With a new collective bargaining agreement in place, Major League Soccer can look ahead to arguably the most promising season of its 20-year existence. Part of that excitement are the many emerging talents who are primed to break out this season, thrust into the spotlight because of an increased role within their team, or a fresh start with a new club.
Here is a list of 10 players who are ready to step up this season and thrive in bigger roles. Keep in mind that this is not a list for guys like Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) or Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), who have already earned acclaim as players who can consistently contribute within MLS. Instead, this list mixes a group of young players on the rise with more experienced players who are poised to have a significantly bigger presence in the 2015 campaign.
That said, here's a list of 10 players likely to break out in the 2015 MLS season, including analysis from ESPN FC's Taylor Twellman.
Mauro Diaz | Midfield | Age: 23 | Team: FC Dallas | Country: Argentina
Diaz was one of the league's most productive attackers at the start of the 2014 MLS season, scoring three goals and ranking fourth in the league in attacking-half touches before suffering a knee injury at the end of April. In his absence, Dallas went on a seven-game winless streak, with just five goals and ranking in the bottom half of the league in chances created during the Argentinian midfielder's absence.
Diaz returned in July to lead Dallas to the MLS playoffs, and in 2015 he will be counted on to lead a speedy attack that features Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele. The midfielder's vision and creativity in the attacking half will complement the team's speed, and a healthy Diaz is likely to contend for the MLS lead in assists in 2015.