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Why your MLS team should be hopeful as 2024 preseason begins

January 17, 2024, by Jonathan Sigal | Courtesy of www.mlssoccer.com



It's the most wonderful time of the year.


We're talking about MLS preseason, of course, when hope springs eternal. Signings are rolling through, coaches are laying down their tactical philosophy and everyone's dreaming of lifting trophies. It's a clean slate in our parity-driven league. 


Ups and downs await once the 2024 MLS regular season begins in late February. For now, let's stay on the glass-half-full side of life with one reason all 29 teams should feel optimistic.



Atlanta United


Impact signings

If Atlanta's winter signings rival the impact of last summer's additions – when they brought in Xande Silva, Tristan Muyumba and Saba Lobjanidze – they're in serious business.

So far, they've added goalkeeper Josh Cohen, center back Stian Gregersen and midfielder Bartosz Slisz as potential starters, as well as veteran midfielder Dax McCarty and center back Derrick Williams. There's a lot to like about the squad's direction.

(Yes, we know the conversation shifts considerably if Thiago Almadaleaves).


Austin FC


Let him cook

It's been a slower offseason thus far. But this is sporting director Rodolfo Borrell's first full transfer window at the helm (he arrived last summer), and there's room/time to mold Austin's roster in his vision. Early days.


Charlotte FC


Big spending…?


Charlotte have a new head coach in Dean Smith. They might also get a shiny new signing:

For context, Charlotte reportedly paid a $6.3 million transfer fee for DP striker Enzo Copetti and a reported near-$5 million transfer fee for DP forward Karol Swiderski.

If the Grønbæk deal gets over the line (emphasis on if), we're talking about a sizable transfer fee. He'd be their No. 10 of the future, potentially portending Swiderski's long-rumored exit.


Chicago Fire FC


Big move coming

Head coach Frank Klopas says the Fire are "close" to signing a DP No. 9. That's a huge missing piece in Chicago and should help get more out of Xherdan Shaqiri – plus move toward a long-sought-after return to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs (last qualified in 2017).

FC Cincinnati


Fast movers


I'd call Cincy's offseason incomplete at the moment. But GM Chris Albright and their front office have acted quickly in reloading the squad, as evidenced by center back Miles Robinson and forward Corey Bairdjoining in free agency.

With all the open-ended questions – if Álvaro Barreal departs via transfer like Brandon Vazquez did, if Santi Arias and Junior Moreno return, etc. – there's a recent track record of Cincy getting it right more often than not.


Colorado Rapids


Squad refresh


The Rapids were, um, poor in 2023. Historically so. But they're deadset on changing course in 2024, emerging as the offseason "winner" thus far.


Moves include:

Reports also indicate they're seeking a No. 6 to play alongside Connor Ronan and Cole Bassett. It's a new day in Colorado.


Columbus Crew


Run it back


Aside from some questions at right wingback, the Crew have all their pieces in place from a team that won MLS Cup six weeks ago. Columbus have also made some shrewd signings in midfielder Derrick Jones and winger Marino Hinestroza.


Also, this is a chance for me to plug some of my favorite content from the 2023 MLS season:


FC Dallas


Dream big


The Bernard Kamungo story is of Hollywood proportions, a Tanzania native who grew up in a refugee camp before moving to Texas and eventually earning an FC Dallas first-team contract after impressing at an MLS NEXT Pro tryout. And, as of writing, Bernard Kamungo is in January camp with the US men's national team camp.


This isn't just a feel-good, inspirational story. Kamungo is a serious talent who's primed to keep leveling up.


D.C. United


They've got a GM


D.C. United didn't have a general manager (formally) in the 2023 season. But now Ally Mackay is calling the shots, leading a squad reload and appointing head coach Troy Lesesne. With an open DP spot, they could add a high-impact player too.


Houston Dynamo FC


Héctor Herrera


I'm not sure if the broader MLS community fully appreciated how brilliant Herrera was in 2023. The Mexican star had 4g/17a in 30 matches, was a no-brainer Best XI pick and helped Houston both win the US Open Cup and reach the Western Conference Final.


He had the best two-way season (by a midfielder) that we've seen in years. Elite stuff.


Los Angeles Football Club


More news awaits


I do not envy the transfer checklist that must be in John Thorrington's office. But LAFC have proven, time and time again, they can attract quality players. And a few key signings will surely join the Black & Gold as the season nears, not just legendary French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.


By my count, LAFC need (and it's a lot):


  • Clarity on whether Carlos Vela returns

  • A resolution to the Dénis Bouanga situation (new contract/pay raise or big outbound transfer)

  • Go-to No. 9 (Mario González is at Sporting de Gijón on loan)

  • A new left back now that Diego Palacios left for Corinthians

  • 1-2 central midfielders

  • Goalkeeper and center back depth


LA Galaxy


In Kuntz We Trust


You are welcome for the t-shirt idea, Galaxy fans.


Will Kuntz is now formally at the wheel as general manager and he's overseen a busy offseason after LA bid farewell to Chicharito and Douglas Costa. One of those open DP spots will reportedly go to Vasco de Gama winger Gabriel Pec, while they're also reportedly pursuing Ghana international/Genk winger Joseph Paintsil.


Aside from those high-profile links, LA have also added Japan international right back Miki Yamane and some MLS depth pieces. Odds are they aren't done, either.


