opinions, PRedictions, and more
Chris' columns feature's Chris Dailey's boldest predictions, in-depth stories, and more!
Founder, The Sports Court
MLS’ 28th season is set to kick off on February 25 and the league is finally finding its footing and place in both the American sporting landscape as well as the world of soccer. As an excellent development league with exciting action and updated infrastructure, the MLS is by all means, an elite league.
However, the biggest fault many MLS supporters have with their own league is the lack of storylines around it. With no promotion and relegation, the league is franchise based and doesn’t create the do-or-die atmosphere seen in foreign leagues. With recent shows coming to stardom such as Welcome to Wrexham and Ted Lasso, this very opinion has become a much more relevant and persistent talking point in the world of American Soccer as of late.
This opinion is far from the truth, and while there may not be promotion and relegation battles, there are plenty of storylines to keep an eye out for. Here are my top 5 storylines heading into the 2023 MLS Season.
#5: LA Galaxy Fans Protest
Despite being suspended in late 2022 for foul play as President, LA Galaxy’s Chris Klein will be returning to the position for his 11th season with the club and fans are not happy.
Klein was the spearhead of Galaxy violating MLS salary guidelines and also being fined a total of $2 million.
The main note was Galaxy cheating their way into the acquisition of Cristian Pavon in 2019.
Galaxy listed Pavon as a TAM player, which was the wrong classification for what category of players he falls under.
However, the hatred that Galaxy fans have for Klein extends much deeper than just this.
The Galaxy watched next-door neighbors, LAFC, hoist the MLS Cup, while the Galaxy fall behind with lackluster signings and without a clear identity anymore. All of a sudden, the Galaxy are not the team to join in LA, that title belongs to LAFC.
Ever since Klein entered the front office of the club, the Galaxy has not seen much success thanks to the poor business on the front office side of things.
Fans are furious and want Klein out. When news broke that Klein’s contract was extended, fans immediately began calling for protests against Galaxy’s first home game of the season which takes place at the Rose Bowl against LAFC.
It will be interesting to see how many Galaxy fans do support throughout the season as many are taking a definite pause from supporting the club, at least attending the matches, until a change is made.
#4: A New Star in New York
New York Red Bulls fans have waited long and hard for another star to dawn the Red Bull Arena pitch.
Ever since the days of Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls have failed to make a marquee signing who goes above and beyond and is a legitimate MLS star.
While youth development has been great. Most notably Tyler Adams rising through the ranks and recently John Tolkin and Daniel Edelman both making names for themselves at the senior level. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that fans of the Red Bulls have been craving a star long and hard.
Now, with the addition of 24-year-old, Dante Vanzeir, from Union SG in Beglium, the Red Bulls fans have found exactly what they’ve been looking for.
Although not a world-renowned superstar like Theirry Henry was, Vanzeir and Henry have something similar.
They score goals at a very high level and frequency.
In 79 appearances with Union SG, Vanzeir banged in 43 goals, 10 of which came in his 20 appearances this 22-23 season.
Vanzeir has a legitimate chance to become the best goal-scorer in all of MLS and the Red Bulls have finally found themselves the star they have been looking long and hard for.
It may have taken a while, but if Vanzeir can continue his stellar form in the MLS, it will all be worth it in the end. The Red Bulls are always a consistent team, and now with the addition of Vanzeir, the sky is the limit for the club this season.
Forget supporters shield - the Red Bulls want the MLS Cup, and ownership is finally showing positive signs that they are willing to invest in getting their hands on the Cup.
#3: Welcome to the era of Apple
MLS and Apple inked a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal to make Apple the exclusive streaming partner of MLS.
With no blackouts, a stellar broadcasting team, and interesting new features that only Apple will offer, MLS is the first major sports league to move its broadcasting to Apple.
MLS will offer a whip-around show similar to NFL Redzone and the pass will cost $14.99 per month or $99 per season for non-Apple TV+ users.
This deal is unprecedented and only increases the MLS budget as it works towards increasing visibility before the 2026 World Cup.
Whether this deal will be suitable for fans or not is a question to be figured out very shortly as nobody knows exactly what to expect from a viewing experience.
