As we embark on our 18th season, we look across the landscape and see a wide variety of talent managing teams from England, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and France. No South American diving squads here; no Russian teams full of Brazilians. But while we may lack in geographic diversity, at least our squads will not suffer from needless jetlag and fatigue traveling to Belo Horizonte or Mexico City or Moscow. We can stay in our nice, comfy little Eurobubble - at least for league play: And now, on to the breakdowns. The hands down favorite to win the division is veteran IJGator - Gator is the only manager to have tasted the rarefied air of TSL A (formerly Serie A), and it is likely the only reason his fortunes have fallen to the bottom division came as a result of loyalty: he stuck by Orlando City FC. In a game where speed killed, and over-the-top through balls, pacey wingers and strikers were often the key to success, he stayed with a team that lacked the offense to keep abreast of the competition and a defense to stop it. This, my friends, is IJGator . Pay attention to him; he's got wisdom to impart: But IJGator has been in this league since its founding, and he knows a thing or three about how to play. Lorient, however, is a complete unknown. They've never been run in the league and their players appear - on paper - unspectacular. The striking-RM duo of Abdul Waris and Benjamin Moukandjo should give any defense pause before pinching too far upfield, with their 92 and 91 pace, respectively. But the highest-rated player on the team is left midfielder Raphael Guerreiro, who looks to be more of a metronome than an attacking threat, with his defense, dribbling, pace and passing all surpassing physicality and shooting. If he gets on the ball, his give-and-go combinations with Waris and field-switching with Moukandjo could leave defenses spinning in their tracks. This season's theme for TSL C: Beware the Gator! Next on the promotion list is probably Mark Siers and my beloved VfB Stuttgart, a club I managed for for 11 seasons and brought from Serie C to Serie B. While Mark may have finished tied for 6th in the third division last season, he did so with an impressive +6 goal differential, better than any team outside of the top 3. His 9 draws (including an unlikely SIX 1-1 draws) are what kept him out of a promotion spot. If he turns just half of those 9 draws into wins, he's sitting in second place and firmly in TSL B this season. But Stuttgart is a different team from last season. Having barely survived relegation, the formerly glorious club has lost its shine and is no longer a desirable destination in a league dominated by Munich, Dortmund, Leverkusen, Shalke and Monchengladbach. Starting keeper Sven Ulreich traded in his starting gloves to back up Manuel Neuer at Bayern, while target striker Vedad Ibisevic left over the summer for Berlin, leaving Daniel Ginczek more or less alone up top to handle the majority of the scoring for the club. And while he certainly can handle the workload with his 77 OVR, none of his stats jump off the page. Add to the fact that he's being targeted by everyone from Dortmund to Aston Villa, and Stuttgart could shortly be a shell of its former self (this will be a theme, kids. Pay attention). Timo Werner, normally a left wing, will play out of his natural position as a second striker and add pace up top, and could provide a different look from Ginzcek's positional, fox-in-the-box play. In the midfield, aging anchor Christian Gentner is still providing the defensive rock and passing acumen that keeps Stuttgart in matches alongside Ivorian Serey Die. On the right, Martin Harnik adds pace and positioning. He, too, is being targeted in the winter by both Augsburg and Bursaspor. Stuttgart may end up be a short-term loan for Mark Siers, but it may be enough to get him promoted. Come January, he'll be the one to turn out the lights as the last one left in the dressing room of a once proud and storied club. Next on the list would have to be... me. Palace finished all alone in 5th last season, just one win shy of what turned out to be a promotion spot. The problem with the manager remains scoring goals, however. The 16 scored by Palace last season was tied for fourth-lowest in the entire league. At the helm of a renewed and reinvigorated Crystal Palace, Frenchie1916 has possibly the strongest (there's a strong argument to be made for West Ham) Premier League side team available to TSL managers. While they lack a true quality striker, the vast array they have in the midfield is a wealth of riches any manager would love to have. Playing in a midfield diamond with former Newcastle and PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye (OVR 79) at the base with 82 long passing, 84 short passing, 83 ball control, 80 long shots and 82 power, Cabay can burn you with a deft pass or a long blast. He is flanked on the left side by strength, speed and shot power in Bakary Sako, and the right by speed, dribbling, ball control and 5* skills in Yannick Bolasie. At the tip of the diamond is Jason Puncheon whose 84 crossing, 81 dribbling and 81 acceleration means he'll be able to slip into tight spaces at the edge of the area for quick blasts, or drift wide and send it in to the heads of his strikers and draw defenders out. This is a midfield capable of scoring 25+ goals this season. And that brings us to the strikers. Converted attacking midfielder Wilfried Zaha as settled in nicely up top and his combination of speed, power and deft touch will lead to many a goal, and Connor Wickham as his opposite will give defenses an entirely different set of skills to deal with in strength and positioning. Add to that the bench of the Worst Hair in Football of Marouane Chamakh, Dwight Gayle and Frazier Campbell, and there's really not a terribly weak spot in the squad. If they pick up a quality striker in January, I'm genuinely concerned about them making a half-star leap. That's OK, though. I'll still finish mid-table and only score 15-20 with these guys. The next two on the list are probably going to be neck-and-neck if last season was any indication. First we have Scott Metcalf and Leicester City. Leicester have been tearing it up in the Premier League, and their team is remarkably solid - led by Riyad Mahrez on the right (a very underrated 75 OVER), Jamie Vardy up top (another underrated 71 OVR) and the addition of former Stuttgart-->Mainz midfilder-turned-striker Shinji Okazaki (78 OVR). Okazaki is a quiet weapon on this squad with impeccable positioning, agility, jumping and finishing, he is one of the best poachers in the game and will jump on rebounds. All. Day. Long. With