Opening day for the regular season is set, as is preseason. There is some clarity amid uncertainty and teams have concrete dates to focus on.
Squad building remains a work in progress for most, but here are some key areas/targets clubs are expected to fill over the next few weeks or months.
Whitecaps No. 10 search (still!)
I feel like I've written this blurb 100 times in the last few months. I wish a move would happen so I could stop spellchecking Inbeom Hwang, but, since the day Inbeom Hwang was transferred to Rubin Kazan for $3 million, the Whitecaps have been public in their desire to sign a No. 10 on a DP deal. Someone who will add more goal contributions and link play to Lucas Cavallini. You know this, you've read this and heard this many-a-time.
They haven't been in a rush, and this is a pretty crucial decision they need to hash out. With Deiber Caicedo already signed, this new attacker should theoretically complete the attack and hope to take the Whitecaps over the playoff line in 2021.
Vancouver have been linked with some exciting names. Benfica attacking midfielder Chiquinho was first, a 25-year-old who excelled in the Portuguese league. MLSsoccer.com previously reported they made an offer to Porto No. 10 Otavio, who is out of contract in the summer. They are reportedly battling the likes of AC Milan, Leicester City and many other big European clubs, so it'd be quite the coup if they pull it off.
"I spoke very often that we want to approach the best possible profile, we are competing with other big organizations in the world for the player we’re looking at," sporting director & CEO Axel Schuster said in January. "I think it’s maybe a good tactic not to speak about that so not to make someone else aware the player is available."
Philly signing, well, anybody
With Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson excelling in Europe after each were named to MLS Best XI last year, Philly have a few big holes to fill in their reigning Supporters' Shield champion squad.
Of course, the youthful club will give plenty of chances to the next crop of academy graduates like Anthony Fontana, Cole Turner, Brandan Craig, Paxten Aaronson and the rest, but they will also be curating the roster with some senior additions.
Sporting director Ernst Tanner said another center back will be signed in the wake of McKenzie's transfer to Genk, though Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes is already a strong tandem. Head coach Jim Curtin often talks about the importance of multiple strong center backs, preferably three starting-caliber options, for an MLS team with aspirations for trophies.
Don't be surprised if another attacker or two comes as well. In addition to Aaronson departing (thus opening a ton of minutes at the tip of their midfield diamond), fourth forward Andrew Wooten is gone too and likely needs replacing.
Key additions for NYCFC
The future of Valentin Castellanos (above) could inform how New York City FC approaches the rest of their offseason. | USA Today Sports
The Cityzens have two open DP spots, enough GAM to fill a couple of suitcases and a few needs on the roster. With just one key addition (left back Malte Amundsen), this is not the roster they'll enter the season with.
It just depends on how much change will come immediately.
Alex Ring is a big departure, but they still have a deep and talented central midfield depth chart with likely starters James Sands, Keaton Parks and Maxi Moralez, with highly-rated Nicolas Acevedo behind that trio.
Cristian Pavon back to the Galaxy?
This one makes too much sense to not get over the line. LA Galaxy want him. He wants to come back. Boca Juniors understand and are hoping to get as much value as they can.
The latest reports suggest the Galaxy and Boca have finally agreed to terms over his transfer, which is a positive development after weeks and weeks of silence. With most European transfer windows closed, the Galaxy remain one of the few realistic options for a transfer now instead of the summer.
Pavon, 25, had 13 goals and 15 assists in 33 games with the Galaxy after arriving in the summer of 2019. He would fill the club's final DP spot if the deal does get done.
Austin FC to finish up their roster build soon-ish
Above is our best guess at where the Austin FC depth chart currently is. Not too many holes, right?
Maybe another depth defensive midfielder, or perhaps another versatile defender, or maybe one more starting-caliber player to challenge, but with about three weeks until preseason opens and two months until their first game, Austin FC is just about done with their inaugural roster build.
Austin aren't expected to fill their third DP spot until the summer, with the club looking to retain flexibility to see where a big boost is needed, a la Nashville SC's successful expansion plan.
“As far as our next DP, we will be adding a third DP but it’s very likely that’ll be in the summer," sporting director Claudio Reyna said last week. "We need to look at our squad. We feel really good about it right now, but we need to see everybody in person and that we add the right piece to the team in the summer.”
New managers, new needs
Let's just lump these two together: The New York Red Bulls (Gerhard Struber) and D.C. United (Hernan Losada) have new managers heading into 2021. Neither are close to being done with their offseason to-do list, though RBNY is a bit ahead of D.C.
The Red Bulls have swapped starting center backs (Andres Reyes in, Tim Parker out) while sprinkling in a few other additions (Tom Edwards, Fabio, Wikelman Carmona) but it feels like they still have a lot left in the chamber for some big moves.
United, meanwhile, have a few minor tweaks but plenty to do, with Losada yet to make a big splash for his new tactical vision.
Cincy's No. 10
The club want to sign a No. 10, likely on a DP deal, and have been linked with some familiar names: European star Papu Gomez (who ended up signing for Sevilla), former Atlanta United and South American Player of the Year Pity Martinez (currently in Saudi Arabia) and former D.C. attacker Lucho Acosta (now at Atlas in Mexico).
What will happen with Frankie Amaya?
FC Cincinnati have said they don't intend to trade Frankie Amaya despite a request from the player. | USA Today Sports
Let's stick with Cincy here — former No. 1 overall SuperDraft selection Frankie Amaya requested a trade, after the club rejected a few overtures for his services. FCC have made it clear they have no intention to trade him.
How will this play out? Will another club, domestic or abroad, come in with an offer that makes enough sense to sway them?
Amaya is entering his third MLS season. The UCLA product and US youth international has one goal in 40 appearances (36 starts), showing encouraging glimpses of two-way play.