Power Rankings

Power Rankings: See where your team lands before the 2021 MLS season

Hi. First things first: This is not my fault. I promise.

Secondly, whether you agree or disagree, you can jump on Twitter Spaces every week via MLS Twitter to hear reaction to the rankings from Andrew Wiebe, Matt Doyle and some other special guests, potentially including yours truly.

You can listen to Tuesday's Spaces discussion, featuring Michael Lahoud, SB Nation's Alicia Rodriguez, The Athletic's Jeff Rueter and others, below.

Thirteen Major League Soccer soccer dot com writers, editors and columnists submitted their own power rankings this week. My job is to simply tally everything up and report the news back to you like some bizarro world Walter Cronkite where instead of diligently telling you about the triumph of humanity landing on the moon, I’m gonna take a pot shot at Houston Dynamo FC. So it goes.

So don’t take it out on me if you disagree with your team’s ranking. Honestly don’t overwork yourself too much in the first place. Your team’s ranking has no impact on your ability to do important things like manage your household budget and make polite conversation with strangers at parties. The stakes have never been lower.

This is not my fault. I mean, sure, I did contribute to these rankings with my own votes. But I’m just one of 13. And that becomes even more insignificant when you consider the nature of power rankings themselves. Have you considered that Immanuel Kant once sai--what’s that? You’ve already skipped all this to scroll down and find your team? You’re furious and about to DM me a GIF of a cartoon animal berating me with profanity?

Alrighty then. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To the rankings.

The MLS Cup champions got better this offseason.

NEXT MATCH: vs. PHI on 4/18

People are going to feel some type of way about this one, but the fact of the matter is Carlos Vela is healthy. You don’t need any more than that.

But if you wanted to add in the fact that Diego Rossi is back, LAFC potentially have an open DP spot, Jesus David Murillo is here to permanently bolster things at center back and they added Kim Moon-Hwan at right back, that’s fine by me. The Death Star blew up in 2020. It should be fully operational in 2021.

NEXT MATCH: vs. ATX on 4/17

Portland are just absurdly deep. And when Designated Players Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda return in full from injuries, they’ll be even more frightening. Now they’ve just got to sort out their yips in closing out games. They struggled last year, signed two new fullbacks in Claudio Bravo and Josecarlos Van Rankin to correct the issue and then gave up two equalizers almost immediately after each goal they scored in their first Concacaf Champions League game.

It’s early, though, and easily sortable. They’re a powerhouse either way.

NEXT MATCH: at VAN on 4/18

My thought is the Union, like a couple of other teams here, got a nice bump in the voting from their first CCL game. They looked sharp against Saprissa, though. Olivier Mbaizo looked like a suitable replacement for Ray Gaddis at right back, new signing Leon Flach fit the part in his midfield role and, most importantly, Jose Martinez showed up blonde. Even without Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson, this team is very dangerous.

NEXT MATCH: at CLB on 4/18

Ah, the classic reverse bulletin-board material. It will be fascinating to see how the Loons and Adrian Heath handle this one. Maybe they’ll finally start to believe in themselves like we do. Maybe they’ll get a team staffer to photoshop them ranked No. 26 instead. It’s all possible.

Which, speaking of, pretty much everything is possible for this team in 2021. Bebelo Reynoso might be The Guy and new striker Ramon Abila comes from Boca Juniors as the guy who might make Reynoso even more The Guy. They were minutes away from MLS Cup in 2020 and should be improved this year.

NEXT MATCH: at SEA on 4/16

A heckuva playoff bump for the Revs here. They put together a small sample-size run to the Eastern Conference Final and turned it into some pretty overwhelming hype for 2021. The expectations are extremely high for a team that finished eighth in the Eastern Conference last season.

Carles Gil is healthy, Matt Turner exists, Bruce Arena is here to do Bruce Arena things and Tajon Buchanan and Henry Kessler are primed to take big steps forward. On top of that, they added potential starters and definite depth in Christian Mafla at left back, Wilfrid Kaptoum in central midfield and Arnor Ingvi Traustason on the wing.

If they’re healthy, they’re good. Really good.

NEXT MATCH: at CHI on 4/17

Even with Daryl Dike possibly on his way out, this is still one of the best attacking teams in the league. And they brought in Alexandre Pato and Silvester van der Water to potentially improve on that. They’re going to be fun and maybe a little chaotic, too.

I hope everyone feels as uncomfortable with this team being in the top 10 and there being no jokes to make about them as I do.

NEXT MATCH: vs. ATL on 4/17

They’re gonna make MLS Cup. Why? Well, because they’ve gotten worse this offseason. Normally that would be enough to keep them out of a thing like MLS Cup, but we all know how this works by now. And for Seattle, getting worse still means being better than most teams. Besides, they’ll inevitably sign a game-changing player in the summer, correct course and thrive even without Jordan Morris, Gustav Svensson and Kelvin Leerdam. They just will. Accept it now and it will hurt less.