The package sounds amazing and fans will have access to all the games. Apple & MLS have invested millions in broadcasting booths, set-ups, and broadcasting talent to make this as great of an experience as possible for the viewer.
#2: The Italian Spectacle in Toronto
On January 8, 2022, Toronto FC signed Lorenzo Insigne on a free transfer. Insigne, an Italian standing at a staggering height of 5’4, became the second Italian superstar on the shorter side of the spectrum to sign for Toronto. The first was none other than Sebastian Giovinco who went on to become the best player in the league during his tenure with Toronto FC.
Then, several months later in July, Toronto signed Federico Bernandeschi on a four-year deal.
In 11 appearances in the MLS during the 2022 season, Insigne tallied 6 goals and 2 assists. Meanwhile, his Italian counterpart, Berndandeschi, managed to knock in 8 goals in his 13 appearances.
Although it was too little too late to turn Toronto FC’s playoff hopes around, the superstars showed great promise.
While many stars have trouble adapting to the physical style and long travel that the MLS provides, the Italians ripped the league to shreds in their few appearances.
However, the defense was the main issue for Toronto. In 2017, the last time Toronto hoisted the MLS Cup, the club let up only 37 goals. In 2022, they let up 66.
Thus, President Bill Manning signed former MLS Defender of the Year, Matt Hedges, to tighten up the defense.
Now for a full season, MLS fans will have the chance to watch the dazzling Italian duo of Insigne and Bernandeschi.
If they can keep up the output they had in their short time with Toronto last season and the defense can get their act together, an MLS Cup would be very likely for Toronto FC who are led by the legendary Bob Bradley.
#1: Welcome, St. Louis
St. Louis City SC was founded in 2019 and is finally debuting this 2023 season.
St. Louis, an iconic soccer city, had one of the earliest soccer games ever which took place on February 12, 1882. The game was played in front of 2,000 people.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Soccer League from 1907-1939, was the country’s only fully professional soccer league.
In 1920, Ben Millers, one of the St. Louis-based soccer teams at the time, became the first team outside of the northeast to win the National Challenge Cup, now known as the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Later on, the St. Louis Stars played for 10 years in the original ASL and since then many indoor teams have fluttered the region.
After one lone season for AC St. Louis in the new NASL, St. Louis FC played for five years in the USL. The team generated great support from the area but ultimately closed doors as the announcement of St. Louis City SC loomed large over the club.
It’s safe to say, St. Louis soccer culture is rich.
St. Louis City SC owners have invested hundreds of millions into a downtown stadium called, Citypark, and a development area that has team offices and many training pitches for the youth.
The stadium holds 22,500 and has even already held a game between St. Louis City 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen of the Bundesliga.
The expansion club's star players include Brazilian forward, Klauss, who scored 12 goals in the Austrian Bundesliga only 3 years ago.
Another star includes Eduard Lowen who has tons of Bundesliga experience. The talented midfielder brings technical prowess to the middle of the park.
To top things off, 22-year-old forward Nicholas Giochchini brings Ligue 1 experience to St. Louis City SC and the talented talisman has managed to score 3 goals in 8 caps for the USMNT.
While expansion clubs have found issues to bring much success in season one, mostly improving drastically in season 2, as seen recently with Austin FC.
A rich soccer culture and beautiful soccer-specific stadium are everything that the MLS needs as it nears the end goal of 32 clubs before the 2026 World Cup, and St. Louis City Soccer Club provides just that.
Founder, The Sports Court
Ian Book is a backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles in the National Football League. From the hills of El Dorado, California, to the city of brotherly love and everywhere in between, Ian Book’s story from an undersized recruit to setting Notre Dame’s all-time win record to being a member of the best team in the NFL is nothing short of remarkable.
Book grew up loving all sports, but football is what captivated his heart. He would go on to attend Oak Ridge High School where he threw for 7,632 yards and 78 touchdowns.
Book was a superstar, and several teams came calling. Book originally committed to a local school, Washington State, before flipping his commitment to attend a school across the country.
This school wasn’t any ordinary school. This school is the most prestigious and historic program in all of College Football. Known for their shiny helmets and the figure of Touchdown Jesus that rises over the stadium, Book took his talents to South Bend, Indiana to dawn the blue and gold of Notre Dame.
