Hany Mukhtar NSH

The race for the 2021 MLS MVP has long been considered a foregone conclusion, with the New England Revolution's Carles Gil the clear frontrunner for the lion's share of the season.

If there is a challenger with a legitimate case, though, it might just be Nashville SC's Hany Mukhtar, who has been the centerpiece of his team's successful second season in MLS. Going into their Decision Day matchup against the New York Red Bulls (3:30 pm ET | ESPN), Nashville are battling for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Revs, with Mukhtar stuffing the statsheet to the tune of 15 goals and 12 assists to vault himself into the discussion for the league's most prestigious individual honor.

The 26-year-old joined Nashville-based outlet Broadway Sports for an exclusive interview released on Wednesday, saying that he's honored to be in the MVP discussion, but that his primary focus is on helping parlay a successful regular season into a deep playoff run.

“It would be a great honor,” Mukhtar said. “I would lie if I said something else. Obviously, though, you can’t be the best player if your team is not winning and you have a bad season. First of all I want to be successful, go as far as possible and hopefully win the Cup. And then yeah, if I win the MVP I will be very happy and thankful.”

It's certainly been an impressive breakout season coming off a debut MLS campaign in 2020 that was solid but not this electric. After getting brought in by Nashville as a Designated Player for the club's expansion season, Mukhtar put up four goals and four assists in 1,092 minutes before taking a pronounced leap in 2021, establishing himself as one of the league's most dynamic attacking threats.

His progress has mirrored that of his team's. After a seventh-placed finish in the East in their expansion season, Nashville have already claimed a home Audi MLS Cup Playoff game. It begs the question of whether Nashville can win the big prize of MLS Cup in just their second MLS season.

“I mean, we’re in second place,” he joked. “If I were to say no there would be something wrong. We’re definitely strong enough.”

The whole interview with Mukhtar on Broadway Sports is worth a read, which you can find here.