The 2023 Major League Soccer season is still in its infancy but it is already becoming clear which clubs harbour genuine title hopes and playoff ambitions this season.
Saturday was another jam-packed day of matches with 26 of the division's 29 teams involved and there was plenty to take away from the action.
New England and Cincinnati continue to impress but there were setbacks for LAFC and Atlanta United, while New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy are still yet to get their seasons properly started.
|What||USA MLS Cup 2023|
|Where||USA & Canada|
|When||Saturday 25th February to Saturday 21st October (regular season) & Wednesday 25th October to Saturday 9th December (playoffs)|
|How to watch||Apple TV|
|Odds||Los Angeles FC 11/2, New England Revolution 8/1, Seattle Sounders 9/1, FC Cincinnati 9/1, Philadelphia Union|
In a one-off match at the Levi Stadium in California - a venue which held 45,112 on Saturday and will feature in the 2026 World Cup - San Jose Earthquakes pulled off one of the shocks of the weekend in MLS, beating highflyers Los Angeles FC 2-1.
In 2022, San Jose finished rock bottom of the MLS Western Conference, managing eight wins all season.
But on Saturday the club recorded their fifth win of the 2023 campaign, running out winners against LAFC thanks to a brace from MLS MVP candidate Cristian Espinoza, who is on eight goals in the league this term.
The defeat was LAFC's first of the season but should be no more than a mere blip for the Western Conference juggernauts and MLS Cup holders, but for San Jose it could act as the catalyst for something special.
They are up to fourth in the Western Conference, putting them in contention to make the playoffs, while they are shots to win the MLS Cup this year.
A 2-1 win for Inter Miami against Atlanta United on Saturday was an eye-catching result as it was but the game carried even more significance for striker Josef Martinez.
Martinez scored both goals of the game for Inter Miami with the first having come from the penalty spot and the Venezuelan's brace means he is the fastest player in MLS history to reach 100 regular-season goals.
It was a bitter-sweet occasion for Martinez, though, as he broke the record against the club where he scored the majority of those goals, having been a star for Atlanta between 2017 and 2022, winning the MLS Cup during that period.
Crucially for Miami, though, it confirms they are back on track. They had been on a six-game winless run in MLS but beat Columbus Crew last time out and have now made it back-to-back wins in the Eastern Conference.
The Western Conference certainly has a competitive edge to it this season with St Louis City and Seattle Sounders emerging as early title challengers for LAFC but there is also an intriguing two-way tussle in the Eastern Conference.
New England Revolution and FC Cincinnati, who are 8/1 and 9/1 respectively to win the MLS Cup, have taken the early initiative in their conference, having both won seven of their opening 11 matches.
On Saturday both clubs looked in great spirits again as New England sank Toronto 2-0 and Cincinnati won 2-1 against DC United and it could be a gripping title race to follow in 2023.
At the other end of the standings there are two clubs who stand out in the lower echelons of the Eastern and Western Conferences this year.
New York Red Bulls cannot catch a break right now and are bottom of the Eastern Conference with just one win from 11 matches.
Goals have been the biggest issue for them - they have conceded only 11 goals but have scored only seven - and they failed to make the most of 17 shots in a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia Union last time out.
In the Western Conference, meanwhile, big guns LA Galaxy are down in 13th spot after a 3-1 home defeat to Colorado Rapids.
They had 21 shots in that match, seven of which were on target, and star forward Javier Hernandez cut a frustrated figure after the game, demanding change from his team in the coming weeks.