Voices: Joseph Lowery

By the numbers: 2024 MLS All-Star favorites


Sound the alarm, people. It’s voting time for the 2024 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.

As you fine-tune your ballot for this year’s showdown with Liga MX at Lower.com Field in Columbus, here's a cheat sheet of sorts. Using data as my guide (yes, I pushed up my glasses after typing those words), I’ve assembled some standout players worthy of an All-Star nod.

Mostly, I’m only spotlighting two players at each position. I did make one exception, though.


Roman Celentano - FC Cincinnati

You don’t have to look much further than Roman Celentano to figure out how FC Cincinnati have expertly navigated their squad shift from last year's Supporters' Shield-winning team to one that's again eyeing trophies. Celentano leads MLS in goals saved above expected on a per-90-minute basis with 0.40 this year, according to FBref.

Matt Freese - New York City FC

No goalkeeper rates higher than Matt Freese in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric. On top of being an excellent shot-stopper, New York City’s backstop adds value with his sweeping, passing, and ability to claim the ball in the box.


Jackson Ragen - Seattle Sounders FC

There haven’t been many bright spots for Seattle this year, but Jackson Ragen has been strong. He leads center backs in passes completed above expected, according to American Soccer Analysis. He also leads all center backs in progressive passes, according to FBref.

Justen Glad - Real Salt Lake

Playing a hybrid center-back role in RSL's new fluid setup, Glad has been the defensive anchor for the best team in the Western Conference. The 27-year-old often plays on the right and is second in the league in interrupting value this year, according to American Soccer Analysis' goals added metric.


Aaron Herrera - D.C. United

Aaron Herrera is thriving. And by "thriving" I mean, "someone time-traveled to the past, picked up 2021 Aaron Herrera, and plunked him down on the right side of Troy Lesesne’s defense." With a tireless motor and good right-footed service, the Guatemalan international leads all right backs in progressive passes this season. He’s also in the 96th percentile in shot-creating actions per 90 among his positional peers, according to FBref.

Federico Bernardeschi - Toronto FC

What? What’s that look you’re giving me? Okay, fine, positions are social constructs and Federico Bernardeschi is a right wingback in name only for Toronto FC this year. But he is a right wingback! And this is All-Star voting we’re talking about! Let’s have some fun. Not a single player who defends as an outside back matches the Italian’s non-penalty xG plus expected assisted goals (xAG) output of 0.50 per 90.


Kai Wagner - Philadelphia Union

Stop me if you’ve heard this story: Kai Wagner has been the best chance-creating left back in the league this year. The two-time All-Star is creating 0.34 xAG per 90, which is the best rate of his MLS career. He’s yet to be unseated as the top dog at his position.

Luca Orellano - FC Cincinnati

If someone is going to do that unseating, it just might be Luca Orellano. The 24-year-old Argentine isn’t the same chance-creation threat as Wagner, but he’s still borderline elite as a passer and ranks in the 95th percentile among outside backs in non-penalty xG per 90, according to FBref.


Sergio Busquets - Inter Miami CF

He doesn’t have the same acceleration that defined his timely defensive steps at FC Barcelona, but Sergio Busquets still reads the game better than anyone in his position. He ranks higher than any other MLS midfielder in the interrupting category (think tackles, interceptions, blocks, etc.) of goals added.

Aidan Morris - Columbus Crew

A pit bull in midfield, Aidan Morris is third in MLS in tackles this season (43) and thrives as a ball-mover in Wilfried Nancy’s system. He continues to be an excellent complement to Darlington Nagbe and the Crew’s attack-first back three.


Cole Bassett - Colorado Rapids

The leader in non-penalty xG among No. 8s this year, Cole Bassett has cemented his status as an elite late-arriving runner for the Colorado Rapids. Through just 15 games, he’s already amassed five goals – just one off his total from 2023.

Robin Lod - Minnesota United FC

The numbers love Robin Lod. The eye test loves Robin Lod. Minnesota United fans love Robin Lod. And yet? The guy still doesn’t get enough mainstream love. Lod isn’t quite a pure No. 8, but he’s played there this year and is in the 99th percentile among his positional peers in non-penalty xG+xAG, according to FBref. Long live Robin Lod.


Luciano Acosta - FC Cincinnati

You know how Luciano Acosta won the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award last year? Yeah, well he’s been even better this year. His expected assists are up, he’s taking better shots, and he’s completing more dribbles. He’s been the best chance creator in MLS, based on FBref’s xAG metric.

Riqui Puig - LA Galaxy

Riqui Puig doesn’t have Acosta’s penchant for playing the final ball – or, perhaps, he doesn’t have the same tactical instructions that lead to Acosta playing more of those balls. But he does have the best all-around passing game of anybody not on Inter Miami’s roster. No player in MLS has added more value with their passing this year than Puig, based on goals added.


Lionel Messi - Inter Miami CF

Today in The Easiest Choice Anyone Will Ever Make, we have "putting Lionel Messi on your All-Star ballot." Messi leads the league in goal contributions per 90 (2.11), is first in goals added per 96 minutes among regular starters, and is firs— you know what? You get the idea. Messi is the GOAT.

Andrés Gómez - Real Salt Lake

I’ll let FBref’s numbers do the talking for RSL’s right winger:

  • 98th percentile for non-penalty goals
  • 92nd percentile for non-penalty xG
  • 92nd percentile for xAG

The 21-year-old is a machine and will make Real Salt Lake a lot of money at some point in the next few transfer windows.


Denis Bouanga - LAFC

Few wingers in MLS come close to rivaling what Denis Bouanga offers LAFC. Bouanga’s expected numbers are even better than last year on a per-90-minute basis, according to FBref, and his goal contribution rate has stayed steady at 0.93 per 90.

Hannes Wolf - New York City FC

Sure, Hannes Wolf has played more on the right than on the left this year. But he’s earned some real love, wasn’t going to displace Gómez and certainly wasn’t going to displace Messi. So, here we are. Wolf’s xAG per 90 (0.39) is higher than any MLS starter not named Bouanga, Acosta, or Evander.


Cristian Arango - Real Salt Lake
Luis Suárez - Inter Miami CF
Christian Benteke - D.C. United

Maybe I’m not cutthroat enough, but I couldn’t separate the Golden Boot presented by Audi race top three.

Cristian Arango is everything RSL could’ve ever asked up top. He's over-performing his xG, but still adding so much value as a chance creator that it’s hard to be concerned about an eventual scoring dip. Arango is tied for the lead among MLS strikers in xAG per 90 with 0.30.

Luis Suárez, for his part, hasn’t skipped a beat after his excellent year with Grêmio in 2023. His expected numbers are essentially dead-even with Messi, which tells you everything you need to know about Inter Miami’s No. 9.

Finally, Christian Benteke has become the sun in D.C. United’s solar system. Everything rotates around him in the attack, which is usually something we say about No. 10s in this league, not No. 9s. Benteke’s scoring numbers are elite and he’s amassed nearly three times as many aerial wins as the next most dominant aerial force in the league. He’s one-of-one as a target striker right now.