10 new faces you need to know for the 2023 MLS season


With the 2023 season getting underway on Feb. 25 with Matchday 1 fixtures – all games are free to watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV this weekend! – let’s spotlight some marquee new faces.

For full transparency: Every primary player covered here is either a Designated Player or arrived via MLS’s U22 Initiative. Those roster labels often come with a sizable transfer fee and big expectations, even some international-level experience.

More could arrive in the months ahead since the MLS Primary Transfer Window extends through April 24. The Secondary Transfer Window, when it’s often easier to sign big-name players from Europe, also runs from July 5 to August 2. And yes: we’re all waiting to see if Lionel Messi ends up in Miami this summer.

For now, here are some need-to-know imports that’ll soon shape the trajectory of the new campaign.

In years past, a player of Biuk’s profile – a Croatian youth international forward who was a 2022 finalist for UEFA’s “Golden Boy Award” – would normally stay in Europe. But that’s the appeal of LAFC, who are coming off an MLS Cup/Supporters’ Shield double and attracted this 20-year-old to play up top alongside DPs Carlos Vela and Dénis Bouanga.

Drop Karol Swiderski back into a second-striker role + bring in Enzo Copetti as a bulldog-like, goalscoring striker = “a nightmare for defenders.” That’s what sporting director Zoran Krneta envisions as their DP forwards possibly ignite a year-two bump for Charlotte.

The heir apparent to Diego Valeri? Portland hope that’s the case with Brazilian No. 10 Evander, who has the keys to their attack as the club transitions into a new era beyond the Argentine legend (and eventually his compatriot Sebastián Blanco).

The unenviable task of replacing Josef Martínez falls on this Greek international striker’s shoulders, even if Atlanta don’t explicitly frame the comings and goings in that manner. But with their all-time leading scorer now at Inter Miami, big pressure’s on the former Dutch and Scottish league Golden Boot winner to perform.

RSL’s new ownership group has invested serious money in South American wingers in back-to-back transfer windows, acquiring Gómez this winter to play opposite Jefferson Savarino. The Venezuelan international arrived last summer from Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro, then Gómez joined from Colombian top-flight side Millonarios.

San Jose added one of MLS’s premier defensive midfielders this offseason, bringing Gruezo back after he spent 2016-19 with FC Dallas. The in-prime Ecuador international should allow new head coach Luchi Gonzalez to implement his preferred style, linking back to front as San Jose’s front five gets to work.

A Leeds United legend in some regards, Klich arrives at D.C. United from the English Premier League squad with the need to perform. The veteran Polish international is a box-to-box midfielder who likes to get forward, providing a platform for DP forwards Taxi Fountas and Christian Benteke to supply goals.

One of two DPs in St. Louis, Löwen will be their string-puller in midfield. The 26-year-old brings over 120 games of experience from Germany’s top two divisions and will need to form a strong understanding with South African international midfielder Njabulo Blom for the newcomers to find success.

Orlando’s South American core reached another level with Ojeda joining the fold, a multi-year courtship that unites him with another high-end winger: Uruguay international Facundo Torres. If those two can both approach 10g/10a, that’s a dream season for the Lions.

A consistent goalscorer solves what’s become a thorny issue for the New York Red Bulls: having enough game-changers to challenge for MLS Cup. Vanzeir, who could become the club’s record signing, might be that solution after tallying 48 goals and 21 assists in 92 matches for Belgium's Union SG before coming to MLS.

There's also…

Center backs don’t always get the love they deserve, but these six imports are expected to play big roles for their respective teams:

  • Sergii Kryvtsov (Inter Miami CF)
  • Leo Väisänen (Austin FC)
  • Andreas Maxsø (Colorado Rapids)
  • Miguel Tapias (Minnesota United FC)
  • Sigurd Rosted (Toronto FC)
  • Luis Abram (Atlanta United)

For the rundown: Kryvtsov is a Ukrainian international who arrives from Shakhtar Donetsk as Miami's new backline anchor. Väisänen, a Finland international, has the tall task of replacing Ruben Gabrielsen at Austin. Denmark international Maxsø is a DP for the Rapids and Tapias arrives in Minnesota from Liga MX's Pachuca, both as defensive centerpieces. Rosted, a former Norway international, is part of Toronto's new-look defensive core in the growing Brøndby-to-MLS pipeline. Abram, a Peru international, needs to strike a quick partnership with US international Miles Robinson for Atlanta.

Same with goalkeepers:

  • Roman Bürki (St. Louis CITY SC)
  • Daniel (San Jose Earthquakes)
  • Marko Ilić (Colorado Rapids)
  • Yohei Takaoka (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)

Bürki is a former Swiss international and star for German Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund; he'll captain St. Louis during their expansion season. Daniel, Ilić and Takaoka were all presumably brought in to be No. 1s for Western Conference clubs. Daniel arrived in San Jose from Brazil's Internacional, Ilić is on loan to Colorado (with a purchase option) from the Belgian top flight, and Takaoka joined Vancouver from the reigning Japanese champions.

He won't be the flashiest player, but Nemanja Radoja could prove massive in Sporting Kansas City possibly rejoining the West's elite. The Serbian defensive midfielder arrives with 181 games of LaLiga experience.

Can DP striker João Klauss be a 15-20 goalscorer? For St. Louis to make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, they'll probably need the Brazilian to be. Two more: Amine Bassi is an intriguing attacking signing for Houston Dynamo FC, ditto for rising Ecuador international Marco Angulo in midfield for FC Cincinnati.