Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Where does your team start the 2024 MLS season?

Power Rankings - 2024 start of season

What an offseason in Major League Soccer.

Chicago Fire FC inspired hope with a major offseason signing, Inter Miami CF added an FC Barcelona legend, Philadelphia Union didn’t really change much besides adding some depth pieces and Minnesota United FC had people show up behind schedule. It was truly an offseason unlike any other.

Anyway, the Power Rankings are back. Y’all probably know the drill at this point, but we'll emphasize it: The Power Rankings are voted on by like 20 MLS writers, editors and personalities and are not solely the fault of the column’s author.

The reigning MLS Cup champs didn’t make a ton of moves this offseason. They didn’t have to.

U22 Initiative signing Marino Hinestroza from Pachuca is the big get and could be an upgrade for them at wingback. Derrick Jones seems like a solid piece of the puzzle in midfield. That’s pretty much it.

The roster is as excellent as ever. Columbus could be even sharper during their second year in Wilfried Nancy’s system.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. ATL (2 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Cincy aren’t the same team that won the Supporters' Shield last season. But they may not be too far off.

Striker Brandon Vazquez is gone, but Corey Baird matched him in production last year and Aaron Boupendza could take a step forward in his first full season. Center back Yerson Mosquera is gone, but the Garys made a stunning move to sign free agent Miles Robinson. Midfielder Junior Moreno is gone, but they brought in Pavel Bucha from the Czech First League. They lost Santiago Arias at right wingback, but Luca Orellano from Vasco da Gama seems set to come in and take over the role.

They’re going to be just fine. Even if they don’t repeat as Shield winners. That’s probably not the goal this year anyway. Cincy want MLS Cup. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they got that.

First match: Feb. 25 vs. TOR (2:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Seattle dropped a reported $7.5 million to make the 23-year-old Argentine youth international winger a Young DP. On paper, he should be an upgrade out wide and should have the particular kind of 1-v-1 ability on the ball Seattle missed at times last year when trying to unlock defenses.

They’re heading into 2024 as the clear frontrunner in the Western Conference.

First match: Feb. 24 at LAFC (4:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Luis Suárez is the latest superstar to join Inter Miami – and he does it after putting in something close to a vintage performance for Grêmio in 2023. He won Brazil’s Player of the Year award after scoring 17 times and delivering 11 assists. Still, it’s fair to wonder how much his knees have left in them.

Inter Miami have health issues to navigate early here, too. Facundo Farías tore his ACL in preseason and midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi underwent sports hernia surgery. They're also shipping midfielder Gregore to Brazilian club Botafogo, and hoping to acquire Federico Redondo from Argentinos Juniors.

Still, this team is led by Lionel Messi. He could easily carry them to a trophy (or two or three) this season. Even if the Supporters’ Shield might be a tough ask for a team going all-in on multiple competitions.

First match: Feb. 21 vs. RSL (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

2024 Orlando look a heckuva lot like 2023’s 63-point side.

Striker Duncan McGuire is still around after a bizarre anti-transfer saga with Blackburn Rovers, midfielder Wilder Cartagena and winger Iván Angulo are back on permanent deals, and manager Oscar Pareja is back on a brand new contract. There are a couple of changes, though.

At the No. 10, Mauricio Pereyra is out and Sounders legend Nico Lodeiro is in. It’s an upgrade for sure. It’s just not clear if it’s the kind of major upgrade Orlando fans were hoping for. Maybe DP Martín Ojeda is the actual starter? Center back David Brekalo and DP striker Luis Muriel both look like high-end additions, the types who help you win a trophy.

Overall it feels like, for better or worse, Orlando should be roughly the same team (with Muriel). They earned a ton of points last year, but they also overperformed their underlying numbers by a significant margin while doing it. There’s a chance the underlying numbers like them a little more in 2024 and they still don’t match the highs of 2023 because of variance.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. MTL (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Atlanta seemingly addressed every major need they had this offseason.

Bartosz Slisz is set to pair up next to Tristan Muyumba in what should be the best Atlanta United midfield since Darlington Nagbe was around. Stian Gregersen replaced Miles Robinson at center back. And they brought in Josh Cohen to compete for the starting goalkeeper job. Atlanta scored 66 goals in 2023, one fewer than the league-leading Crew. Now imagine what they can do with a defensive spine that can truly compete.

