Well, after doing some consulting with Mr. Google and finding this article, I had my foursome for this season: The Ukrainian Premier League, Liga MX, Brasileirao and the Argentine Primera Division. (True story: I was surprised at how high the UPL was ranked in that article...  might just plan on doing them next season.) But anyway, after some random shuffling and slips of paper, I ended up with:

Argentine Primera Division!

And a visit to a random number generator with a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 28 got me number 9, which for right now anyway is Defensa y Justicia, so welcome aboard, boys! I'll be following your progress throughout the season and wish you a better fate than NEC Nijmegen who I followed around last season- they were relegated!

MLS Quest
You've heard me say it before and I'll say it again: I need to watch more MLS in the back half of the season! We'll see if I can make good on it, but for now, we've got the following teams in the race for my allegiance:

FC Dallas
Sporting KC
Minnesota United

and a late entry, the Chicago Fire. I was never really into the Fire as an option because honestly, Chicago isn't my favorite city to travel too- but when the Missus and I were in Chicago for our U2 concert in June I realized that Toyota Park is actually relatively easy to get to from Iowa City and I can do so without tolls.

In more specific MLS related news- Deadspin ran this article that piqued my interest a bit. Is MLS A Ponzi Scheme? I think it's a question worth asking because MLS's Expansion-pa-looza can't continue forever and while soccer appears to be increasing in popularity, it's still easier to find Premier League games on the television than MLS games a lot of weekends- but that fact runs up against the imminent shift in the television landscape. Nobody knows what it's going to look like post-cable-- which is why I think that expansion will probably get to 28 teams or so in the next few years and then I think promotion/relegation will become a reality- hopefully with the USL and NASL forming the lower two divisions. I want to do some more reading about this issue, because there's a lot I don't know- but given the fact that MLS has gone through contraction before, I think fans of our domestic league should be at least aware of the potential road ahead.

Come On You Gunners!
Alexander Lacazette. Sead Kolasinac. Giroud, Sanchez and Ozil are all still here. The transfer window isn't closed yet and Arsenal has collected the Community Shield, Emirates Cup (in a weird way by goal differential) and the International Champions Cup. I'm not really sure what to make of the preseason, but I'm optimistic. I caught a good chunk of the Community Shield match vs  Chelsea and even without Sanchez and Ozil on the pitch, Arsenal looked good. They've got momentum going into the season, that much is certain. What they can do once they get there- especially with the Europa League usually meaning greater travel time- is anybody's guess. But they've got the big mo!

Hawkeye Football Predictions:
Yes, football of all kinds is almost back in action and college football is soon to be among us and looking at the schedule for Iowa this year, I'm honestly not sure what to expect and I don't think anyone else does either. I think most predictions seem to have us around 6-7 wins which seems like a safe prediction to me, but not necessarily an accurate one. The schedule sort of works against us this year in many ways, but Iowa has this tendency of doing better- sometimes much better- than expected when there are precisely zero expectations on their backs going into the season. I think people are sort of banking on a mid-range bowl game and not much else, but I don't know.  Let's look at it:

Wyoming: W (but a test right out of the gate for Iowa. Wyoming were legit good in the MWC last year and if Iowa loses this, I think that 6-7 win range could be more like 4-6.)
@ Iowa State: L (ISU got beaten down here last year. I feel like they'll be ready for this one.)
North Texas: W (well, shit. We better win this one.)
Penn State: L (Barkley and their offense is just scary fast. Not traditionally Iowa's strength)
@ Michigan State: W (East Lansing is always tough, but Sparty was a mess last year.)
Illinois: W (Lovie Smith still a year or two away)
@ Northwestern: L (As much as I hate to say this... and I really HATE to say it.)
Minnesota: W (PJ Fleck is inheriting a program in decent shape, but we'll see.)
Ohio State: L (Though to be fair, we're about due for a once a decade victory over the Bucks)
@ Wisconsin: W (It's in Madison though, so it could either way.)
Purdue: W (I think Purdue made a good hire, but he's a year or two away as well.)
@ Nebraska: W (Could go either way here, but it depends on Nebraska's season. If it's a good one, they win. If it's been bad, they don't.)

I have them going 8-4, weirdly enough. But I can easily see how people are predicting them lower... the non-conference run matters a lot this year I think because it's going to set the tone for the rest of the season. Assuming we can get out of our non-con run at 3-0 (which is a big assumption this year) then I feel pretty good about this prediction.

I think we could beat ISU*. I've been reading a lot of buzz about their incoming class and I think in his second year, we're going to get a better sense of what Matt Campbell's about (other than cheating at golf.) They'll play up for this game and I think Iowa will as well, so whichever way it goes, I think it'll be an entertaining edition this year.

I feel like between Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern we'll beat at least one of those teams. If we're better than expected, it could- could be two. But all three? That's a stretch even for me. If we've been waiting for a shot at Penn State and we're 3-0 coming into conference play for a night game at Kinnick I could see that. We got absolutely smoked by them the last time they were here so at the very least I'm hoping for a more respectable result. We're away at Northwestern, who always give us fits but we get Ohio State here and if we're good and they're good, it should be another night game which is always an intangible. Of the three, we'll win at least one game that we have no business winning. It's the Iowa way.

(Of course the Iowa way also includes losing at least one game we have no business losing: Purdue, Illinois...  I'm lookin' at you.)

In the end though, I have absolutely no idea what to expect this season. Gonna be interesting to watch.

*Went to a wedding in Ames last weekend and saw Jack Trice Stadium for the first time. I really feel that with facilities as nice looking as those, ISU should be better at football than it is and that got me thinking: what would it take for ISU to win the Big 12? (Other than 'an act of God') It's an interesting thought experiment to consider. Especially if we beat them early in the season only to have them go on a tear.


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