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10 things to watch out for in the new MLS season

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SOCCER/The 15th Major League Soccer season kicks off on Thursday as fans thankfully turn their thoughts from collective-bargaining agreements and guaranteed contracts, to action on the field, safe in the knowledge that the only strikers making the news this week will be those who score goals.

Others will make their judgments on the deal that avoided a strike — but what is certain is that the new five-year contract and modest salary structure ensures not only that MLS will start on Thursday (Seattle Sounders host the Philadelphia Union) but also that it will enter its 20th year in much the same status as it began its first – a league featuring a surprising number of good players, being paid a surprisingly low amount of money.

But anyway, this writer too has had enough of all the financial and contractual talk and rather is looking forward to the start of the new season. Here are ten things to keep an eye on this year:

1. Philadelphia Union – a brand new franchise to finally give the enthusiastic supporters club who preceded them, the Sons of Ben, something to cheer about. With the canny Pole Peter Nowak as head coach, the Union will be well prepared but they lack a proven prolific goalscorer and are relying on the unpredictable (but superbly named) Brazilian midfielder Fred for their inspiration. Expect workmanlike solidity, the odd upset and perhaps some sparkling moments from their number one draft pick Danny Mwanga, who could get more playing time than most rookies.

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