Also: If Thiago Almada is around all year, and Giorgos Giakoumakis contends for the Golden Boot presented by Audi, there is no ceiling.

First match: Feb. 24 at CLB (2 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

This team has been in a constant state of change over the last few years. It’s hard to complain too much when it results in two MLS Cup appearances (one win) and a Supporters' Shield, but you do start to wonder if there might be too much turnover happening this offseason. Giorgio Chiellini, Diego Palacios, Maxime Crépeau, Kellyn Acosta and (maybe) Carlos Vela are all gone. That’s just to name a few.

LAFC will potentially be leaning on new faces like goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, left back Omar Campos, winger David Martínez and forward Tomás Ángel to help cover those losses. However, they at least brought back one familiar name. Eduard Atuesta is back in LA and should give a huge boost to their midfield. It feels like things will be ok. Just different. And as long as Dénis Bouanga is still around, different isn’t too bad.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. SEA (4:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Same team, different year. They’re going to earn a ton of points and everyone will wonder if they have enough firepower to win a trophy. You can’t blame Philly for running it back, though.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. CHI (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

There’s no way around it: FC Dallas were kinda boring in 2023. Effective. But so, so boring.

Fortunately for everyone, club-record signing Petar Musa is here from Benfica to help change that. The near-$10 million striker could be exactly what this attack has been missing and could be enough to make up for the absence of injured DP Alan Velasco.

If Musa lives up to his billing, Jesús Ferreira hangs around and FCD’s midfield of Paxton Pomykal and Asier Illarramendi stays healthy, then they could easily be among the West's best teams.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. SJ (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

The Revs brought in winger Tomás Chancalay on a permanent transfer that made him a DP. During his loan stint in 2023, he scored six times in 11 appearances and looked like the kind of dynamic piece New England had been missing in attack after Dylan Borrero’s season-ending ACL injury. They’ll head into Caleb Porter’s first season in charge with Chancalay, Carles Gil and Giacomo Vrioni leading their attack. With Borrero’s return on the horizon, and youngsters like Noel Buck and Esmir Bajraktarevic primed for key roles, they could score in bunches.

With or without a fully healthy Borrero, the attack should be just fine if Gil is around. The midfield should be steady and deep. And the backline should have enough juice despite missing fullback Brandon Bye for a while. The big question is whether they’ve found a third-straight “Greatest Shot-Stopper In MLS History” at goalkeeper. They owe so much of their success in the last few years to Matt Turner and Djordje Petrovic. New 'keeper Henrich Ravas has a lot to live up to.

First match: Feb. 24 at DC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

I don’t think we need to rehash the numbers you’re probably aware of at this point. We’ll just say St. Louis overperformed their underlying data at a relatively high level last year and put in a relatively average-to-not-good performance after they won their first five games. That doesn’t make Year 1 any less magical and it doesn’t mean they’re doomed to regress.

It does make Year 2 a little more harrowing, though. They’re running out pretty much the same roster this year with a couple of new fullbacks added on and some fun players like Niko Gioacchini and Jared Stroud gone. They've also got some DP flexibility (read: an open spot).

All told, St. Louis seem like a prime candidate to be a team that actually plays better than the previous season but catches fewer breaks. They could be improved and end up not matching their 2023 point total (56 points).

First match: Feb. 24 vs. RSL (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Houston are coming off one of their most successful seasons in years, but there’s already concern about 2024. Héctor Herrera is beginning the year with a knock, winger Nelson Quiñónes (knee) is out for the season and they haven’t really replaced forward Corey Baird.

The good news: star midfielder Coco Carrasquilla is still around and they have an open DP spot after the departure of Teenage Hadebe. Oh, and DP forward Sebastián Ferreira is back after a loan. Maybe, just maybe, he’s ready to match his potential.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. SKC (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

The Whitecaps are already out of the Concacaf Champions Cup after being paired up with Tigres. They looked relatively sharp in their home leg against the Liga MX giants, then were outgunned in the away leg.

Vancouver still have Ryan Gauld and Brian White doing their thing, plus have added veteran attackers Fafà Picault and Damir Kreilach. There's not much of note beyond that, at least in terms of incoming transfers.

A healthy version of this team feels very solid down the spine and has quality up top. Now let's see if they add a new DP into the equation, and if the rumored Richie Laryea return indeed comes true.

