It's quite fair to say I've never been more excited for the start of an MLS season. It has also probably never been more difficult to predict how the tables will turn our - and yet, I'll dare to do it anyway.
Last year, 23 points separated second place from last place in the East standings. Things should tighten up in 2017, with a multi-club playoff race that stretches to the wire.
The clear pick of the litter here, the Reds are also my choice to take the Supporters Shield and reach another MLS Cup.
The Black-and-Red were among the hottest MLS clubs down the stretch last season, and they've solidified the squad. Their midfield depth will be key in a long season.
New York Red Bulls
It may take some time to cover the departure of Dax McCarty, but Jesse Marsch has the young midfield players to do it. Still, there are valid questions about their depth up top and in the fullback positions.
Now that they've shored up their central defense, the Crew look good to bounce back in a big way. Watch for netminder Zack Steffen to break out this season.
They will still thrill in attack and they will still leak too many goals. In this conference, that's still good enough to reach the postseason.
The defense has been fixed to the point where the efforts of their front six shouldn't go to waste. It would certainly increase the margin for error if Juan Agudelo can finally fulfill his potential.
The Union's playmaking depth and Andre Blake give them a solid chance to finish top six. And yet, there are nagging questions on each field line that need to be answered. If Mo Edu finally comes back strong, however, look out above.
Teams in this league can no longer live by the counter alone. The Impact have added some much-needed young legs to the midfield, though, so the playoffs are still within reach if they can fix that awful set-piece defense.
Yes, they look plenty fantastic for an expansion squad. That said, there are an awful lot of players who would need to adjust to MLS on short order for them to end up with a winning record - something that has only been achieved twice by the 13 previous first-year teams. This one should give a fair shot, though.
Will the Fire be improved? Yep, no doubt. Will they drop a lot of high-scoring games? It seems likely, yeah. They may need one more year to contend for the postseason.
I really wish I could say the Lions will roar to the playoffs this time. But while the defense should be improved some (not a great feat, mind you), Kaka and Cyle Larin now need some serious help with the offense.
- Greg Seltzer