley (SB Nation, soccer); Martin Shatzer (Black and Red United); Scott Kessler (Brotherly Game); Denzel Eslinger (RSL Soapbox); Robert Jonas (Quake, Rattle and Goal); Daniel Robertson (Big D Soccer); Dave Clark (Sounder at Heart); Duncan Fletcher (Waking the Red), Steve Stoehr (The Bent Musket); Ben Schneider (Once a Metro); Alicia Ratterree (The Goat Parade); Brenton Walters (The Vancouver Whitecaps Offside); Geoff Gibson (Stumptown Footy); Sofiane Benzaza (Mount Royal Soccer); Alen Englen (The Daily Wiz).