Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy won the MLS Cup last season. Their title defense begins this weekend - how will they fare? (AP)

Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy won the MLS Cup last season. Their title defense begins this weekend - how will they fare? (AP)

Saturday marks the beginning of 17th season of Major League Soccer and, Sacra Bleu! now the league includes a team in Montreal. May they fare better than baseball’s late and not especially lamented Expos.

On Wednesday afternoon, Leo Messi scored five times during a 7-1 pasting of Bayern Leverkusen in a match that ushered Barcelona into the quarterfinals of the Champions League competition. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Major League Soccer, but I thought you should know.

It’s kind of a shame that fans of the U.S. game won’t get to see Leo Messi play in their league, since he’s happy in Barcelona, and no wonder. Five goals in a Champions League game. Nobody’s ever done that before. Five NFL quarterbacks have thrown seven touchdown passes in one game, and 15 Major League Baseball players have hit four home runs in one game, but nobody but Messi has scored five times in a Champions League game.

But I digress. It is at least as customary as it is silly to make predictions at the beginning of any sport’s season. Regarding MLS, the smart money is on the Los Angeles Galaxy to repeat. The accomplished Bruce Arena is still running the show, David Beckham has forgone various European opportunities, real and imagined, to remain in Los Angeles, and Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane will continue to shine for the Galaxy. They also have reacquired Juninho, who comes from Brazil. Many Brazilians are very good at playing soccer.

There are various ways to measure the progress of professional soccer in the U.S. On the one hand, so far, neither manifestation of women’s pro soccer has been able to make it past year three. On the other hand, MLS has more games on TV, more built-for-soccer venues, and more distinct ownership groups than ever before.

What MLS doesn’t have is anybody likely to score five goals in a significant game, which is what Leo Messi did for Barcelona on Wednesday afternoon. Just in case you weren’t listening.

I have neglected to mention any of the Eastern Conference MLS teams, because the West appears much the stronger conference, but okay. Houston has some horses, though why a team in Texas is in the eastern division of anything resists explanation. Beyond that, one guy has simulated the entire season on FIFA Soccer 12, and he says the New York Red Bulls will win the east.

Let’s see how they do Sunday in Dallas.