One of the charms of MLS is its unpredictability. That obviously applies during the season, but especially when it comes to preseason predictions. We all walk into a season with expectations of teams, and every year there are several who are miles better than anyone figured.
That leads us to the question: at what point do you become a believer? The early part of the season can be fool's gold, but at some point you've seen enough that you have to admit: "I didn't see this coming, but there's clearly something there."
That's not quite the case at the top of the rankings this week, because the best teams still appear to be the best teams -- but how about the worries about St. Louis City in their inaugural season? Never mind, the newcomer appears to be a real playoff contender. And the San Jose Earthquakes have certainly put the volatility of the Matías Almeyda years behind them.
Where do these teams and all the rest stack up after three weeks? Let's dig in.
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Previous ranking: 3
The Black and Gold whooped the Revs, 4-0, and Denis Bouanga added a bonus rock-paper-scissors win to his account. It's all fun and games for LAFC.
2. FC Cincinnati
Previous ranking: 5
Through three games the Garys are still unbeaten, they have a marquee win after beating Seattle over the weekend and they're showing an impressive ability to dictate both tempo and where on the pitch matches are played. Teams aren't supposed to have this type of versatility so early in the season, but Cincy does.
3. Seattle Sounders
Previous ranking: 2
The Sounders lost in Cincinnati, but it's hard to come away feeling worse about them. They played well and, on another day, could have won it. Such is the nature of going on the road to a good team.
4. Philadelphia Union
Previous ranking: 1
Philly needed 40 minutes with a man advantage and a 90th-minute goal courtesy of some terrible goalkeeping to beat Chicago, but far more concerning was the injury to goalkeeper Andre Blake. There's no reason to question the Union long-term, but the short-term is looking shakier than expected for a team predicted by many (including here) to be the best team in the league.
5. Atlanta United FC
Previous ranking: 7
The Five Stripes knew Charlotte could be exposed in the left side of their defense and ruthlessly attacked it. The result was a 3-0 win that may not have been an advertisement for The Beautiful Game, but showed a team that came prepared and had the tools to execute a simple game plan. That goes a long way in the slog of the regular season.
6. Austin FC
Previous ranking: 6
An 18-year-old Owen Wolf picked the ball up not far from midfield, carried it to 25 yards out and hit a perfect shot into the bottom corner. Somehow that was Austin's inferior goal in their 2-1 win over RSL because of a Jon Gallagher missile so good that we forgot about their midweek Champions League disaster for a little bit.
7. Nashville SC
Previous ranking: 8
"You can have the ball, we'll have all the chances" is the Nashville way, and they executed it perfectly again in a win over Montréal.
8. Orlando City
Previous ranking: 4
The Lions scored! Congratulations to them on their first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with D.C. and a double congrats on more heavy squad rotation that sets them up well for their Champions League visit from Tigres. They've made it abundantly clear where their focus is right now.
9. Columbus Crew
Previous ranking: 9
TFC had the Crew on the back foot early, but Columbus found their footing and really pushed play with the ball as the game went on. Getting a draw in Toronto is encouraging enough, but the way they grew throughout the contest really sticks out as the Crew continue to learn Wilfried Nancy's system.
10. FC Dallas
Previous ranking: 10
Dallas will wonder how they only took one point home from Vancouver instead of all three, not only because they were the better team, but also because when a center-back assists another center-back for a goal it should count double.
11. St. Louis City SC
Previous ranking: 26
This team just makes sense. They know what they're meant to do, they have the players to do it and they execute. It's hardly flashy, but, especially early in the season when a lot of teams are still figuring things out, it delivers points. Their win over Portland gives them nine from nine, and even if teams start to catch up a bit, these points give them a big buffer.
12. New York Red Bulls
Previous ranking: 12
The Minnesota cold and snow an ugly game and nobody loves an ugly game like the Red Bulls. There will be sneezes aplenty on the way back to relatively balmy New Jersey, but nobody will sneeze at a well-earned point.
