Major League Soccer kicks off another season today, with the Seattle Sounders hosting the Philadelphia Union. And fans are undoubtedly feeling grateful, as the players union had vowed to strike by today if a new collective bargaining deal couldn’t be reached. That happened earlier this week, with The Associated Press reporting that the players and the league are satisfied with the new arrangement.

The Colorado Rapids open tomorrow in Los Angeles against Chivas USA (see the full schedule here), and are hoping to get back on track after missing the playoffs for the last three years. points out that the Rapids have realigned a good deal of their roster but nonetheless could have a tough time breaking the playoff drought: “Perhaps the Rapids will shock the league, but so many new players take time to integrate and play well together. It’s likely that the Rapids will again find themselves out of the playoff picture.”

Whether the Rapids struggle or surprise, Colorado fans will be able to catch at least 25 of the team’s 30 regular-season games in high definition for free. The Denver Post reports that the Rapids have struck a deal with local station KWGN to air the games on local television (see article for various channel listings).

Meanwhile, local soccer fans will have to look a little further to watch former University of Colorado soccer star Nikki Marshall make her professional debut April 10 with the Washington Freedom. Boulder’s Daily Camera writes that Marshall was selected seventh overall in this year’s Women’s Professional Soccer draft and as such feels a lot of pressure to perform at a high level. Marshall left CU as the school’s all-time leading scorer and played every minute in the under-20 U.S. national team’s World Cup title run.

“Being drafted high for me has been more of a pressure than a confidence builder,” she says. “There are so many expectations, and I’ve told my teammates that I’m feeling the pressure. They’ve been great about it. They’ve said to relax and be confident.”