The 2017 season will be more electrifying and competitive than ever as the league welcomes two new expansion clubs in Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC. With distinct looks and identities, both teams will contend to become the first expansion club to win MLS Cup in its inaugural year since the Chicago Fire last accomplished the feat in 1998.
With notable player signings, an internationally acclaimed head coach in Tata Martino, a state-of-the-art stadium to be opened in July, and a record 30,000 season ticketholders – the most ever for an inaugural season – Atlanta will have high expectations when it begins its 2017 campaign. With the club making its intent to be a championship contender known early on, all eyes will be on Atlanta when it faces Eastern Conference heavyweights New York Red Bulls on Sunday, March 5th at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Minnesota United FC has the luxury of building on a 40 year old history of professional soccer in Minnesota. MNUFC joins MLS after six years in the NASL, allowing the team to easily transition a group of core group players into MLS, while also adding a strong contingent of international players of pedigree. With experienced MLS head coach Adrian Heath at the helm – he coached Orlando City SC in its first year – Minnesota will look to use its know-how to navigate the club to great heights in 2017, starting off on Friday, March 3rd against 2015 MLS Cup Champions Portland Timbers at Providence Park.
One of the major trends of the offseason saw a number of young players in their prime and with international experience make the move to an MLS club from an international league. Expansion club Atlanta United signed three Designated Players all aged 23 or younger, all hailing from South America. Midfielder Miguel Almiron starred for his native Paraguay in this summer’s Copa America Centenario, while Josef Martinez has produced equally scintillating results for Venezuela’s national team.
Cascadia Cup fans will be delighted to see Fredy Montero return to MLS as the one-time Seattle legend joins rival club Vancouver Whitecaps FC and looks to provide a veteran presence for his new team. As a member of Sounders FC, the Colombia National Team member registered at least 19 combined goals and assists in each of his four seasons for the club and will look to kick off his return to MLS in the same fashion when Vancouver hosts the Philadelphia Union on Sunday at BC Place.
2007 International Player Signings
Eighty one players from international professional leagues joined MLS this offseason. Those 81 players hold an average age of 25.73 years old. Of the 81 players signed, 58.02% have received at least one cap for their respective senior national team. Total of 13 Designated Players from outside MLS added this offseason with an average age of 25.31 years old
Orlando City SC is making final preparations for a spectacular season opener in their shiny, new Orlando City Stadium, which will debut in front of a sold-out crowd on March 5, when the Lions face New York City FC. Trademarked with a unique tribute to the 49 lives lost in the Pulse tragedy, 49 rainbow seats in section 12 will forever commemorate the day that brought the Orlando community together on June 12, 2016. The stadium, which features the League’s first standing-room only supporters’ section, “The Wall,” was initially planned for a total stadium capacity of 18,500 but was increased to accommodate 25,500.