Inter Miami CF


I mean…


Inter Miami are stacked heading into 2024, and they've got plenty of supporting/young players around the ex-FC Barcelona stars to help them navigate a multi-competition, taxing season ahead.


Minnesota United FC


Pukki Party


We won't sugarcoat it: Minnesota need a new head coach and star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso is reportedly not at preseason camp (again). Not great!


What might solve that? If Teemu Pukki produces like the Golden Boot-contending striker he is, especially linking up with Finnish buddy Robin Lod (as well as, hopefully, Reynoso and Bongi Hlongwane). The Loons have an open DP spot, too.


CF Montréal


Better coach fit


At least on paper, new head coach Laurent Courtois seems a better fit than Hernán Losada for CF Montréal's post-Wilfried Nancy days. That's both tactically and in terms of player development, which is a critical aspect of their club identity.


Nashville SC


Veteran, proven squad


Save for some depth at midfield and right back, Nashville's roster build looks largely complete. The same big question remains – are they too dependent on Hany Mukhtar for goalscoring? – but a year-two bump by DP striker Sam Surridge would solve a ton there.


New England Revolution


A win-now roster


Get a head coach? Check (Caleb Porter). Get a goalkeeper? Check (Henrich Ravas). Keep Tomás Chancalay around? Check (on a DP deal).

The Revs might not be everyone's MLS Cup favorite entering 2024, but their roster is really solid and ready to contend for trophies.


New York City FC


Not leaving it late


Last year, NYCFC completed most of their transfer business in the summer (when they were behind the eight-ball and hadn't replaced several key starters).

Now, based on what business is done and/or rumored, it seems that issue won't befall Nick Cushing's team in 2024.


New York Red Bulls


Improved attack

The Red Bulls have a game-changing No. 10 in Emil Forsberg, plus Dante Vanzeir and Lewis Morgan both returning from injury. Luquinhas leaving also opened a DP spot, so there's plenty of room to enhance the squad under new head coach Sandro Schwarz.


Orlando City SC


Locked and loaded


Orlando return just about every key piece from their 2023 squad that finished second in the Supporters' Shield race. They've still got some balls in the air – a new center back, potentially a Young DP – but this team is proven and full of title-contending players.


Philadelphia Union


Kai returns


Somewhat unexpectedly, two-time All-Star left back Kai Wagnerreturned in free agency. TBD if the same follows suit with midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, but the core roster largely remains in Philadelphia. And head coach Jim Curtin's group, as much as they've struggled to win the big game, is always in the trophy hunt.


Portland Timbers


Big swings possible

Portland have gotten increasingly Canadian (and improved) in a couple of spots this offseason, adding goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau and center back Kamal Miller. Phil Neville, their new head coach, spent time with the CanMNT as well.


But the really exciting part is the Timbers have two open DP spots, so there's room to make big swings – likely at a winger, striker and/or midfielder.


Real Salt Lake


Big swings possible


It's tough for RSL fans to see Damir Kreilach (free agent to Vancouver) and Jefferson Savarino (transfer to Botafogo) leave. But that opened up two DP spots alongside Cristian Arango, leaving ownership poised to reinforce the squad in a major way.

Also, RSL are getting midfielder Pablo Ruiz back from injury. And they might have another USL-to-MLS gem on their hands in Fidel Barajas.


San Jose Earthquakes


Espinoza is elite


San Jose's All-Star winger was spectacular last year, tallying 13g/13a in 34 matches. Espinoza should maintain that level, provided the front office fully replaces Cade Cowell after his transfer to Chivas and Jeremy Ebobisse keeps producing.


Seattle Sounders FC


New DP


Some details need to be worked out (either with Lanús or the player), but the Sounders are talking openly like the Pedro de la Vega deal is done. The Argentine youth international winger should raise their attack to a new level, all while some young standouts are primed to keep ascending (Josh Atencio, Reed Baker-Whiting, etc.).


Sporting Kansas City


Staying healthy (hopefully)


Sporting KC came as advertised in 2023 when everyone was healthy. When their stars and veterans were hurt, it all turned pear-shaped. Hot take alert: If this Alan Pulido-led group stays on the pitch, they're a legit contender.


St. Louis City SC


Just keep doubting


That's what St. Louis fans and those around the club are surely saying. Everyone underestimated the 2023 MLS newcomers, then Bradley Carnell's squad turned them into believers as they topped the Western Conference in record-setting fashion. Who's to say they won't keep that level going with squad reinforcements helping stave off a sophomore slump?


Toronto FC


Herdman takes over


Enough is enough. That is John Herdman's broader message as he takes over at Toronto FC, looking to transition to club coaching from the international game. Coming off a Wooden Spoon year, hopefully that resonates – whatever direction this roster goes in, despite all its flaws and construction signs.


Vancouver Whitecaps FC


One-two punch


Vancouver, in still underrated fashion, have one of the best attacking duos in MLS: Ryan Gauld and Brian White, who combined for 26g/17a last year. They've also added veterans Damir Kreilach and Fafa Picault via free agency, enhancing their attacking depth.


The Whitecaps still need to sort out the open DP topic – will Richie Laryea return? – but the foundation for success is there.


Jonathan Sigal - @JonathanSigal


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