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2024 is About to be AWESOME


Ah, yes, February, the most beautiful month of them all. Despite Punxsutawney Phil’s decree, winter has finally woken from its slumber, sprinkling a fresh coating of glistening powder across the Minnesota landscape. Along with winter’s blanket, February’s arrival brings with it a new MLS season, with a table as clean and shiny as the newly fallen snow it will be played upon.

If you took a five-season break from watching MLS, chances are you wouldn’t recognize the state of things when you returned. New teams join the fray seemingly every year, champions fall with last season’s trophy still in their hands, and the downtrodden don’t stay down for long. Such themes are common to our wonderful league, and 2024 will surely be no exception to the drama that, though we’ve come to expect, we struggle mightily to predict.

But alas, I’ve made it my job to predict the unpredictable. Hours of joyous research and days spent by virtual pitch sides have prepared me for this very moment, and I intend to rise to the occasion even better than I did in 2023. Though I held my tongue last year for fear some of you might accuse me of biased coverage, I’ve included the Loons this time. By now, I hope you’ve learned that while I would do a great many things, I would never lie to you. Read on for what will almost certainly be the first perfectly predicted MLS table in the history of our esteemed league!


Eastern Conference

I’ve opted to start with our neighbors to the East, that way you’ve got to stick around to get to the part you really want. First, we have our contenders, the teams chasing the Conference title and the Supporters’ Shield:

  1. Columbus Crew: The champions kept their core together and managed to add talent in the form of U22 Colombian midfielder Marino Hinestroza. The squad is picking up what Nancy is putting down, and with Cucho leading the line, it’s hard to see Columbus anywhere but at the top of the table this year. They did let Kevin Molino go, though, so they’re down to just one Minnesota legend on the roster. I could go on, but the Crew’s beautiful football speaks for itself.
  1. Nashville SC: Sam Surridge, you’re my only hope. Besides Mukhtar. And Zimmerman. Okay, they have a few reasons to hope, including the addition of winger Tyler Boyd. The Nashvillains have ended every season in a ring of fire, but they won’t back down from a challenge. They stumbled in some big moments, but they always deserved to be there. And guess who’s joined their back line? Brent Kallman! We know him!
  1. FC Cincinnati: Miles Robinson is in, and Brandon Vazquez is out after regressing a bit in 2023. Those are two HUGE changes, and, frustratingly for FCC fans, they’re not one-to-one swaps. Will Boupendza fill the void with help from free-agent signing Corey Baird? Can Acosta keep up his MVP form? I don’t think they’ll keep the top spot, but I can’t bring myself to guarantee it.
  1. Orlando City SC: Statistically speaking, Orlando overperformed last season, thanks in no small part to the impressive output of Duncan McGuire, who’s staying stateside because Blackburn Rovers don’t know how to file paperwork. If new guys Nico Lodeiro and Luis Muriel joined for more than a trip to Disney World, Oscar Pareja may have everything he needs.

Give me some wiggle room. As long as those four finish in the top four, we’ll call it a perfect sweep, okay? Now let’s move on to the sides that will almost certainly make the playoffs but are just a few pieces short of challenging for silverware:

  1. Inter Miami: It’s a squad fit for Pitbull’s city: flashy, fun, and international. But, much like Mr. Worldwide’s song Mujeres, this team won’t be remembered as one of the greatest hits. Luis Suarez is one of the greatest strikers of all time; Busquets and Alba are both among the elite names to play their respective positions as well. Messi’s reputation goes without saying. They’ve added some talented young guys as well, somehow, and though their preseason tour didn’t produce score lines that people liked, it was PRESEASON. They’re obviously going to be better than last year; I won’t argue that. But these stars are older, more tired, and far less motivated than they were when they made their names in Europe.
  1. Philadelphia Union: After a few very bright seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, the sun is sinking toward the horizon. Key pieces are losing their legs to father time, and while the young talents keep improving, it’s not been enough to get them over the line. Curtin’s tenure in Philly is in danger of going sour if he can’t punctuate his good work with a trophy before time runs out.
  1. New York Red Bulls: I know what you’re thinking. “Emil Forsberg is just another washed-up European player coming to retire.” And while I can’t speak on his career intentions, I can say you’re wrong about the first part. He’s an assist machine, a wizard on the ball, and with a young, exciting core around him in New Jersey, he’s going to fit in quite nicely.

Moving on to the hopeful stragglers. Always chasing the pack, close enough to feel like they could be something more, but failing to take that next step in the end. We’ve got our Decision Day warriors here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of these teams had to wait until the final matchday to discover their postseason fate.

