The Allsvenskan kicked off its 90th season March 30 with Malmö FF as the odds-on favorite to claim the title.
Malmö won the Lennart Johansson trophy last year and is looking to become the first team in more than a decade to repeat as champions. Djurgården was the last team to repeat in 2002-2003. Malmö took steps toward that goal even before the 2013 season ended, bringing midfielder Guillermo Molins back from Anderlecht in Belgium, where he failed to crack the starting team. After Rikard Norling surprisingly resigned as manager during the winter, Malmö searched all over before hiring Norwegian Åge Hereide.
The Norwegian is one of the few football managers whose resume included championships in the three main Scandinavian leagues. He won the Allsvenskan in 1999 at the helm of Helsingborg, won the Danish League with Brondby in 2002 and the Norwegian Tipeligan in 2003 with Rosenborg. He also managed the Norwegian national team for five years.
Malmö built up a war chest by selling Erik Friberg to Bologna, Tokela Rantie to Bournemouth and Johan Dahlin to Gencebergli in Turkey. Those transfers alone brought in more than $4.6 million. Malmö spent $200,000 to bring Molins back to Sweden. It also dipped in the free agent market, signing former Swedish international striker Markus Rosenberg from West Bromwich Albion in England and highly regarded 19-year-old midfielder Johan Hammar from the Everton Under-21 side.
The question Malmö faced at the start of the season was whether it could actually field a team capable to playing winning football. Rosenberg and defender Ricardinho both picked up injuries during the Swedish Cup and were doubtful for the season opener against Falkenberg. Molins and defender Markus Halsti were also unavailable after picking up red cards during the Cup.
Despite missing four starters, Hareide had a deep squad from which to choose. In many ways Malmö has attempted to adopt a big club philosophy of carrying a large roster, one that can compete in both domestic and European play, and make no mistake, Malmö has its eyes set on reaching at least the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
The group stage could mean millions in prize money, allowing Malmö to finally follow in the footsteps of the club that has long set the course for Scandinavian success, Rosenborg. It is also no mistake that Malmö went after Hareide as its manager.
AIK earned the vote of most likely to finish second this season, much to the chagrin of AIK manager Andreas Alm, who believes his team should be the favorite. The Gnaget added more talent than they lost, including Teteh Bangura, who returned on loan from his nightmare in Turkey. Popular British striker Kenny Pavey also returned to the club after a season Ljungskile. It is Pavey’s second stint with the club. Maybe the brightest news in Solna at the start of the season is the fact the AIK fans are no longer the worst behaved in Sweden, a distinction that now belongs to cross-town rival Djurgården.
IFK Göteborg might have earned the title of favorite had it not been for the fact no one is sure who is going to score for the Angels. Tobias Hysen finally succumbed to his craving for egg rolls and moo shoo pork and accepted a transfer to Shanghai East in the Chinese league. IFK came to terms with the top free agent in Sweden, May Malanghu, who will replace Pontus Farnerud, who retired. Robin Söder is now the club’s top all-around striker, with 21 goals in 106 Allsvenskan matches. Senegal striker Malick Mane, Sam Larsson and Gustav Engvall could also provide offense.

BK Hacken believes it is already a legitimate contender. To prove it, the Goteborg side bought Walid Atta, signed Ivo Pekalski from Malmö and broke the bank to keep Moestafa El Kabir. Whether those moves puts Häcken into the top three is dubious as the defense is shaky, especially goalkeeper Christopher Källqvist.
Helsingborg went a different route, promoting five players from its squad to the senior team, HJIF decided not to re-sign May Malanghu, believing he wanted too much to remain in Sweden. Malanghu instead signed with Göteborg. Helsingborg picked up Arnor Smarasson from Ejsberg in Denmark and Andreas Landgren from Frederikstad in Norway, but they won’t make up for the exodus of talent from the club. In addition to Malanghu, Erland Hansveit, Alejandro Bedoya, Imad Khalil, Walid Atta and Lucas Ohlander all left the club. How long HIF tries to rebuild with youth depends on how low the club sinks in the standings.
