Tuesday marked exactly 100 days until the start of the World Cup in Brazil, but it's Major League Soccer that heralds the beginning of the domestic 2014 season Saturday with seven games, highlighted by the Los Angeles Galaxy hosting Real Salt Lake.
A busy and turbulent offseason with MLS franchises and star players coming and going saw the league splash its cash out of luxury (signing English striker Jermain Defoe) and necessity (buying Chivas USA to keep the franchise alive until it's sold off).
Here are five of the most intriguing MLS teams to keep an eye on this year, at least until the World Cup begins hogging the headlines this summer:
New York Red Bulls — The club had an uncharacteristically quiet offseason, but why make many changes when the franchise ended last year by winning its first-ever Supporters' Shield on the back of an eight-game undefeated streak?
Returning are leading goalscorers Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry who, at age 36, likely is playing his final MLS season.
Rookie coach Mike Petke exceeded expectations by taking the club to the regular-season title last year. Can he go one better this year and win an MLS Cup?
Toronto FC — Former Galaxy head honcho Tim Leiweke was not afraid to brandish his checkbook to attract players like David Beckham to the club and he's employing a similar strategy in Canada.
Big-money signings Dafoe and Michael Bradley have transformed expectations at one of the league's perennial losers with fans returning in force to sell out the season ticket allocation.
Just seven wins last year means second-year coach Ryan Nelson has plenty of opportunity for improvement, but it will have to come quick to satisfy the expectations of the notoriously impatient Leiweke.
Seattle Sounders – It's a make or break year for former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid in the wake of the $9 million signing of U.S. forward Clint Dempsey.
The Sounders, urged on by the largest fan base in MLS, have fallen in the conference semifinals in all but one of its five seasons, and that's a pattern the club's ownership group wants to break this year, given the unprecedented investment.
LA Galaxy – The Galaxy begin the season without being defending champion for the first time since 2010, but coach Bruce Arena tinkered rather than remade a team some thought was too inexperienced last year in key parts of the field.
Veteran help in the shape of 31-year-old Swedish wide midfielder Stefan Ishizaki and 33-year-old Canadian forward Rob Friend has arrived to shore up those areas. Defender Greg Cochrane, a 2013 SuperDraft pick, became the latest expendable youngster Monday when he was dealt to Chicago.
Veterans Landon Donovan, who turned 32 Tuesday, and last year's leading scorer Robbie Keane, 34 in July, will appreciate the experienced reinforcements as Arena tries to eke out another MLS Cup charge from the veteran legs at his disposal.
The Galaxy play four games in 14 days to start the season, including the two-leg CONCACF Champions League quarterfinal against Club Tijuana.
Chivas USA – “Improving the present and preparing for the future,” new team president Nelson Rodriguez said Monday about the deceptively simple task facing lame-duck Chivas USA before it's sold off and re-branded.
Just who will come watch a club with an ugly past and no future is unclear, but Chivas USA is unbeaten in preseason.
Spanish midfielder Daniel Fragoso, 31, was added Monday and became the latest veteran to bolster a thin, inexperienced squad that includes spectacularly-coiffed striker Adolfo Bautista.