  1. Atlanta United: The land of Usher, the peach of the southern United States, the stage for our favorite housewives. Atlanta’s got a lot going on, but aside from Miles Robinson, this team looks pretty similar to last year. Almada and Giakoumakis will probably be even better, but without consistency in the back, I feel like this squad may have found its ceiling.
  1. Chicago Fire: A flurry of savvy signings have seen the Fire build off the momentum they gained in 2023, and with Kellyn Acosta, Andrew Gutman, and big-money signing Hugo Cuypers from Belgium, they may have built a playoff-worthy squad. Keep an eye on these guys; Chi Town is, after all, the very town Billy Sunday couldn’t shut down, but they’ve got to get going first.
  1. New England Revolution: Robert Kraft’s least favorite sporting investment has seen some changes this season, with Caleb Porter taking charge and adding reinforcements to an already pretty-good squad. Porter’s first year tends to see his side regress a bit before he leads them on a title charge, so I’m banking on history to repeat itself and see the Revs dropping off a bit.
  1. New York City FC: The Pigeons have made several new signings from both Europe and South America, flexing their City Group muscles. They needed something fresh to avoid a repeat of last season, and I’m not sure they got it. The Big Apple may be the concrete jungle that dreams are made of, but unlike Alicia Keys’ iconic lyrics, there is plenty that this squad cannot do.
  1. Toronto FC: What the hell, Toronto? How can you spend more money than any other team and still be this bad? They finished 12 points behind Miami, and Messi only played a few games. The expectations are somehow both very low and very high; I’m not sure there’s a manager alive that can fix the issues in the 416, but Canada’s old skipper deserves a shot.

For the rest of these teams … oof. It’s going to be a long season, unless they uncover some academy gems or someone on the roster finds another gear. Thanks for participating, guys. Better luck next year.

  1. CF Montréal: Is Josef Martinez coming to the rescue? Le CFM better hope so. A smattering of signings will solidify squad depth and maybe make them a bit better, but given the improvements throughout the rest of the conference, it’s hard to see L’Impact making much progress in 2024. This season is going to test Montréal soccer fans; it remains to be seen if their hearts will go on. At least they can be glad they’re alive! When it gets tough, lean on Celine.
  1. Charlotte FC: Coach Dean Smith has arrived in North Carolina once again, but we aren’t talking basketball this time. The former Premier League man has seen his squad blown up, as both Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak have gone back to Europe. He’s down to one DP (Enzo Capetti), and without the reliable Polacks, it’ll be a long year of adjusting in the Queen City.
  1. D.C. United: They don’t have anything that excites me, so I don’t think they’ll be very exciting. Oh, how far our nation’s capital has fallen—in the sporting realm. You know what the leaders in D.C. could use? Some positivity, kindness and humility. The soccer team could probably do with some better players, too. (Political commentary? Woah, Kyle, be careful. How dare you suggest everyone try to be nice to one another.)

Western Conference

Let’s head west together. The whole conference has been down recently, and while that’s not great for title hopes, it’s perfect for teams hoping to rise up and improve their lot in the league. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but I’ve given this table my best shot:

  1. Vancouver Whitecaps: Something is brewing in Vancouver, and it has been for the better part of the last two years. Watching Vanni Sartini coach makes me want to run through a wall; I’d love to play for that guy. Ryan Gauld is among the league’s most talented creative players; Brian White leveled up in 2023; Pedro Vite is raw; Fafa Picault is an incredible add; and every other position is occupied by the kind of hard-working players that make sporting miracles happen. It’s going to be a special year for the Caps, mark my words.
  1. Seattle Sounders: I’m bored with the Sounders. They’ll probably be good, but they’re losing that edge they used to have. Pedro De La Vega may be a great signing, but they need something exciting to reinforce their pedigree. Otherwise, they might become the MLS equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys. Or is that the Galaxy? D.C. United? Dang, everyone wants to be the Cowboys. Regardless, there’s only one sound I want to hear from these guys in 2024: silence.
  1. LAFC: Denis Bouanga has not been shy about his desire to return to Europe; Carlos Vela hasn’t re-signed; Kellyn Acosta is gone; and no signings have arrived to paper over the cracks. It’s hard to gauge the Black and Gold right now; watch the transfer deadline. If they’re without Vela and/or Bouanga when the window slams shut, they’ll plummet down the table. If they stay, they’ll put together a slightly worse version of last year.
  1. Minnesota United: Call me biased if you’d like, I don’t care. You don’t pay me! I happen to genuinely think Minnesota has a squad that could challenge for a top-four spot in what is a weakened Western Conference. MNUFC’s signings have gone largely under the radar this year, but don’t sleep on the talent they’ve added. A refreshed, young midfield will make this team more mobile than last season, and after heavily underperforming their expected goals metrics in 2023, it’s time for a big bounce-back.

