The gap between the teams with big money and those without in Major League Soccer is beginning to catch up to the top European leagues, with LA Galaxy and New York City FC in particular bringing multiple big-name players into their squads.
While a promotion/relegation system still seems a very long way off, it will be interesting to see if more teams in the league are sought out by mega-rich investors, or if the smaller markets throughout the nation will be viewed as less attractive from a return-on-investment perspective.
If the disparity does continue to grow, I'll be watching eagerly to see if the conversation does turn toward relegation/promotion for American soccer. For now, though, we'll continue to see the likes of Gerrard, Keane, Lampard, Pirlo and Villa playing against recent college grads who won't make in a year what their counterparts make in a week.
Back to the present, we've got a nearly full schedule ahead of us. Two teams have a bye this week, so be sure to avoid players from New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids this time out (though it is important to note that RBNY will have two matches in Round 23). With that said, let's take a look around the league for some players you should be thinking of transferring in for week 21:
David Ousted - Vancouver have been excellent at home all season, thanks in large part to their Danish goalkeeper. The Earthquakes have been struggling on the road and may find it difficult to create many goalscoring opportunities to test Ousted, so a clean sheet could be on the cards.
Andrew Dykstra - With Bill Hamid out for a number of weeks after hand and groin surgeries, Dysktra is the stand-in keeper for D.C. United. While Philadelphia have been in better form of late, I still like United's chances of picking up a win in this one, and Dykstra is a cheap option over the course of the next few weeks.
Laurent Ciman - The Belgian defender has been delivering solid fantasy numbers for the Impact, who will face a free-falling Seattle Sounders team missing both Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. Big potential here, and with a double week on the horizon, it would be wise to buy in on Montreal's defense soon.
Shea Facey - The Manchester City prospect has been in great form for NYCFC, picking up bonus points in nearly every match since he's established himself as a starter. He'll have his hands full with the likes of Cyle Larin and Kaka when Orlando City come to town, but that should mean plenty of opportunities to weigh in with additional defensive bonuses.
Amadou Dia - Sporting Kansas City have a favorable schedule over the next few weeks, beginning with Real Salt Lake this weekend. Dia is extremely affordable at just $4.5m, and should allow you to free up funds to bring in some of the heavy hitters in midfield and attack.
Ethan Finlay - The guy just keeps on producing for Columbus, and for our fantasy teams. If you don't have him in your squad already, what are you waiting for? The Crew - Toronto FC match should be high-scoring, and you can bet on Finlay being involved in any attacking play for his team.
Steven Gerrard - What a debut! A goal and two assists for the former Liverpool man has made him an instant hit in Los Angeles, and it appears as though he will have every opportunity to build on his attacking contributions playing in his preferred attacking midfield role. His price has already climbed up to $10.2m, so you may want to buy in now before it's too late!
Fabian Castillo - Incredible consistency from the FC Dallas man has seen fantasy returns of 7, 8, 8, 9, and 8 points in his last five matches. His price tag is beginning to reflect his top-shelf contributions, but on current evidence he's well worth the investment. Dallas will have a bye in Round 23, however, so this should be a short-term play if you're planning on buying in.
Ignacio Piatti - As mentioned above, Montreal will be facing a depleted Sounders squad this weekend, with Stefan Frei likely joining Martins and Dempsey on the sidelines. Piatti has been a fantasy force of late with 30 points in his last four matches, and he looks primed to continue that run of form against Seattle.
Robbie Keane - After a bit of a slump, Keane is back to his best and has scored hat-tricks in each of his last two league appearances. With former Liverpool teammate Gerrard linking up with him from midfield, the Irishman has a realistic shot at making it three in three against the Houston Dynamo.
David Villa - Like Keane, Villa has hit a brilliant run of form in the past few weeks. He will continue to get chances, especially with the service of Andrea Pirlo, who looks set to make his debut at home against Orlando this weekend.
Octavio Rivero - The Whitecaps striker tends to score in streaks and then slump for a few weeks before returning to his best. With no attacking contributions in his last three outings, I think he'll be back among the goals for Vancouver's home tie against San Jose.
I put up a decent 101 points last week, thanks mostly to big points from Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara, but I'm hoping to kick on this weekend with another good performance. I'll most likely be taking a 4 point hit to bring in Gerrard, Villa and Dia for Mears, Shipp and Higuain. I'm as yet undecided who to captain between Finlay, Gerrard, Giovinco and Villa, but leaning toward the Spaniard at the moment.
Who are you planning on bringing into your team for this week? What are your thoughts for the captain's armband? Share your thoughts in the comments and be sure to save all your changes ahead of Friday's 11p.m. EDT deadline!