Can Atlanta repeat? Will Zlatan win MVP? We make our 2019 predictions!

EXCLUSIVE - Garber tells Twellman: MLS has made a 'seismic shift' (2:04)

With big-name players coming in and increased interest in MLS players abroad, MLS Commissioner Don Garber discusses the strides MLS has made in the global marketplace. (2:04)

The 2019 Major League Soccer season kicks off on Saturday, and you can catch all the action on ESPN -- beginning on Sunday with D.C. United hosting Atlanta United (6 p.m. ET) and LAFC vs. Sporting Kansas City (8:30 p.m. ET) -- ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ all season plus the latest news and storylines here on ESPN.com.

Before the first ball is kicked, ESPN FC asked its contributors to make their predictions for the upcoming campaign. U.S. writer Jeff Carlisle, sideline reporter Sebastian Salazar, contributors Noah Davis, Jason Davis and Arch Bell, editor Austin Lindberg and social media expert Chris Wondoloski -- no, not that Chris Wondolowski -- look into their crystal ball to tell us what's to come in 2019.

Editor's note: Scroll left and right in the table below to see predictions from all seven of our participants.

MLS Cup winner

"Atlanta United. Duh." -- Noah Davis

"One of these years has to be the Red Bulls' year, and Chris Armas' team has the talent and established identity to finally get it done." -- Jason Davis

Eastern Conference champion

"Sure they have a new coach, but the Five Stripes also have the most talent in the league. That usually wins out in these situations." -- Jeff Carlisle

"D.C. United seem to have the fewest big-ticket question marks heading into 2019. They've added a couple high-potential players from Argentina in Lucas Rodriguez (from Estudiantes) and Leonardo Jara (Boca Juniors), and I think this is the year Bill Hamid proves once and for all that he is the best goalie in Major League Soccer and the U.S. men's goalie pool." -- Sebastian Salazar

Western Conference champion

"While Sporting Kansas City might not have the most talent, they are plenty deep, even with the departure of defender Ike Opara. That will help over a long season." -- Jeff Carlisle

"MLS is a much more fun place when The Zlatans are good." -- Noah Davis

Supporters' Shield winner

"The Eastern Conference won't have as many easy marks this season given the improvement of teams like Chicago, and Toronto figures to be better as well. That will give a Western Conference side more of a chance, and SKC's consistency should help in this regard." -- Jeff Carlisle

"Even a drop from last year's record-setting point haul might be enough to earn the New York Red Bulls another Supporters' Shield in 2019. With Atlanta's coaching change and no clear dominant team in the West, it's New York's trophy to lose." -- Jason Davis

Top scorer

"If Zlatan says that he is going to break records, then Zlatan must be believed." -- Arch Bell

"Yes, Miguel Almiron is gone. But Josef Martinez is such a brutal and efficient finisher, and Atlanta's remaining (and newly arrived) talent is so good, betting against the 2018 Golden Boot winner would be a mistake." -- Jason Davis

Landon Donovan MVP

"Two in a row for reigning Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez -- although Miguel Almiron was deserving in 2018." -- Noah Davis

"Zlatan Ibrahimovic was arguably the league's best player in 2018, on a bad Galaxy team after arriving two weeks after the season started. A more stable side and two extra weeks of Zlatan should be enough to give the award to the Swede." -- Austin Lindberg

Best new player

"If it isn't Pity Martinez, we'll have to consider the Argentine's first MLS season a flop. Nobody else entering the league has anything close to his résumé, and with a transfer fee of $17 million attached to his name, Pity needs to not only be the best player in Atlanta, but the best player in the league. Players of his ilk (reigning South American Footballer of the Year) usually have their teams competing for trophies on a continental level, and we should expect that from Martinez -- especially given all the talent that will surround him in Atlanta." -- Sebastian Salazar

"With David Villa gone, the pressure is on big-money signing Alexandru Mitrita to deliver in New York City. The diminutive Romanian is already drawing comparison to Sebastian Giovinco and should be a big hit in the Bronx." -- Jason Davis

Biggest shock

"Minnesota always had plenty of firepower in attack, but the Loons added a million-dollar center-back in Ike Opara, a DP No. 8 who's not afraid of a tackle in Jan Gregus, and spent TAM on destroyer Ozzie Alonso, full-back Romain Metanire and goalkeeper Vito Mannone. The Wonderwall should begin preparations to host a playoff contest." -- Austin Lindberg

"A combination of improving talent coming from the academies (and coaches' comfort with that talent) and a desire to produce attractive selling targets for clubs overseas will lead to more teenagers getting significant minutes than ever before." -- Noah Davis

Team set for a drop in 2019

"Domenec Torrent didn't seem to have much of a plan when he took over from Patrick Vieira midseason. After a strange offseason that included paying $9 million for an unproven attacker, it could be another long year in the Bronx." -- Noah Davis

"A fair number of familiar names have departed Dallas in the past 12 months, including Mauro Diaz, Maxi Urruti and Victor Ulloa. The departure of manager Oscar Pareja will likely have an impact as well. Not the easiest managerial baptism for Luchi Gonzalez." -- Jeff Carlisle

Team set for a return to form in 2019

"The Galaxy are never a club to shy away from drama, and drama figures to play a role in where LA finishes in 2019. But Zlatan is back and ready, and Guillermo Barros Schelotto will steady a rolling ship." -- Jason Davis

"New head coach Matias Almeyda will make all the difference in San Jose. This is not to say that the Quakes will reach the postseason, but they will be in the hunt and won't repeat last year's last-place finish." -- Arch Bell