By James Kilpatrick
Major League Soccer 2019: All you need to know ahead of the new season
Orlando City vs New York City and DC United vs Atlanta United both live on Sky Sports Football this weekend
Last Updated: 02/03/19 3:48pm
New players, a new play-off format and even a new team - here's all you need to know ahead of the 2019 MLS season which kicks off on Sky Sports this weekend.
The 24th MLS season is set to commence with more star names than ever and a brand new club to create a 24-team league.
We break down all you need to know ahead of what will be another action-packed season.
Who are the star names?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's arrival to MLS was far from low key last year. He took a full-page advert out in the Los Angeles Times with the words "Dear Los Angeles, you're welcome" and the Swede said in May last year: "They're lucky I didn't come 10 years ago because I would be the president today."
Roll on to the end of the season and he won MLS goal of the year and became one of three players in MLS history to score 20+ goals and register 10+ assists in a single campaign.
The former Sweden international has been handed the captain's armband this season as LA Galaxy look to win their first MLS Cup since 2014.
Wayne Rooney will hope to pick up where he left off after an immensely successful half-season at DC United. He joined the Washington club with them 17 points off the play-off places, before the former Manchester United captain led a remarkable resurgence to see them qualify for the post-season in fourth place.
Former United and Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger had his Chicago Fire contract extended at the end of the 2018 season. He split his time last year in central midfield and defence and will be hoping to lead Chicago to MLS glory in what could be his final season as a professional footballer.
Orlando City fans are greatly anticipating the debut of yet another former Red Devils star - Nani . The Euro 2016 winner will be expected to fill the void left by Kaka's departure two years ago and deliver plenty of goals and assists.
Who is the new team?
FC Cincinnati join the MLS eastern conference as the league continues to expand. David Beckham-owned Inter Miami CF will not join until 2020 alongside a new franchise in Nashville - Nashville SC.
The Ohio-based club have had to build a squad ready for the demands of MLS and their fans will be pinning their hopes on some of the league's veterans - Fanendo Adi, Kendall Waston and Greg Garza - to be competitive.
Ex-Arsenal right-back Justin Hoyte, who is now 34, and former Swansea winger Roland Lamah are two names which may ring a bell with Premier League fans.
A new play-off format
The new MLS season will see the introduction of a single-elimination play-off structure, partly to pave the way for the league's further expansion beyond the 2019 season. In previous years, the conference semi-finals and finals were two-legged affairs.
But the new structure of having one game in each knockout round will reward teams' regular season performance by providing them greater home-field advantage.
The team who is the higher seed will play the next game at home in the following round.
The first play-off matches will take place on October 19. The teams who finish first in each conference will receive a first-round bye, with the teams finishing second to seventh in each conference contesting round one.
The three winners from round one of each conference will then progress to the conference semi-finals where the regular-season conference winners join, before the conference finals.
The winner of the eastern and western conference finals will then face off in the MLS Cup final on November 10.
Other names to look out for?
Former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela will be leading the line for Los Angeles FC, managed by former Swansea boss Bob Bradley, during the new season as they renew their rivalry with LA Galaxy.
Josef Martinez was MLS' regular top scorer last season - with 31 goals in 34 appearances - and forged a highly effective partnership with Newcastle new boy Miguel Almiron, at Atlanta United.
This season Martinez will be joined by another Martinez - Gonzalo - from River Plate. "Pity" Martinez helped River to the 2018 Copa Libertadores title and was named the South American player of the year.
Paul Pogba's brother Florentin signed a contract with Atlanta in early February following a successful pre-season trial.
Mexico international Marco Fabian has been tasked with helping Philadelphia Union to the MLS play-offs after moving from Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt to sign a one-year deal.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has been a consistently prolific goalscorer in MLS for New York Red Bulls ever since he joined the club in July 2013. The 33-year-old Englishman has scored 124 goals in 211 appearances in all competitions.
When does it all start?
The MLS season officially commences on Saturday night with Philadelphia Union taking on Toronto FC in the opening game at 6pm UK time.
On the same evening, Nani is set to make his MLS debut for Orlando against New York City FC at 7.30pm - live on Sky Sports Football.
On Sunday night, Wayne Rooney and DC United host MLS champions Atlanta at Audi Field at 11pm UK time, which is also live on Sky Sports Football.