Book redshirted in his freshman year at Notre Dame. It was in his second year in which he rocketed to stardom.
After coming in for an injured Brandon Wimbush against UNC, Book didn’t see much action until the 2018 Citrus Bowl against LSU. Wimbush struggled and Book was inserted into the game and won the hearts of Notre Dame fans thanks to his heroic play and iconic throw to Miles Boykin to win the game in the final seconds of the game to help Notre Dame win 21-18.
“Just being able to go in at the end of the 1st quarter and be able to play was amazing. I knew I was going to be able to play. They had a plan for Wimbush and myself. But once I got in I was able to do what I had to do and play the rest of the game which was pretty cool and we started to click as an offense. I knew I was throwing that back shoulder fade to Myles for what feels like forever but was only a year, but he’s a long-range receiver who can go up and make every catch and did an unbelievable job, made both guys miss, and it was a pretty cool moment and my welcome to college football’ moment,” said Book in regards to his iconic performance in the Citrus Bowl.
Book went on to have 30 wins as the starting quarterback at the University of Notre Dame, surpassing the likes of 1947 Heisman Winner, Johnny Lujack, and his offensive coordinator, Tommy Rees.
Book’s best moments included two trips to the College Football Playoffs, a historic achievement for a historic school that is limited in recruiting thanks to rigorous academic standards.
However, perhaps the greatest moment of the Ian Book era at Notre Dame wasn’t the two college football semifinal appearances. It was the regular season classic at home against Clemson in which Notre Dame knocked off the number 1 team in the country 47-40 in one of the greatest college football games in recent memory.
Book through for 310 yards and 1 touchdown and contributed for 67 yards on the ground.
Dispute an early fumble, Book had a short memory and kept on plugging away, willing Notre Dame to a historic upset win.
“A great game, that was something early in the week I knew something special would happen. I felt like that was one of the times in college football I felt like the entire building believed that we were going to beat the number-one team in the country. That doesn’t happen everywhere but that is something cool about Notre Dame,” said Book, “we had a bunch of guys that were brought in and I felt like we were going to win before it even happened. (About the fumble play) I thought I was going to score but the guy made a really good play and knocked the ball out. In my career, whenever there is a bad play, I try to forget about it and move on and I remember going to the sideline and everybody encouraging me and saying I’ll be fine. I had a moment of in one ear out the other and I’ll be fine. I felt good and kept fighting the whole game and it came down to the last few plays and the fans storming the field during the pandemic was surreal so it felt pretty good.”
That game cemented Book’s status as a Notre Dame legend.
Whether Notre Dame fans appreciate him is up to the fans themselves, but they can certainly not deny the impact Ian Book left on the modern-day era of Notre Dame Football. From an undersized recruit to an all-time win leader, two CFP appearances, and a win against the #1 team in the country isn’t too shabby for somebody who was told by many online that he is too small to play the quarterback position.
Book went on to get drafted in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints and in his rookie season had one start. That start coming in a game against the Miami Dolphins. Although not the ideal game for Book, he gave it his all but the Saints weren’t able to get much clicking due to injuries plus COVID holding the team back from putting most of their primary starters on the field.
Now in his second year, and playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Book has been a member of the Eagles squad that has defied all odds by winning the NFC East and finishing the year 14-3. The Eagles earned the #1 seed in the NFC and will host the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round.
Book’s rise from a lesser-known recruit to a member of the best team in the NFL is a remarkable story about hard work, determination, and staying true to yourself.
“Instead of proving others wrong, I want to prove myself right,” said Ian Book, perfectly describing both his career and life motto.
Book is on a mission to prove himself, the little kid that once dreamed of playing in the NFL, right, rather than all of the haters wrong. The kid from El Dorado Hills is on a mission to do the things he set out to do for himself rather than the validation of those who didn’t believe in him.
An elite mindset and top individual, Ian Book is very well on his path to a Lombardi Trophy and a Super Bowl ring.
The Eagles will need to take care of business against the Giants and the winner of SF vs Dallas/Tampa Bay and then the eventual champion of the AFC.
For now, it’s one step at a time for Book and the Eagles.
