Chesapeake, two years removed from its first state title, has the head start in the county this fall and once again appears to have all the necessary pieces.
Offense? Adrian Titus had a breakthrough season in 1999, finishing 17 times and adding seven assists.
Defense? No player in the county can mark a scorer quite like Jon Philipp, who always finds a way to deny.
Organizer? Center midfielder Mike Jungerheld can go an entire half without a bad touch.
The three first-team all-county seniors are the centerpieces of a team that returns 11 seniors that started at least part of last season.
"We have some kids who can play multiple positions so we can show a lot of different looks," said Chesapeake coach Earl Eckhardt. "And we can go way deep into our bench, which is a big luxury. We can run numbers at teams, which is beneficial early when it's hot and also later when the injuries may come."
Severna Park, which upset the Cougars to win the Class 4A East region last fall, remains a strong contender with a largely new nucleus. The Falcons will count on J. P. Murphy, Simon Groseclose and Jeff White to set the foundation, with coach Don Gregg still shuffling his lineup.
"The potential right now is still untapped, we still have a ways to go. The first thing we want to do is shore up the defense. We've given up too many goals the last couple of years," said Gregg.
Glen Burnie is hoping its breakthrough season was simply delayed a year.
In 1999, the Gophers had lofty expectations and got off to a fast start before settling on a 6-5-1 campaign.
With seven starters back, led by first-team all-county midfielder Ronnie Smith and talented strikers Casey McCormick and Jason Fridley, the Gophers should find the net plenty to enjoy a longer ride.
"We can move the ball along pretty well. We have nice skills with some kids who can take people on," said Glen Burnie coach John Camm. "Basically, the kids have to believe in themselves. We expect to do well."
Carrying the defensive load for the Gophers will be a trio of seniors: keeper Adam Schmidt. sweeper Eric Breach and stopper Adam Brocato.
With only three seniors on the roster, South River is largely untested following its 10-win season. Scott Forney and Matt Coughlin help solidify the defense, with Paul Miller and Tom Shelly the midfield catalysts.
The big question for coach Greg Carroll: Who will put the ball in the net?
At Old Mill, 1988 grad Jeff Martin takes over for former coach Jim Griffith. Midfielders Craig English, Pat Delaney and Doug Spatafore give Martin a strong starting point in the middle, with the primary chore rebuilding a defense hit hard by graduation.
Arundel and Broadneck are looking for more consistent scoring this season. The Wildcats will carry 23 players on the roster -- 15 seniors -- with Phil Cooke and Eric Cole the top returners. With 10 seniors, the Bruins come back with more experience and depth following a 4-8-2 season. Andy Cooch and Eric Walsh will anchor a defense that should keep games close.
With stopper Ryan O'Connor and sweeper Matt O'Neill the only starters back in Annapolis, second-year coach Sandy Gelrod is counting on some newcomers to step up.
Northeast will count on seniors Jason Blotzer and Scott Pervola to lead an Eagles squad with nine juniors and seven sophomores.
A team to look out for among the private schools is Archbishop Spalding, which has a mix of quality veterans and talented newcomers to provide second-year coach Jose Florez with more depth in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's A Conference.
Senior midfielder Lance Beatty scored nine goals last season and fellow senior Anthony DiGiulian will take over full-time in goal. The Cavaliers will be strong up the middle defensively with Sean Wright at sweeper and Adam Tomas the stopper. Striker Andrew Martini will help out Beatty in the scoring department.
Seniors Ryan Parisi, Ryan Shea and Jimmy Simpson will try to send St. Mary's over the top in balanced IAAM B Conference. Severn has relied on a stingy defense in years past and this season should be no different, with senior sweeper Brandon Wright setting the tone.