Nearly four months into Major League Soccer's 14th season, the American top flight is humming with competitive football and some significant surprises. Join FIFA.com for a closer look at all the action.
Who's on top?
The league is split up into two geographical zones, and the Chicago Fire are currently shading it in the east while Chivas USA have set themselves up a commanding cushion at the top in the Western Conference. The two regional leaders will face off on 28 May, with national bragging rights on the line.
Chicago, only two points ahead of closest chasers DC United and Toronto FC, and three in front of fourth-placed Kansas City, are undefeated in their first ten games, winning four and drawing six. This form has been indebted to the playmaking of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who recently returned from international retirement with a spot in Javier Aguirre's first squad as Mexico coach. The El Tri legend has found a perfect target for his slide-rule passes in former USA striker Brian McBride, who has scored six times for the Chicago side in his first season back home following a successful stint in England.
With only three points separating the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, Los Angeles-based Chivas USA, who only became a club in 2004, are running away with it in the west. With 24 points from 11 games (seven of them wins), former USA international Preki has proven his coaching credentials with a squad devoid of many out-and-out stars. New American midfield gem Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein, Pablo Nagamura and Mexican goal-getter Eduardo Lillingston have stepped up to push the Southern California side eight points in front of Kasey Keller's debuting Seattle Sounders, who are jousting with Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids for second.
The hit men
There's a four-man race at the top of the scoring charts after ten matchdays. Though his struggling Los Angeles Galaxy are mired in sixth place in the west, the celebrated Landon Donovan is the league's leading marksman with six goals and three assists. Also on six goals are bulky target man Conor Casey of Colorado Rapids (who got his six strikes in just nine games), the evergreen McBride and Josh Wolff of Kansas City Wizards.
Few expected Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls, champions and runners-up of Major League Soccer respectively last season, to struggle in 2009. But that is exactly how it has turned out. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has fired home five goals for the yellow-clad holders, and a few games in hand (they take on the San Jose Earthquakes tonight) are cause for confidence among the club's fans. Less inspired will be supporters in the Big Apple, where Juan Pablo Angel has been unable to inspire his Red Bulls. They are currently bottom of the Eastern Conference with just nine points from 11 games.
The numbers game
29,536 - The average number of fans that Seattle Sounders, in their first season as an MLS club, have pulled through the turnstiles at Qwest Field. A league best for the year, Toronto FC and LA Galaxy are also pulling in impressive numbers.
What they said
"Everybody's excited for the big challenge. We're confident in how we're playing, but they have a couple of guys that are playing well. It's going to be a good game for sure and we'll be up for it," Chivas USA's Jim Curtin before the top-of-the-table duel with his former club Chicago Fire.
Have your say
What's your impression of the 2009 Major League Soccer campaign so far? Just click on 'Add your comment' below and let us know.