Elfsborg also faces an iffy season. Anders Svensson retired from the national team after setting the record for caps with 143 and is likely nearing the end of his playing days. Stefan Ishizaki decided to bend it like Beckham and joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS. Joakim Jörgensson, Amadou Jawo, James Keene, Stefan Larsson and David Elm also left the team, stripping its offensive depth. Elfsborg promoted seven players from its developmental squad and picked up Danish striker Mikkel Beckmann from APOEL Nikosia and Victor Prodell on loan from KV Mechelen. It could be a long season in Borås.
Kalmar could take the prize as the most eclectic squad, as it features players from Brazil, Ghana, Norway, Senegal, Serbia, Sweden and Zimbabwe. Hans Eklund takes over as manager from Nanne Bergstrand and he installed David Elm, who returned to the club from Elfsborg as captain. Kalmar certainly has the ability to score buckets of goals. How it will stop its opponents is a question it must answer for any success.
Djurgården did in the offseason what Djurgården always seems to do: change the entire team. DIF cut or sold 16 players and brought in 12, a seemingly dizzying number. The reality, however, is DIF changed its bench and kept much of its starting 11 intact. Swiss striker Alexander Prijosec joined the team in a $300,000 move. Per Olsson takes over the reins as the coaching carousel continued to revolve. Olsson is the ninth manager in six years at Djurgarden.
IFK Norrköping lost its leading scorer in Imad Klalil when he signed with Helsingborg but not all is gloomy for Janne Andersson’s squad. Luxembourg star Lars Krogh Gerson is set to finally have his breakthrough season. Experts peg the 21-year-old as the player to watch this season. Peking added striker Alhaji Kamara to add offense and goalkeeper Edvard Setterberg to bolster its defense.
Gefle will have a new look after hiring Roger Sandberg to run the squad. It is Sandberg’s first stint as a head coach and he inherits a squad of aging veterans sprinkled with a smattering of foreign talent. Gefle signed forward Dardan Mustafa from Lund and Jesper Floren from now-relegated GAIS. The biggest could be the retirement of goalkeeper Mattias Hugosson, who spent 17 seasons with the club. There is a three-way fight for the job between Sasa Sjanic, Oskar Larsson and Emil Hedvall.
Mjallby had a cautious offseason, shedding many of its aging players while adding a few key faces. The biggest signing was David Löfquist, who joined MAIF from Parma. Mjällby also singed Patrik Ingelsten on a free transfer from Viking and Kwame Bonsu from Bayern Munich.
Brommapojkarna did little to improve on its team from last season, promoting four players from its developmental squad. BP swooped for Dardan Rexhepi from Malmö and Icelandic defender Kurstin Jonsson but otherwise, new head coach Stefan Bilborn has the same team as former manager Roberth Björknesjö.
Halmstad, which finished 14th last season, made almost no changes, signing just five new players over the winter. Stefan Selakovic and Mikael Svensson both retired, creating a leadership gap. HBK signed King Gyan, a Ghana midfielder, and Paraguayan midfielder Andre Rojas, but it will probably fight to remain in the top flight once more.
Åtvidaberg actually had some off-season money to spend, thanks to the transfers of Victor Prodell and Tom Pettersson. The club continued to follow in the Latin footsteps of Kalmar as it built its team around a trio of Brazilians—Ricardo Santos, Bruno Marinho and Alberis da Silva. Åtvid added just one big name player in Finnish international Simon Skrabb, picking him up on loan. Åtvid could surprise many teams this season, although those surprises won’t add up to a spot in Europe.
Falkenberg jumped back onto the Allsvenskan seesaw, returning to the top flight after a couple seasons in the Superettan. The return won’t last long. The biggest news Falkenberg made with its promotion was the return of iconic Swedish international Henrik Larsson to the Allsvenskan. Larsson manages the newcomers and after cutting ties with five players from the 2013 squad, added several unheard of international players. Larsson, however, said he saw hidden talent in his signings and warned that Falkenberg would be a force in 2014. It is nothing more than bluster and Falkenberg is the odds-on favorite to finish last.
Örebro also returned to the Allsvenskan after three seasons in the Superettan. Manager Per-Ola Ljung signed four players from AIK to bolster his shot at keeping Örebro in the Allsvenskan. His biggest signing might be Nordin Gerzic, who left IFK Göteborg after three disappointing seasons. Örebro is a bubble team; it might stay up, but could easily go back down to the Superettan.