I’m pretty confident calling the following playoff locks, despite the fact that a few of them will be regressing from last season. This is a league where if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse, unless you’re RSL. Then you generally just stay the same:

  1. Sporting KC: Gadi Kinda is out, and legendary leaders Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza are gone. The old guard is leaving, but what impact will that have? What was the magic behind last year’s late run, and what will it take to rediscover it? I have faith that Alan Pulido’s goals will continue to flow, and Peter Vermes will keep his side on course for an improved 2024.
  1. Houston Dynamo: I’m going to say it. You can’t stop me. Houston, we have a problem. Nelson Quinones is going to miss 2024 with a knee injury and Corey Baird is gone. As much as we love Jan Gregus, he’s not the right replacement for either of those guys. I’m not sure if the club has any ambition of building off their impressive 2023, but if they do, they’ll need to act fast.
  1. FC Dallas: I’m not quite sure what the problem in Dallas is, but they’ve definitely stagnated. Peter Musa’s arrival from Benfica might help take pressure off Jesus Ferreira, while Enes Sali from Romania might shake things up. Whatever the issue is, the roster is too talented to miss the playoffs but not organized enough to win anything of note.
  1. Real Salt Lake: Unleash Diego Luna, please. It’s best for everyone, and it might be the only way to get people to watch RSL games. Plus, Chicho. Matt Crooks joined from Middlesbrough, adding a new dimension to this slowly evolving side. They make the playoffs; that’s just what they do. How? I have no idea, but they will.

This next group is an odd mixture of vastly different sides, all with very different momentum. I call them the playoff hopefuls, but honestly, all three could swing drastically in either direction. I ultimately decided they belonged here, and I must say, it feels right.

  1. Colorado Rapids: This is a new team, no question. Three USMNT players have joined (Steffen, Mihailovic, Vines), and Chris Armas is coming in with some serious Ted Lasso energy. Rapids fans have been craving a fresh slate to work with; it’s time to fix soccer in the Centennial State. There’s plenty of reason to believe that better times are on the way.
  1. St. Louis CITY SC: Last year, I said St. Louis would finish last. Now, I’m not bitter, but I’m certainly not pleased with them. Their first five MLS games were nuts, with teams gifting them goals and inflating their league standing to the point that it felt like the universe was giving me the bird. No one outperformed expected goals more than St. Louis last year, and their first-round playoff exit was proof that the underlying numbers weren’t lying. Lightning will not strike twice for Bradley Carnell. It’s time to finish where they belong: out of the playoffs entirely.
  1. LA Galaxy: Much like Seattle, the narrative in LA has gone a little stale, though I’m sure the Galaxy would love to switch places. Chicharito and Douglas Costa are gone, Gabriel Pec is in, and once again, the league’s most well-known franchise is hoping that an unproven signing will turn into the savior they desperately need. Joseph Paintsil may still come in and help move the needle, but more work needs to be done. As a longtime MLS fan, it hurts to see them like this.

Once again, we’ve reached participation trophy territory. I wouldn’t be upset to see these sides struggle a bit this year, but I hope for their sake some signings come in to give the fans something to talk about.

  1. Portland Timbers: Phil Neville steps into a similar situation to Dean Smith, as key departures have left big holes. While that could be great in the long term, there’s too much that needs to be done to imagine Portland salvaging their 2024 campaign. Kamal Miller is fantastic, and Evander is the real deal, but they won’t do much more than annoy the top dogs this year.
  1. Austin FC: Did anything REALLY change in Austin? They’re a year older and another year removed from their miracle season. As much as I like some of their players, I don’t think McConaughey’s men took any steps forward this offseason, and that constitutes a step back.
  1. San Jose Earthquakes: Somebody get Cristian Espinoza some help! Amahl Pellegrino might do the trick, but he’s not proven in MLS yet, and it’s not the easiest league to start fast in. Cade Cowell didn’t produce a lot of goals for the Quakes, but he was threatening nonetheless. Without him, there’s not a ton else to be excited about in San Jose this year.

There you have it, my final predictions for the 2024 season. I am exhausted, excited, and oh-so-ready for the season to commence. Will Messi take the league seriously, or will he and his friends just relax? Which squad will shock the world? There’s always one, and I’d like to think it’ll be the Loons.

Mark your calendars, folks; MLS is back on February 21 when Inter Miami hosts Real Salt Lake. The real action starts just three days later, though, when MNUFC heads down to Austin for matchday one. Print this table off and track it all year long; we can compare notes when it’s all said and done.