Founder, The Sports Court
In a day and age where NIL and the transfer portal have ruled the roost of college football - it’s a small campus, under-the-radar, overlooked team that captivated the hearts of millions around the country and booked their ticket into the College Football Playoffs Championship.
The story of the Texas Christian University Football Team is a story led by the epitome of an underdog, Max Duggan.
Duggan is perhaps the best QB to play for TCU since the days of Sammy Baugh back in the 1930s. It’s been nearly a century since Baugh played for the Horned Frogs but TCU is back in the glory land thanks to Duggan.
Duggan, a native of Council Buffs, Iowa, was a true-freshman starter in 2019 and threw for school freshman records with 2,077 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Seen as one of the best freshman quarterbacks in the nation, Duggan was hoping to continue his success into the 2020 season. However, this was done with a fair bit of struggle along the way that put a dent into his training and physical health.
Duggan found out he had been born with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition that affects the heart to beat abnormally for fast periods of time. He had to have a 9-hour surgery to fix the problem and following that, Duggan suffered a blood clot that saw him go under another emergency surgery.
The surgery for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome meant he had to put catheters in his neck and groin.
Despite this all, Duggan remained faithful and confident he could play in the 2020 season, which is exactly what he did.
Duggan didn’t miss a single game that 2020 season and the Horned Frogs finished the season 5-4 in the COVID-shortened year.
Although the season was cut short and TCU didn’t exactly have the standout season fans would’ve hoped - one thing was evident, Duggan was a warrior. He didn’t let anything stop him and he went from battling blood clots to putting his body on the line for the program, earning the respect of those around him.
However, just when everything seemed to be getting better following his surgeries and the 2020 season in which he led the team in rushing, Duggan struggled in 2021.
The program was losing games and Duggan wasn’t playing well. A big factor in this was a broken bone and tendon in his foot that he suffered.
Duggan was eventually pulled in TCU’s road loss against Kansas and his backup, Chandler Morris, came in and threw for 461 yards as TCU upset the #12 Baylor Bears in the next game out.
Many TCU fans thought this would be the end of the Max Duggan era and he would transfer - especially after interim coach Sonny Dykes said there would be a competition for the starting role in 2022.
By August of 2022, it was confirmed by Dykes after the summer practices that Morris would be starting. Rather than quit - or put his name in the transfer portal, Duggan stayed with the team. This came as a surprise to many fans who all knew he could start for a smaller D1 program, but Duggan knew in his heart that he did not come this far to stop now. His goal remained the game - to help TCU lift a National Championship, and if he was a backup, he would be the best backup in the country.
In the first game of the season against Colorado, Morris injured his knee and Duggan led TCU to two touchdowns and from there - a season for the history books.
Duggan’s toughness was shown throughout the season as he helped drag TCU to a 12-0 record by the time of the Big 12 Championship Game - a game in which they fell short to Kansas State but despite that, Duggan was the talk of the town due to his awe-inspiring performance.
Duggan threw for 3321 yards and 30 TDs and only 4 interceptions. Duggan was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and won the Davey O’Brien Award & Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
In addition, Duggan finished second in Heisman voting, only behind Caleb Williams.
Tonight - on December 31, 2022, Duggan accomplished his most miraculous feat yet, leading TCU to a National Championship Game.
In a day and age where coaches are ‘buying players’ with NIL Booster Clubs - as seen in the Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher debacle prior to the CFB season, it’s a school with 12,273 students and a 325-acre campus that is headed to Sofi Stadium.
It’s a school whose backup quarterback became the Heisman runner-up. It’s a school whose head coach built a winning culture in his first season. It’s a school that emphasizes the beauty of college football.
Everyone has a chance, whether you like it or not. TCU was unranked coming into the season and are now patiently awaiting their opponent for the National Championship. It’s a story for the ages and one of the greatest underdog stories in recent college football history.
Max Duggan and Texas Christian University show exactly why college football is the best, and now, they are one offensive explosion away from entrenching their names into College Football History. This is what movies are made of.
Thank you for reading! For more content, follow us on Instagram! www.instagram.com/the.sportscourt
A writer who loves to learn and share.
All Editorials written by Chris Dailey