Five predictions from Megan Ryan

1) Toronto will win Eastern Conference, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup.

After losing to Seattle in the MLS Cup final last year, Toronto returns its big three in Italian Sebastian Giovinco and U.S. national team members Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. That stability combined with a need for redemption should propel the team to its first title.

2) Dallas will win Western Conference.

The Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup winners from 2016 lost to eventual champion Seattle in the conference semis after losing playmaker Mauro Diaz to an Achilles’ injury late in the season. But with his return expected this summer and the most homegrown players (nine) of any MLS team, Dallas should be at the top again.

3) United will finish ninth in 11-team Western Conference.

The Loons won’t have the worst season an expansion franchise has endured, but they won’t be in the mix for a playoff spot, either. They’ll start to pull together toward the end of the regular season, but early struggles will keep them from breaking into the postseason.

4) Atlanta will be in the playoff hunt but also will miss out.

It’s hard for expansion teams to make the playoffs. And despite all the hype around Atlanta and the big investments the team has made in the roster, not having league experience is just tough to overcome. The club will finish eighth in the Eastern Conference.

5) United will sign a designated player during summer transfer window.

The Loons are one of two MLS teams without a DP, the other being D.C. United. Minnesota’s holding off was a strategic way to wait to not spend big bucks until the team has played for a bit and it becomes obvious where the addition is needed most.