As we say goodbye to 2019, we look forward to welcoming in 2020.
That means plenty to look forward to — and perhaps anticipate — on the sports front. Spanning all sports and all athletes, there are stories and trends to keep an eye on in the new year and start to a new decade. It's an Olympic year, but there's certainly more worth watching.
Here are some storylines to keep in mind for 2020.
College football fans will need to wait a bit for the 2020 College Football Playoff national championship game. New Orleans will be the setting on Jan. 13. The question is which two teams will be there? LSU and Ohio State look like the front-runners to claim those spots, but don't count out defending national champ Clemson, which is rolling down the stretch.
While Major League Baseballs winter meetings are still to come in December, it's more than possible some of the game's top free agents will still be on the market into the new year. Gerrit Cole and World Series heroes Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon lead this year's class and naturally will command ridiculous price tags. Pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler are also worth keeping an eye on, as teams may again leave the game's biggest stars waiting to find new homes.
Judging by the way they've played so far during the 2019 season, the New England Patriots appear to be the favorites to claim a record seventh Super Bowl title on Feb. 2 in the Miami area. With the ageless Tom Brady under center and a stout defense, the Pats could be in good shape to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since they did it during the 2003 and '04 seasons.
Expect to hear more regarding the investigation into the corruption encompassing college basketball, especially in terms of recruitment, and now transfers. Kansas, Georgia Tech, Memphis and Seton Hall are just a few schools that are dealing with issues, as the NCAA and higher authorities continue to look to keep the sport under the microscope.
Despite the state of college basketball off the court, on the floor there is plenty to be excited about in 2020,, perhaps because there is no clear-cut favorite — at least early this season — to win the national title. Michigan State and Kentucky opened the season Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, but both have a loss. Perennial powers Duke, Kansas and North Carolina should have a say in things as well. Others like Louisville, defending champion Virginia, Maryland and Villanova also should not be forgotten.
The biggest question surrounding the golf world is just how much Tiger Woods will play in 2020? Woods, who will be 44 when the calendar turns, confirmed he will tee off in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February, and assuming he's healthy, he will be defending his Masters title in April. The rest of Tiger's 2020 slate is as unpredictable as his game and health.
By opening day of the Major League Baseball season, we should know where those big name free agents are playing — or maybe not, if 2018 told us anything. We do know some big-name managers have new homes. Plenty of eyes will be on the Los Angeles Angels, where Joe Maddon takes over a club he helped win a World Series. Joe Girardi is back in the dugout with Philadelphia, and Mike Matheny is now running the Kansas City Royals. In Chicago and New York, meanwhile, fan favorites with no managerial experience in David Ross and Carlos Beltran will guide the Cubs and Mets, respectively.
Will it be the Cincinnati Bengals or Washington Redskins on the clock? Maybe, Atlanta, Miami or the New York Jets. Is LSU quarterback Joe Burrow the most coveted quarterback in the draft? What about the health of Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa? Don't forget dominant Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young or Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas. There should be plenty of intrigue regarding who will go to which team with the No. 1 overall pick at the draft in Las Vegas in April.
Wouldn't it be something if we had a Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals? Pro hoops fans can only hope. Early this season, these two historic franchises are looking good. So can LeBron James and Anthony Davis keep the Lakers playing at a high level? And is Kemba Walker the guy to lead the Celtics back to the top of the NBA mountain? We'll see.
Liverpool are the reigning UEFA Champions League winners and could very well repeat in 2020. However, the Reds are still eyeing that elusive Premier League title. Liverpool last won the top-flight of English football during the 1989-90 season — before the advent of the Premier League. However, 2020 could be the year that all changes as the Reds went into the Nov. 15-17 international break with an eight-point lead in the domestic league table.
While the NBA Draft isn't until late June, some of the biggest intrigue during the playoffs doesn't happen on the court. In May the league holds its annual draft lottery, which is always entertaining, especially when washed-up actors like Jami Gertz (part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks) represent teams on national TV. In 2020, the NBA's worst will rely on luck to see who gets the No. 1 overall pick. Memphis' James Wiseman and Georgia's Anthony Edwards, maybe even LaMelo Ball, could be the ultimate prize.
It's obviously not easy to repeat as champion in any sport, but the St. Louis Blues are not playing like a team with a Stanley Cup hangover. More than a month into the 2019-20 season, St. Louis is still among the top teams in the NHL. Barring any significant injuries the rest of the season, the Blues might have what it takes to become the second team in five seasons to repeat as Cup champions.
In 2019, teenager Coco Gauff emerged as one of the bright new faces to watch in women's tennis. She turned heads by beating idol Venus Williams en route to making it to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. At 15, Gauff won her first WTA title at the 2019 Linz Open in Austria. Is a Grand Slam title in store for Gauff in 2020?
For the second time in history, Tokyo will play host to the Summer Olympics, July 24-Aug. 9. All eyes, at least in terms of the American interest, will be on gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Caeleb Dressel. Both dominated at their respective 2019 world championships. The U.S. men's basketball team, meanwhile, aims for a fourth straight gold. Also, U.S. sprinter Noah Lyles could be the Games' breakout star.
But will Las Vegas be ready for the Raiders? One of the NFL's most storied franchise's is set to debut in its new home for 2020. That's assuming its state-of-the-art stadium in Vegas will be ready to go, and no other hurdles will keep the team from moving out of Oakland, where it has not played that badly through the first half of the 2019 season.
The Raiders are not the only ones expecting to play in a shiny new stadium in 2020. The Rams and Chargers are slated to take up residence at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles' Inglewood area. Though it's not yet open, it's been hailed for its size, scope and amenities. While it's likely to live up to the hype, word on the street is that its NFL co-tenants aren't playing nice at the moment.
While the 2020 NBA free-agent class doesn't boast the quite the same star power as that of 2019 (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard), it should not be without intrigue, particularly from Anthony Davis, who could end up signing a max deal to stay with the Lakers. However, reports suggest Davis might have interest in joining his hometown Chicago Bulls, a young team in need of a superstar. Stay tuned.
The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa is a must attraction for baseball fans of any age or generation. In 2020, an actual Major League Baseball game will be played at the film site that's become a popular tourist haven. On Thursday, Aug. 13, on a new field constructed near the famed movie site, the Chicago White Sox will take on the New York Yankees in this one-of-a-kind event.
Europe has has won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, but the event returns to American soil at Wisconsin's magnificent Whistling Straits track from Sept. 25-27. The U.S. was embarrassed 17 1/2-10 1/2 in France last year, so there is plenty of motivation for Steve Stricker's group to return the Cup home, where some of the game's best young golfers reside.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was the talk of the preseason for all the wrong reasons. His 2019 stay with the Oakland Raiders was brief and did not include a regular-season game. Brown's stint with the New England Patriots was even shorter. So will Brown have a place to play in 2020? Kaepernick, meanwhile, is working out for NFL teams. Does that mean the league is warming back up to the talented quarterback and willing to welcome him back in 2020? If not 2019?
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.