13. San Jose Earthquakes
Previous ranking: 16
The Rapids did a good job making it tough on the Quakes, but they were patient, cohesive and kept jabbing until a deflection earned them the win. We've said it before and we'll say it again: this team is exceedingly competent.
14. Inter Miami CF
Previous ranking: 11
A loss to NYCFC isn't cause for concern, but the seemingly serious injury to Gregore is.
15. Toronto FC
Previous ranking: 14
Nothing is more exciting than a young homegrown striker and DeAndre Kerr has TFC fans dreaming after scoring in his first start of the season in a draw with Columbus.
16. Minnesota United
Previous ranking: 19
The Loons celebrated their home opener with their Northern Lights kits on a snow-covered field. It was gorgeous to look at, even if the soccer wasn't in a 1-1 draw with RBNY.
17. Sporting Kansas City
Previous ranking: 17
Is 30 shots and no goals good? No, but it is impressive in its own way. They deserved more than a draw with the Galaxy and it sounds like they're not far off from having a healthy squad for the first time all season so patience is required, but if they wanted to score one (1) goal this season, that'd probably be a good idea.
18. New York City FC
Previous ranking: 21
The Pigeons were very good in their own third and middle third. The final third can still use some work, but they're starting to figure things out and were happy to take an own goal to beat Miami.
19. D.C. United
Previous ranking: 24
On another day, D.C. would have been celebrating a win, but Saturday was not that day because Pedro Gallese was in goal for Orlando. Chris Durkin's late equalizer was the least Wayne Rooney's team deserved.
20. Portland Timbers
Previous ranking: 15
It's not the worst thing in the world when a new signing has some trouble adjusting to a new league, but it is when you're the Timbers and you made few other upgrades to a team that wasn't particularly good a year ago. New designated player Evander was mostly missing again, Portland took a home loss to St. Louis and the Timbers have some work to do before the transfer window closes.
21. New England Revolution
Previous ranking: 13
Sometimes the scoreboard lies, but it sure didn't lie in the Revs' 4-0 loss to LAFC.
22. LA Galaxy
Previous ranking: 20
Nobody is going to complain about an away point, but anyone who watched the Galaxy's play in Kansas City will certainly have some complaints.
23. Real Salt Lake
Previous ranking: 18
The midfield was a mess once again as RSL fell to Austin at home. They've now played just one good half out of six to start the season. The math on that isn't great.
24. Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous ranking: 28
We're still waiting for the Caps to look good, but we're not waiting for their first point of the season anymore. A 1-1 draw with Dallas was simultaneously enough and also left you wanting far more.
25. Charlotte FC
Previous ranking: 22
It's hard to feel like Charlotte just need a little time to sort things out when they've gotten progressively worse with each game this season. The latest was a 3-0 beat down from Atlanta at home that was pretty much over before 15 minutes had been played.
26. Houston Dynamo
Previous ranking: 25
While the Dynamo kick their feet up on their bye week waiting for their next match against Austin, their rivals are playing in the league and twice in the Champions League. Hello, fresh legs.
27. Chicago Fire
Previous ranking: 29
They had to play the last 40 minutes down a man after Fabian Herbers saw red, Chris Brady handed away a point with a 90th minute howler and Kei Kamara topped things off with a red card of his own. And yet, the Fire played pretty well for the first 50 minutes. This isn't a good team right now, but they're giving fans enough to squint at and see progress.
28. Colorado Rapids
Previous ranking: 27
It's hard to win when you don't score and the Rapids still haven't scored this season after a loss in San Jose.
29. CF Montreal
Previous ranking: 23
Once Montréal decided to flip over so much of the squad and make such a drastic managerial change as turning to Hernán Losada, there was no doubt they were deciding to suffer in the short-term for long-term gains -- but they may not have envisioned it being quite this bad to begin with. They weren't even competitive in losing to Nashville, and that's been the norm this season.