MLS is kind of like the NHL, in that very little is discussed among top sports talk media shows, but attendance is proving that it is deserving of the 'Big 5' label with the others, the NBA, MLB and the NFL.
Only seven metro areas in the U.S. can boast of having a team in every league of the 'Big 5.' Of these seven metro areas, which city can say they have the best overall performance?
It was a ho-hum NHL year; the Stars won more than they lost, but didn't make the playoffs.
The same ho-hum can be said for FC Dallas, who made an MLS Cup Final in 2010, but haven't done much of anything else since they took over from the Dallas Burn in 2005.
The Cowboys got their supposed blanket cornerback in this year's draft and are feeling some mo, but the window is closing for another mo, Romo. They must find a way to surround him with loads of talent or it will be groundhog season once again. Playing in what many consider the NFL's toughest division has made a Super Bowl re-appearance challenging to Cowboy brass and frustrating for fans. Dallas Grades B+
The Nationals joined most recently and have experienced very little success so far. But, in some ways, they carry the most hope for the future. They finally have their two young guns on the field together for the first time, Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper. At least, they are creating a buzz.
D.C. United, the Green Bay Packers of MLS, winning early titles and carrying a winning reputation for many consecutive years, may be seeing a renaissance this season, finally stringing together two home wins in a row for the first time in a long time. They are playing well and in second place in their division.
The Capitals are in the second round of the NHL playoffs and hoping this season is finally the one that gives Alex Ovechkin and fans the championship that has eluded them since their inception.
The Wizards are going to the lottery, unfortunately, this sounds good for them. No team wants to be in the lottery, but for the Wizards, it's another shot at picking number one. The odds say they shouldn't win, but that's what makes the NBA lottery so much fun for the D.C. community. D.C. Grades C
Their hockey team is poised for a run. They enter the second round of the NHL playoffs as the higher seed. The Flyers are overdue for a Stanley Cup title and this is putting it mildly. This year is one of their best chances.
The Sixers made the playoffs as the last seed and worst overall playoff team, but they get a chance to show any mettle by battling the Bulls without Derrick Rose. How will they do, will they push them, or not? A lot is riding on this series because expectations for next season are already being mulled over by the press. Depending on how they finish, they'll be going out with a whimper or they stay in the news.
Not much to say so far about the MLS Union. As the 5th team, they are getting good numbers at the gate, but when the novelty wears off, what then? Just like anything else, they must win. Philly Grades B+
The Broncos are feeling like they are back in the mix with Peyton Manning and being in one of the NFL's weakest divisions. The days of John Elway are long gone, yet the team's best new memories are with a QB who has moved on, Tim Tebow. Can Manning take the Broncos further than Tebow took them?
The Rockies have knocked on the door a few times since coming into MLB. Todd Helton is still their guy and Coors Field still has an allure. The fans are there, the extra wild-card will help, but in order to get the sports world's attention, they will have to win a World Series.
Playoffs are only so convincing, just ask the Nuggets.
The Avalanche of the NHL have a couple of titles, just like the Broncos, but just like the Broncos, they aren't knocking on any serious doors of late. They have a good fanbase too and can contend most years. This season saw an above .500 team, but no playoffs.
The Rapids of MLS came through big a couple seasons back to upset the league with an MLS Cup title. Fans have remained unpredictable with the team, though, bringing some big crowds and other medium-sized ones. The years are up and down at the gate. Overall, the Rapids are a steady presence, not always winning much, but worthy of a surprise or two for sports fans. Denver Grades B
The Patriots look to continue their dominance this upcoming season and why not. They picked up some defensive presence in the NFL Draft and some of their rivals don't seem to be able to keep up. The Patriots are a perennial contender for a Super Bowl appearance.
The Red Sox have faded in reputation over the last couple of years, but the World Series titles can't be taken away from Big Poppy and others. It's still early for MLB, so they can't be counted out, yet.
The Celts are still in the hunt and with Bulls' hopes fading, they are most likely candidate to challenge the Heat. They're in the playoffs again with the same cast of characters and they can't be taken for granted. Rondo can turn on the jets, Allen can rise up, Pierce and Garnett can shake n' bake.
The Bruins are out this year, but got on the bandwagon last year. They kept Boston on top by winning the Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Canucks in a fantastic series last season.
The Revolution of MLS are the weakest link, down in the standings and playing in what fans consider the worst stadium. A new stadium proposal is out there and could turn the tide completely.
For now, they are not playing like their counterparts, but it is still early in Soccer season, too. They have one U.S. Open Cup win 15 years back, but still no MLS Cups yet. Is this the Boston area's next pro sports winner? Boston Grades A-
Two baseball teams makes the chances a little better than having only one team. At least blaming Steve Bartman seems to finally be over and done with. The Cubs are MLB's best story and will continue to be until the century of futility comes to an end.
The Bears are not doormats, but their not dominant, either. Jay Cutler at QB is a tough sell sometimes, but fans have to believe in something, so they are willing to give him one more season. Unless it is a stellar year, rumblings will begin to replace him.
The Blackhawks are out this year and the Bulls are highly unlikely to be serious contenders without Rose, but at least they both look to contend for next season.
The White Sox are in a tough division, so expectations are not high. Getting to the playoffs would be a victory.
The Fire have been to the top of MLS once before, but it has been a while. They have had much better success with the U.S. Open Cup, winning it four times. Fans are up and down with this team. Attendance is up and down too, year to year. Chicago Grades B+
New York City teams generally do well, some better than others. The Giants and Yankees are the cream of the crop of teams.
The Mets, Nets and Jets all rhyme together and play tease at the same time.
The Mets have a couple of World Series titles from years back. Now, they are a tough sell.
Fans are weary of the commitment from ownership. Even with a new stadium, the Yankees easily outclass them. Blame it on Jeter. It's his town.
The Jets brought in Tebow, but until they win a Super Bowl, the Giants are going to steal the limelight. It's Eli vs. Rex and Rex is starting to wear out his welcome. Big things are expected this season from the Jets and anything less than big will mean tough times lie ahead for them.
Thierry Henry is playing his best Soccer, leading MLS in scoring this season. Can he lead his team to a championship? He is the face of Soccer in the Big Apple and he knows the pressure's on. The Red Bulls desperately need to reestablish themselves as the league's best and prove to their fans that their great stadium is well worth playing in as the home team. NYC Grades A-
Originally Published April 30