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 By Jason Davis

Dempsey, champs Seattle Sounders top preseason MLS Power Rankings

Herculez Gomez evaluates the MLS rankings ahead of the new season, deciding who was properly rated and who was snubbed.

The first ESPN FC Major League Soccer Power Rankings of the new season are here. With no official match action outside of preseason to go on, we took into account last year's finishes and each team's offseason acquisitions in an attempt to figure out who is primed for success in 2017.

It seems only right that the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders get the top spot and the league's two expansion sides bring up the rear as the season gets underway. 

With the season set to kick off on Friday, here's where the other 19 teams in the league stack up in between.

1. Seattle Sounders 
The champs get the top spot to start the season because, well, they're the champs. It also doesn't hurt that Clint Dempsey is ready to return, the core of the team is intact and preseason returns are looking good so far.

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2. FC Dallas
No Mauro Diaz, no problem. If FC Dallas' 4-0 CONCACAF Champions League thrashing of Arabe Unido is anything to go by, Oscar Pareja's team looks like an MLS Cup contender even without its injured Argentine playmaker.

3. Toronto FC
The defending Eastern Conference winner returns all of the core pieces that pushed it to the MLS Cup final in 2016, and the team has added a potential solution to its creative problems in midfielder Victor Vazquez.

4. Colorado Rapids
The Rapids are essentially the same group that finished second in the West in 2016. We are giving them the benefit of the doubt for now, but with so few goals available, Colorado could slip if Tim Howard and the defense aren't as good as they were last season.

Howard celeb vs LA 161106
Tim Howard and the Colorado Rapids' defense will be hard put to replicate last season's stellar goals-against record.

5. Montreal Impact
Didier Drogba is gone, but Montreal managed to hold on to its most important player: Ignacio Piatti. His decision to stay in Quebec is a huge boost for Mauro Biello's men.

6. New York Red Bulls
Questions at Red Bull Arena swirl mostly around the midfield after the departure of Dax McCarty and a tweak in formation executed by head coach Jesse Marsch. There's been enough change to warrant some caution over expectations for the Eastern Conference winners in 2016.

7. New York City FC
The boys in blue went in a different direction with the signing of Maxi Moralez as a designated player this winter, but what the new addition lacks in name recognition, he could make up for in impact on a team that manager Patrick Vieira promises will be even better than expected.

8. D.C. United
United didn't dive into the transfer waters as heavily as most this offseason, putting continuity at the top of the club's lists of strengths heading into the new year. Keep an eye on Patrick Mullins, who won the starting striker job at the end of 2016.

9. Portland Timbers
The Timbers expect to bounce back in 2017 with a reshaped back line, Darlington Nagbe settled on the left side of midfield and Sebastian Blanco on the right.

Darlington Nagbe is set to lead Portland back to the postseason after missing out in 2016 in search of a second MLS Cup.

10. Sporting Kansas City
Benny Feilhaber is back to feed Dom Dwyer, but will that be enough to make Sporting an MLS Cup contender? The team stayed the same through the middle but added players at wing positions this offseason.

11. LA Galaxy
Gyasi Zardes is set to miss the start of the season, and now the back line has been hit by an injury to Ashley Cole. With so much change in L.A. -- manager Bruce Arena is gone, as is veteran Robbie Keane -- there's potentially reason for concern.

12. Real Salt Lake
RSL said goodbye to a legendary No. 10 with midfielder Javier Morales' departure. Albert Rusnak will be the man who will try to fill those extremely large shoes.

13. Philadelphia Union
As always, the Union will have to avoid injuries to have a chance in the East this year. An offseason marked by cautious spending means it's another season of fine lines in Chester. But there are players in place -- Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies, to name a couple -- to help Jim Curtin's team reach the postseason again.

14. Orlando City SC
After a year marked by a midseason transition on the sideline with Adrian Heath's departure, Orlando City enters the season full of confidence with Jason Kreis settled in as head coach. Can Kaka and Cyle Larin help the team reach the playoffs for the first time in the club's short history?

15. New England Revolution
If it wasn't for Crew SC and the Timbers, the Revs might have been 2016's biggest disappointment. With so much attacking talent available in players like Kei Kamara and Lee Nguyen, how does Jay Heaps juggle them in 2017?

16. Columbus Crew SC
A revamp of the defense and a reinforced midfield aim to fix what ailed Columbus in 2016. Spending DP money on center back Jonathan Mensah sends a message that the Crew won't be the goal-leaking sieves they were last year.

17. San Jose Earthquakes
With a Dominic Kinnear-coached team, there are rarely any surprises with regard to style or personnel. But with a host of young talent on his roster this season, the old dog might throw caution to the wind.

18. Houston Dynamo
Wilmer Cabrera inherits a team that did very little right last year, but new signings have fans hopeful in the Bayou City. Is this the year Erick "Cubo" Torres regains his scoring touch?

19. Vancouver Whitecaps
The Caps got their season off to a decent start with a draw at Red Bull Arena in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, but the loss of Yordy Reyna to foot surgery is a definite setback. Fellow new arrival Fredy Montero will now be asked to carry the scoring load up top.

20. Chicago Fire
The league's worst team in 2016 made a host of changes, but none of them bigger than acquiring a new duo to man the midfield. As Dax McCarty and Juninho go, so will the Fire in 2017.

21A. Atlanta United
The plight of an expansion team: You've got to prove it before you get out of the bottom of the Power Rankings. That said, expectations are very, very high in the ATL with an experienced manager in Gerardo Martino and veteran players like Greg Garza and Michael Parkhurst on board.

21B. Minnesota United
See above, with a slight difference: Minnesota United's cautious building process and late roster additions mean they might sneak up on teams in the West.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

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