NEXT MATCH: vs. MIN on 4/16

An absurdly talented team with a history of injury problems that still has an open DP spot meets the most widely scrutinized managerial hire of the offseason. What will happen? I have absolutely no idea.

Lol, nah, just kidding. They’re going to push for MLS Cup.

NEXT MATCH: at MTL on 4/17

They’re back! Probably! They at least looked good the other night.

Atlanta are definitely the team on this list most powered by optimism, but early indications are that head coach Gabriel Heinze is legit and so are much-needed midfield signings, Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra. Throw in a new DP center back like Alan Franco and this team really starts to look like a force. Oh, and Josef is back.

Will this section get screen-shotted by one of those “MLS Images Before Bad Things Happen” accounts and sent out to the world when something inevitably goes wrong? Yeah, probably. But for now, I’m happy to bask in the warmth of having a team to be optimistic about.

NEXT MATCH: on ORL on 4/17

Congrats to Peter Vermes on this arbitrary piece of bulletin-board material. Which probably means congrats to Sporting KC on winning the Western Conference.

NEXT MATCH: at RBNY on 4/17

Michael Barrios and Fafa Picault are both gone. But is Tanner the Tank still there? Yes. Do I still get to talk about Tanner the Tank memes every week? OK then, everything is fine. Here’s a Tanner the Tank meme.

NEXT MATCH: vs. COL on 4/17

Not a bit, but an actual quote from Ronny Deila: “We have a very young squad, the depth in this squad is not good enough to do something in MLS. We need more quality players.”

NYCFC have added a few guys since then – notably midfielder Alfredo Morales – but Alexander Ring and Ronald Matarrita are still gone. Heber is still out for a few more months. That’s not great! But at the very least, the first-choice XI still appears to have enough to compete. Look, let’s just hope this group doesn’t truly need to dig into the depth Deila mentioned. It’s a soft 13 for me.

NEXT MATCH: at DC on 4/17

Colorado have quietly turned into a dark-horse pick to make some noise this season. Matt Doyle has compared the current group to be a potential Union-esque team … if everything goes right. But even having that chance seems good to me. They may be a year away from ascending … or they may not be. Either way, a lot of room for optimism here.

NEXT MATCH: at DAL on 4/17

Consistently good soccer team is consistent and good and will try to be just a little more consistent and good in their second year. Maybe new Uruguay youth national team winger Rodrigo Pineiro is the key to that? Maybe the key for Nashville is just some added time for Jhonder Cadiz to grow into his role? Either way, this consistently good soccer team should still be consistently good.

NEXT MATCH: vs. CIN on 4/17

Matias Almeyda got the band back together! Is it a good band? I dunno! Will it be loud, possibly messy and definitely extremely fun? Yup.

Who knows what this team looks like with former and now current Almeyda players Chofis Lopez, Eric Remedi and Luciano Abecasis incorporated into Almeyda’s chaotic good-aligned system, but they’ll at least know what they’re supposed to be doing inside of it. Whether they can actually do what they’re being asked is a much bigger question.

NEXT MATCH: at HOU on 4/16

I’m a bit surprised to see them this high, but maybe I shouldn’t be. They were a playoff team last year and head coach Gerhard Struber has had a full offseason to cook. At this point, RBNY could trot out a group of 11 folks they found in a Harrison, New Jersey, supermarket and I’d expect the system to get them at least within range of a playoff spot.

NEXT MATCH: vs. SKC on 4/17

Honestly, no idea what this team looks like this season. None. But Greg Vanney is here and they added a TAM winger from Monaco in Samuel Grandsir and a Young DP winger in Kevin Cabral. All of those things seem good. For emphasis: no idea what this team looks like this season.

NEXT MATCH: at MIA on 4/18

Chicago were a team in 2020 that everyone agreed looked pretty good for 90% of most games and catastrophic for the other 10%. That 10% kept them out of the playoffs. They could take a step forward this year, especially if Robert Beric continues to score at a high rate, but a lot of teams in the East spent time getting better this offseason. After losing Djordje Mihailovic and adding only a potential starting right back to the team, I’m not sure Chicago did.

NEXT MATCH: vs. NE on 4/17

For my book report, I read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In The Great Gatsby, there are some parties, but also some sad moments like when Leonardo Dicaprio gets shot. It is a book. I would recommend it to my other classmates. It presents a theme that says that in the same way our excesses can propel us to great heights, perhaps those excesses are simply masking a longing for something more sufficient and a desire for the ease of contentment. In the same way we may be bolstered by a grand party, we may also be consumed by it. It is a good book. I do not understand exactly why Ryan Shawcross is in it yet, but I’m hoping to find out.