Kasper (son of Peter) Schmeichel in net and the most-British-named midfielder ever in Danny Drinkwater, Leicester are a joy to watch - as long as you don't have to play them. Scott Metcalf was part of the three-way tie at 6th last year in the third division with 31 goals for and 30 against. If he can alter that differential a bit and change a few of those narrow losses (of which there were 10) into draws or wins, he could be in a race for the top 4. Also tied at sixth (along with Mark Siers and Scott Metcalf ) was PhiGuy179 , although at the helm of a much stronger Fenerbahce club. This time around he makes the trip to Belgium and takes control of RSC Anderlecht. The Belgians didn't do anything for manager Jeffrey Hartle last season, who managed only two wins with the club and 9 goals, but PhiGuy will try to best that record by a fair amount. Anderlecht is a mid-level team with a raft of mid-level players, the highest-rated of which is Belgian international CAM Dennis Praet (77 OVR). They have a slew of 75-76 OVR players who have above average stats in one area, but below in another. Quite possibly the most imbalanced player I've ever seen is on this squad, and I'd love to play with him just once. I give you the glory that is Youri Tielemans. The man has a 76 OVR. He has 61 acceleration and 63 sprint speed. He has a 64 finishing, but 85 shot power. He's basically Happy Gilmore on a football pitch. As for the rest of the team, your guess is as good as mine. I guess we'll all find out together. Next we have Bordeaux, under the management of Lions67 . Lions left the warm confines of Celtic Park for the first time in recent memory as Celtic FC have sold more and more of its core. Looking for a stronger club to helm, Lions came across a diamond in the rough in Bordeaux. Known more for wine than football, this glub is surprisingly strong from the front, with Uruguayan striker Diego Rolan and his Malian counterpart in Cheik Diabate (both 77 OVR), a 79 CAM in Wahbi Khazri, and a 77 and 75 left and right center mid in Henri Caivet and Jaroslav Plasil. What Bordeaux lacks entirely is pace. Their speediest player is a left midfielder coming off the bench with 83 speed. but what they have is passing. If Lions67 can master the passing game this season and not worry about speed, he may be able to slice teams apart. If the new passing rules prove too difficult, it could be a long season for the TSL veteran, as there won't be a whole lot to fall back on for the team from the south of France. Next, our lone Dutch squad, in the perennially chosen Ajax. Last season with this squad, KJLamb23 managed a respectable 7-4-10 record, but he definitely wants to bring that last number down and that first one up. He finished in 9th place with 25 points and a -7 goal differential (22 for/29 against). Again, these are numbers that will have to be reversed if he wants to see his fortunes rise. Ajax is almost always in the league because it's an organization that both finds and grows young talent. Unfortunately, it then sells that talent. But at least it invests that money wisely and finds more good young talent *cough* takenotesLiverpool *cough*. Ajax is largely unchanged from last season, with Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik looking to lead the team (10 goals in season 17). KJLamb will have to find someone else to help shoulder the load, however, as Ajax' next-highest scorer last season had only 4 goals. With less reliance on speed and more on passing, this is the season for CAM Davy Klaassen and RW Anwar El Ghazi to step up and put the ball in the net for the perennial Dutch challengers. It will be interesting to see what formation KJLamb uses to get the most out of this talented young squad. Newcastle... Newcastle... If you can't say something nice.... Wait. That's not true. Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Mbemba and Janmaat are all fun names to say. This is an organization in disarray, and if things keep headed in this direction, there will be a Geordie fire sale come January. For the moment, however, JFace907 will undoubtedly do better with the virtual squad, as Aleksandar Mitrovic, Girginio Wijnaldum, Ayoze Perez and Florian Thauvin can't possibly be this bad. Right? JFace907 finished in 10th last season with 17 goals for and 27 against, and a 6-6-9 record. Sissoko led the way with 7 goals. I'm convinced Newcastle are a trap team in this game. Nobody has ever done as well with them as they probably should have. Yet they lure you in like a siren to the rocks, and then you find yourself marooned on a striped island with people who talk funny and scream for your head at the end of ever match. Enjoy your time on Tyneside. And now we come to Andanas . He's a great guy, our Andanas , very polite, very friendly. Always willing to help a guy in need; does what he can for the league. Always willing to give a guy a win when he needs one (I kid! I kid!). But seriously, folks, Andanas did not have the best Season 17, going winless. His record of 0-7-14, with a -26 goal differential is ignominious to say the least. But you can bet your Akshat ASinghal31 that Andanas has been practicing this off season, playing as many friendlies as he can, and he's not going to be that same friendly guy he was last season. And he has the Lille team to back him up. If Crystal Palace are short on strikers, Lille are really short on strikers. They rely on 70 OVR Junior Tallo of the Ivory Coast, whose ratings underwhelm across the board (his 74 strength is his high point). Things do improve as you move back, and the wings provide both pace and power, and the defensive midfield is capable of providing the anchor to hold off attacks and the zip to spring counters. But the crown jewel of Lille is in net, where Vincent Enyeama reigns supreme. On paper, Lille looks like it's built to withstand attacks, counter down the flanks and with cut inside or send in an avalanche of crosses. If this team attacks down the middle, they may get ripped apart. I don't envy Andanas the task of puzzling together the best way to score goals with a team that doesn't look like it was put together to score goals. But I've been proven wrong before. As for the three newbies, here's what I know. Macri talks a good game and says he'll be in TSL A by next week. Llad72 ran his own FIFA league, so the man has some experience. Granted, he may have come in dead last in the league every season, we just don't know. And shootah66 has an old school flip phone. And In Bruges is a great movie, so I'll pick Llad72 to do the best out of these three. That's science! So there you have it, lads. My (almost) annual Season preview.