These are the most accurate 2017 MLS predictions you'll find on the internet

Who wins the East? Who wins the West? Who wins MVP. Let us tell you.

It’s here.

Less than three months after the Seattle Sounders beat Toronto FC in penalties to take home MLS Cup, the 2017 season is upon us. It brings two new expansion teams, plenty of new faces and another year of Sebastian Giovinco highlights.

There are plenty of alluring storylines to watch this season. Can Atlanta or Minnesota buck the expansion team trend and make the playoffs? How will a new-look New York Red Bulls team fare? Will the Chicago Fire’s offseason additions finally turn around the franchise?

On paper, it looks like one of the more competitive years in some time. Several teams improved this offseason, including Chicago, Sporting Kansas City, Portland, Columbus, Vancouver and Houston. FC Dallas and Toronto, two of the best teams in the league last year, remain atop the power polls and bring back their core players. The East, top-to-bottom, is as competitive as it has been in some time, perhaps pulling closer on par with the strength of the West.

Making MLS predictions is never easy. Last year I thought the Columbus Crew would win the Eastern Conference. That didn’t turn out so well. This is MLS, after all. It’s impossible to predict injuries and even tougher to forecast drop-offs that inevitably occur within rosters. Every year, there’s a team that surprises you at the top and another on the bottom. Which means a lot of what I’ll write below probably won’t happen, and you’ll all get a chance to send me this link at the end of the season and laugh.

Here are some of my predictions for the season…

Eastern Conference

·        The Eastern Conference will be one of the closest top-to-bottom races we’ve seen in some time. I fully expect the teams in spots five through 11 to be separated by extremely narrow margins. It’s tough right now to pick two playoff teams out of this bunch: Chicago, Atlanta, Montreal, Philadelphia, D.C., New England and Orlando. I keep swapping D.C. United, Atlanta United and Chicago Fire for the final two spots in the East.

·        I’ll buy that the Fire will have one of the biggest turnarounds in MLS, as one GM told Sam Stejskal at MLSsoccer.com, but who knows what that means in the standings. I look at 2017 Chicago as 2016 Philadelphia, in the second year of a build with a team that should compete for a playoff spot. The Union narrowly held on for the sixth seed last season, can Chicago make a similar jump? I have bounced them everywhere from five to nine in my preseason predictions and I could justify any of those spots. Back line depth is going to be absolutely crucial this year for Chicago, but the midfield core is very strong.

·        I see the New York Red Bulls dropping off some this season. I don’t love their depth in some areas and wonder how the loss of Dax McCarty will have an impact on the continuity of this team. Will the Red Bulls score enough goals, or will leaning on one player to be the finisher eventually catch up to them? They need Gonzalo Veron to produce this year.

GRAHAM PARKER

·        The one team I think could surpass any other in regards to turnaround is the Columbus Crew. I think last year was an anomaly and the defensive reinforcements brought in by Gregg Berhalter will pay off with a playoff year. I went strong Crew last year, I’m going strong Crew this season.

·        I really hated Orlando City’s chances this season, but I actually like the trade for Giles Barnes. It gives them more bite up top and I think a Barnes-Cyle Larin pairing will be successful. I still don’t know that I love Orlando’s midfield and back-line depth charts.

·        Montreal has my biggest drop this season, and it’s because the age of the midfield scares me. The counter attack worked brilliantly in the playoffs, but over the course of a whole year I think Montreal will struggle to find continuity in the middle of the park. The game-changer: Ignacio Piatti. He’s so good that he’s capable of carrying this team into the playoffs on his back.

Eastern Conference standings prediction for you to hold against me now and at the end of the season…

  1. Toronto FC
  2. New York City FC
  3. New York Red Bulls
  4. Columbus Crew  
  5. Atlanta United
  6. Chicago Fire
  7. D.C. United  
  8. Montreal Impact
  9. New England Revolution
  10. Orlando City SC
  11. Philadelphia Union

NEXT: New kings of the Western Conference, or status quo?