NEXT MATCH: vs. LA on 4/18

Look who’s already making seven other teams’ supporters feel bad about themselves. Win number one for Austin FC. It won’t be their last, though. The team appears to have taken lessons from the successful expansion teams of years past and incorporated them nicely throughout the offseason. Attacking DPs (Cecilio Dominguez and Tomas Pochettino) are there, the steadying presence in midfield (Alexander Ring) is there and that’s all surrounded by Some Guys who are definitely expansion guys but have the potential to contribute in meaningful ways.

They’ll be an expansion team, but they shouldn’t be a disaster. And, at least in theory, they still have a DP spot to fill in the summer to correct any glaring issues. The ceiling isn’t high, but it doesn’t have to be in year one.

NEXT MATCH: at LAFC on 4/17

Vancouver seem to have added three starters over the offseason. Deiber Caicedo from Deportivo Cali, Caio Alexandre from Botafogo and Bruno Gaspar from Sporting CP should all be ready to contribute. Fredy Montero is off to Seattle again, but pretty much everyone else is back. That being said, that’s a lot of people back from a team that had a minus-17 goal differential in 2020.

NEXT MATCH: vs. POR on 4/18

Hernan Losada is here and he. has. got. it.

Other than that, this is the first D.C. United team without Ben Olsen in literally 20-something years. We don’t quite know what it’s going to look like or if enough talent is even there to make Losada’s tactics effective. What we do know is that Losada is either going to come out of this offseason with a solid soccer team or the potential to turn Audi Field into a pretty sweet CrossFit Box.

Like, check out this quote in Charles Boehm’s excellent piece on Losada for USsoccerplayers.com.

“Basically what our coach said was that everybody needed to lose a little bit of body fat at least, some guys more than others,” revealed Julian Gressel on Zee Soccer Podcast. “Two, three times a week we have to weigh in in the mornings. Certain guys get certain goals set. If you’re over a certain weight or come in over a certain weight then you get a fine or you have to spin the wheel [shorthand for a lighthearted locker-room disciplinary system], so it’s been pretty strict here.”

I’m hopeful that Losada and the comments section of a bodybuilding.com forum on muscle confusion can turn D.C. into a winner, but for now they’re here at 23.

NEXT MATCH: vs. NYC on 4/17

Houston are going into Tab Ramos’s second year, still have Darwin Quintero, still have Memo Rodriguez, added Tim Parker, added some classic MLS “Oh yeahhh, I like him” guys in Fafa Picault, Joe Corona, Derrick Jones and Maxi Urruti to the depth chart and just generally seemed to do pretty OK. They have some DP spots open, yet despite that, seem to have a surprising amount of talent returning.

I mean, lookit.

Goals added (shoutout American Soccer Analysis) isn’t the be-all end-all metric, but it’s usually pretty good at indicating who’s halfway decent at soccer. Be honest, there are way more “more than halfway decent at soccer” guys on this team than you thought. It’s a strong 24 in my opinion. I’m not saying this is a team that creeps into a top-10 spot at any point this year. But a top-15 spot? Could happen.

NEXT MATCH: vs. SJ on 4/16


Kidding. Kind of. But also … for Cincy to come out of the last two seasons and not be a unanimous last-place choice is a genuine testament to their offseason and the power of showing people you care.

This team scored 12 goals in 23 games last season. So they went out and paid somewhere around $13 million for a mononymic forward named Brenner from Brazil’s Sao Paulo, rewrote the MLS script to bring Luciano Acosta’s character back on screen and, for good measure, added Ronald Matarrita from NYCFC to shore things up at left back.

That’s pretty good! Tom Bogert gave your offseason a B+, Cincy! That may be enough to bring your GPA up to a C- this year. It’s not great, but considering the first two years on the MLS campus were spent like the kid who says “I’m just here to have some fun until a spot at my dad’s company opens up” and lives off a diet of Mountain Dew: Code Red and Red Vines, just the fact that you’ve made it to class feels like a massive step forward.

NEXT MATCH: at NSH on 4/17

Corey Baird left for LAFC, Kyle Beckerman retired and Bobby Wood hasn't yet joined up with the team, though could be doing so earlier than expected. Deep breaths, y’all. It could be a moment before things get settled in Utah.

NEXT MATCH: at MIN on 4/24

To be fair, I think there’s simply a lot of uncertainty here. They brought in a whole handful of players and sent even more out. Some of those players – Djordje Mihailovic and Erik Hurtado – have produced quality moments in the league.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that right now Montréal are your friend who just got out of a relationship with the most attractive person you’ve ever seen. Like, not that your friend is bad looking, but they were like… ohmygod. Be honest, your friend group secretly took bets on when it would end, right? Oh, and somewhere along the way in this metaphor, that friend also got forced by extenuating circumstances into buying a timeshare in Florida. It’s not going great.

But hey, the next person might actually be better for them in the long run. They’ll hopefully get to return home soon. We’ll just have to see.

NEXT MATCH: vs. TOR on 4/17