First match: March 2 vs. CLT (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

The Red Bulls went out and made a newsworthy DP signing by acquiring Sweden international Emil Forsberg from sister side RB Leipzig. He should fit nicely in midfield under new head coach Sandro Schwarz and could elevate a team that refused to live up to their underlying numbers last season. On a spreadsheet, the Red Bulls were one of the best teams in the league in 2023.

If Forsberg hits, DP forward Dante Vanzeir comes good, and the Red Bulls have a DP No. 9 on the way, this could be the best team Harrison has seen in a while. If not… well, they’ll still make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. That’s just a given at this point.

First match: Feb. 25 at NSH (5 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Nashville lost midfielder Dax McCarty and winger Fafà Picault, but brought in midfielder Dru Yearwood and winger Tyler Boyd. They’re something very close to the same team that nearly won Leagues Cup 2023 and then faceplanted in the weeks after. That means all eyes are on DP forward Sam Surridge taking the load off Hany Mukhtar. If Surridge doesn’t live up to his price tag, it will be business as normal in Nashville. They’ll be effective and solid in defense. They won’t be a contender. Is that enough in Year 5?

First match: Feb. 25 vs. RBNY (5 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Was last year’s run to the Western Conference Semifinal a mirage or the real deal? In 2023, SKC racked up the most points in the West over the last two-thirds of the season. They needed to after going winless through their first 10 games. That got them into a Wild Card spot and they eventually rolled through San Jose and St. Louis before their run came to an end.

However, their underlying numbers didn’t think quite as highly of that stretch. Per American Soccer Analysis, SKC’s expected point total over those 24 games came out to 1.38 points per game. That’s totally fine, but it’s not quite “Best Team In The West.”

Still, there’s no denying they looked like a wagon by the end of last season. And the good news this year is DP forward Alan Pulido is ready to go from the jump. They even have an open DP spot they can use as needed after the departure of midfielder Gadi Kinda. As long as they avoid another disastrous start (and keep their stars healthy), they seem like a surefire playoff team.

First match: Feb. 24 at HOU (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

It always feels like we’re a week away from this team looking completely different.

For now, it seems like manager Nick Cushing will have a handful of exciting new attackers at his disposal. That includes Austrian winger Hannes Wolf, Argentine winger Agustín Ojeda and Serbian striker Jovan Mijatović.

Can all this youth and talent get NYCFC back in their groove? That seems to be the plan, all while midfielders James Sands and Keaton Parks help steady things.

First match: Feb. 24 at CLT (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Gabriel Pec is LA’s newest DP. The Galaxy reportedly shelled out about $10 million (club record) for the Brazilian winger and they might not be done adding young talent. They’re reportedly ready to spend $9 million for Ghanaian international winger Joseph Paintsil from Genk, filling the second DP slot vacated by Chicharito and Douglas Costa leaving the club.

New GM Will Kuntz isn’t wasting much time bringing in the kind of DPs the Galaxy probably should have devoted resources to all along. If Pec and Paintsil can find joy orbiting around DP No. 10 Riqui Puig, LA should have one of the league’s best attacks. Now we just have to see if this team can get organized defensively.

First match: Feb. 25 vs. MIA (9 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

A full year of Chicho Arango is reason for excitement in Salt Lake. The rest… well it’s a little harder to find a ton to be excited about beyond future star Diego Luna.

RSL are going to do RSL things this year and xDawg their way to a few wins, but they need to use their two DP spots if they really intend to compete for a trophy.

First match: Feb. 21 at MIA (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

The Rapids were one of the league’s busiest teams this offseason. Now, they’re one of the league’s most interesting teams heading into the new season. That alone is progress.

To recap some highlights under new head coach Chris Armas: Colorado brought in DP attacker Djordje Mihailovic (club-record deal), goalkeeper Zack Steffen, former and now current left back Sam Vines, attacker Omir Fernandez, and new No. 6 Lamine Diack.

Colorado addressed a ton of needs and seem set to drag themselves out of the West basement. It’s a clear leap forward. Even if it’s not clear if they’ve done enough to get back into a playoff spot.

First match: Feb. 24 at POR (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

It’s almost not worth writing anything until the Timbers acquire two new DPs. They have the open spots alongside Evander; now we’re just waiting.

If Portland bring in two genuine DP-caliber attackers, they should have something solid working under new head coach Phil Neville. They’ve already improved their spine this offseason by adding center back Kamal Miller and goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. COL (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Our patented Fire season timeline has never felt more appropriate.

