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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Four things to thing about as league gets ready for 2018 kickoff

MLS 2018Welcome, LAFC

Los Angeles again has two teams in MLS as LAFC begins play in a fancy new downtown Los Angeles stadium.

Bob Bradley, who coached the expansion Chicago Fire to a league title in 1998, gets another chance to guide a first-year team.

LAFC has an interesting mix of international talent and MLS veterans, but so far not much depth.

In addition to LAFC, D.C. United will move into a new stadium this season while Minnesota United will wait one more year to enter its soccer-specific stadium.

  • How will the influx of targeted allocation money impact the league?

    MLS gave teams the option of spending an additional $2.8 million in money specifically to bring in or retain players who cost $504,000 to $1.5 million.

    The money is designed to improve the midlevel of MLS rosters below the three allowed Designated Players.

    While the rule will continue the upward trend in MLS quality, might a gap begin to open between the spenders (including Portland) and more frugal franchises? 

    Can anyone in the East challenge Toronto?

    Toronto won its first MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield and a second-consecutive Eastern C

    onference championship last season, but did not stand pat — using TAM to add a trio of international players.

    Atlanta United continued to spend, as did New York City and Orlando City.

    What about the West?

    Removing expansion LAFC, second-year Minnesota and perhaps starting-over Colorado from consideration, any of the other nine teams have reasons to believe they will top the conference in 2018.

    If we had to guess, we'd go with Real Salt Lake, which came on late last season under Mike Petke. But it's only a guess.

    Portland came out on top of the conference last regular season, and Seattle won the conference playoffs. The Sounders have not made many offseason moves. The recent loss of Jordan Morris for the season with a knee injury hurts. But Seattle has never missed the playoffs and has a habit of tweaking things at midseason and finishing strong. 

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