The 1999 MLS season opens this Saturday, and it may wind up looking a lot like '98. The Los Angeles Galaxy should again score the most goals, allow the fewest and finish with the league's best record. Last year L.A. got dumped in the Western Conference finals by the first-year Chicago Fire, which went on to win the championship. This season? Expect the Galaxy to reach MLS Cup '99, but look for the Columbus Crew to get hot late and seize the title.
1. Columbus Crew
The Crew may start slowly—its first seven games are on the road—but the club has MLS's best young attacking talent in 22-year-old Stern John (a league-high 26 goals) and 26-year-old Brian McBride.
2. D.C. United
Still solid, it lost coach Bruce Arena to the national team and could be without the scoring combo of Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno for all of August because of their commitments to the Bolivian team.
3. Miami Fusion
Creaky playmaker Carlos Valderrama, 37, doesn't need to run as long as he's making breathtaking passes to Diego Serna, who came on strong late in '98 to finish with 11 goals.
4. New England Revolution
Walter Zenga has made two major changes: I) choosing to play goalkeeper as well as coach and 2) replacing Ra�l D�az Arce up front with the dependable Giovanni Savarese. Zenga's moves will get the Revs to the playoffs—barely.
5. New York/New Jersey MetroStars
Bora Milutinovic's tactics won't help a team that is even less talented than last year's after getting rid of five starters (Savarese, goalkeeper Tony Meola and defender Diego So�ora among them). Don't look for much offense with Bora in charge.
6. Tampa Bay Mutiny
The ghost of Frankie Hejduk (departed for Germany's Bayer Leverkusen) will haunt Tampa Bay, which has two new scoring "saviors": Jefferson Gottardi of Bolivia and Alejandro Sequeira of Costa Rica. If attendance woes continue, the Mutiny might as well move to Rochester, N.Y.
1. Los Angeles Galaxy
Even though forward Carlos Hermosillo will be playing in his native Mexico through April, firepower is not hard to come by: Cobi Jones, Welton and Mauricio Cienfuegos combined for 49 goals last season, or more than the totals of five teams.