I can see it → Oh, no → Oh, yikes, no → Well, maybe → Nope → But let’s just… → Oh, ok immediate no on that → But what if they tweak this → This looks better! → OH NO. THEY GOT ME AGAIN → No. → I’m not falling for that → No, forever. → Offseason → I can see it.

Welcome, everyone, to “I can see it.” You’re all there, admit it. And you probably should be. Chicago went out and took huge swings this offseason. They spent a reported $12 million to bring in DP striker Hugo Cuypers from Gent, won the race for free-agent midfielder Kellyn Acosta, added dynamic left back Andrew Gutman in a trade with Colorado and managed to offload DP Jairo Torres. There’s a chance to add even more firepower. This could be the best Fire team in a long, long time… and they could still miss the playoffs just because the East is stacked.

It’s tough out here. But if there was ever a year to break from the timeline, it's now.

First match: Feb. 24 at PHI (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Emanuel Reynoso showed up to preseason and that’s really all that matters. Yeah, it’s been a bit weird this offseason. The Loons had to wait a while for new sporting director Khaled El-Ahmad to arrive, and now look set to appoint Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as head coach. All they have to do is get the ball to Bebelo. Don’t overthink it. There’s your whole game model.

Reynoso will have Teemu Pukki, Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Robin Lod revolving around him in one of the West’s most intriguing attacks. Scoring should come easy. The hard part might be figuring out how to win home games. The Loons only won four times last year at Allianz Field, the second-worst mark in MLS.

First match: Feb. 24 at ATX (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

It’s tough to feel great about the Quakes after how, in 2023, they faceplanted about a half mile from the finish line and just kept skidding until the end of the season.

But there’s some reason for optimism. Daniel should be a candidate for Goalkeeper of the Year after an outstanding introduction last season, plus they brought in winger Amahl Pellegrino from Bodø/Glimt to help offset Cade Cowell's transfer to Chivas. Pellegrino won back-to-back Eliteserien Golden Boots and was named 2023 Eliteserien Player of the Year.

Their big question mark, though, is a DP No. 10. Until that's done, this squad is incomplete.

First match: Feb. 24 at DAL (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Well, after a hard tactical switch from Wilfried Nancy’s possession-based style to Hernán Losada’s transition-based, direct play resulted in Montréal missing the playoffs and Losada losing his job after one year in charge, Montréal seem to be back to trying to keep the ball at their feet after hiring Laurent Courtois away from Columbus. My neck hurts from the whiplash.

Once everyone recovers from that, Montréal could have a couple of decent new pieces to help execute their new/old game model effectively. TAM No. 10 Dominic Iankov and TAM striker Matías Cóccaro will join Mahala Opoku in an attack that could be dynamic enough to give teams fits. They’ll have to be that and a little more to push this team toward the top of the East.

First match: Feb. 24 at ORL (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

D.C. made a smart trade for fullback Aaron Herrera, another solid trade for winger Jared Stroud and brought in DP No. 6 Matti Peltola to join DP No. 8 Mateusz Klich and U22 No. 10 Gabriel Pirani in midfield.

That’s all well and good, but it sure seems like they’re going to need a lot more to compete in the East. It’s hard to envision them making waves this year. That’s probably ok, though. D.C. are trying to find long-term stability under new CSO Ally Mackay and head coach Troy Lesesne.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. NE (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

Charlotte found a new head coach in Dean Smith. He seems to be a fit due to his Premier League experience and his having the most Carolina name possible.

Now they need to find two new DPs. Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak are both out and now we’re just waiting to see what’s next. Hopefully whatever it is frees up DP forward Enzo Copetti to take a step forward and rounds out an attack in desperate need of a jolt.

Otherwise, The Fightin’ Sir Mintys don’t seem to have a roster that can go blow for blow in the vaunted Eastern Conference.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. NYC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

They added striker Diego Rubio in free agency, got Jáder Obrian in the Re-Entry Draft and acquired Brazilian left back Guilherme Biro. But Austin FC's roster feels far too thin to compete. Sporting director Rodolfo Borrell will likely stay quite busy over the next few transfer windows.

First match: Feb. 24 vs. MIN (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)

We all have to go on our own personal journeys to find ourselves. 

First match: Feb. 25 at CIN (2:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass)