Top free agents for the 2023 MLS season: Bedoya, Long, Salloi & more

The list of free agents for 2023 is out, as provided by the MLS Players Association. A number of big, coveted players are available.

Thanks in part to new, lessened requirements for free agency – at least 24 years old and five years of service in MLS – more players are available than in years past.

Transparency is good. The full list of potential free agents (including those with a club option for 2023) can be found here. This is not a comprehensive list of players out of contract; it is only the players who meet the requirements for MLS free agency.

In our view, these are the best players available this offseason.

Tom Bogert: A current stalwart with the US men’s national team and 2018 MLS Defender of the Year still in his prime? Aaron Long will be one of the league’s most sought-after free agents.

Long will be 30 in the offseason, firmly in peak years for central defenders. He may well be a first-choice starter at the Qatar 2022 World Cup for the USMNT. Walker Zimmerman’s DP contract extension with Nashville SC might lift the top end of the market for Long. There won’t be a shortage of teams interested in signing him; I reported earlier this year the New York Red Bulls rejected a very lucrative trade offer in the offseason for him.

The Red Bulls lost homegrown midfielder and captain Sean Davis to Nashville in free agency last year, too.

Matt Doyle: I doubt he’ll get a Zimmerman-esque DP deal, but Long makes a lot of sense for a lot of teams on something approaching max TAM.

The Red Bulls are obviously one of them, but Long’s a SoCal boy. It’s very easy to imagine him being the LA Galaxy’s main priority this winter.

TB: At 26 years old, Daniel Salloi directly benefits from the lessened free agency requirements. At this age and résumé, if he chooses to stay in MLS rather than head to Europe, Salloi will have a ton of teams interested, including incumbent Sporting KC who want to keep him.

Salloi hasn’t quite hit the same marks in 2022 as his career-best year in 2021, where he had 16g/8a, but the Hungarian international and homegrown player is still a dynamic winger in his prime.

MD: I feel like it’s a long shot for him to sign elsewhere in MLS – if he leaves Sporting, it’ll likely be to go back to Europe, right?

So my money would be on KC keeping him. But my god would he be a perfect fit for a Houston Dynamo side that desperately needs more productivity from its wingers.

TB: Jonathan Osorio has spoken of his desire to head to Europe at some point. This is his most realistic, if not last, chance at 30 years old and as an impending free agent.

If he chooses to stay in MLS, Osorio will have options. He has made 252 regular-season appearances for his boyhood Toronto FC since 2013 and is having one of his best attacking seasons production-wise this year.

Osorio will be at the upcoming World Cup with Canada.

MD: Gonna just pour some gasoline on this one: If Djordje Mihailovic is sold this winter, then the best and most obvious landing spot for Osorio in free agency is CF Montréal. The second best is – I’m not kidding here – Vancouver.

If I was Toronto, I would do everything in my power to prevent either of those outcomes.

TB: Traded from the Columbus Crew to the Colorado Rapids in late April, USMNT forward Gyasi Zardes could be on the move again this winter.

Zardes, who will be 31 in the offseason, has 3g/2a in 12 appearances with the Rapids so far. He helped lead the Crew to an MLS Cup 2020 title and has 57 goals in the last four-plus seasons.

The Rapids acquired Zardes for $300,000 in General Allocation up-front and another $1.1 million in add-ons. A lot of those are tied into Zardes re-signing in Colorado, so Columbus are watching his future with great financial incentive.

MD: Kind of need to see how the rest of the year plays out for Gyasi in Colorado – right now it probably doesn’t make a ton of sense to re-sign him given the substantial GAM hit because of those add-ons. Beyond that, it doesn’t really feel like a bidding war is going to ensue.

Just throwing darts here, but either Dallas (replacing Franco Jara as the primary backup striker) or Austin (he’s got a connection to Josh Wolff, who was an assistant in Columbus when Gyasi was there) could be the endpoint.

TB: Alejandro Bedoya is the Philadelphia Union’s captain and a key piece to the group on the field, even at his age in a highly energetic, young team.

Bedoya, 35, has made 176 regular-season appearances with the Union after arriving in 2016. He’s been integral in the club’s turnaround from laughing stock to hitting new heights year after year. He lifted the 2020 Supporters’ Shield, then helped lead Philly to the 2021 Concacaf Champions League semifinals and Eastern Conference Final in the same season.

You’d be shocked if he left Philadelphia, right?

MD: I would be utterly shocked, yeah. But Bedoya grew up one town over from Fort Lauderdale, and Chris Henderson has been smart about adding veteran pieces from within the league. He could fit at Inter Miami as a rotation piece.

TB: Completing his fifth year in MLS, Eric Remedi is on an expiring contract and qualifies for free agency, per the MLSPA.

Originally acquired by Atlanta United in 2018 during the summer of that season ahead of winning MLS Cup, Remedi has made 105 regular-season appearances. He’s spent the last year-and-a-half with San Jose, where he’s been a regular starter.

If Remedi leaves San Jose, it’ll be interesting to see if it’s elsewhere in MLS or abroad. He began his career at Banfield and was linked with a move back to Argentina before being acquired by San Jose.

MD: Remedi’s a little too turnover-prone to be termed “reliable,” but after a half-decade in MLS I think everybody knows what they’re getting from him. He could be a solid depth piece for any number of good teams, as he was for those great Atlanta teams in 2018 & ‘19.

TB: Anton Tinnerholm just returned from a long-term Achilles injury that kept him out for nearly a calendar year. Until then, Tinnerholm had been extremely durable.

Before his injury, Tinnerholm started 106 of NYCFC’s regular-season games over three-and-a-half seasons, proving among the best right backs in the league. The former Sweden international was injured during the club’s victorious MLS Cup run last year.

Tinnerhom will enter his age-32 season in 2023. He was one of the highest-paid right backs in MLS this year.

MD: We need to see if Tinnerholm can get back to 100% – or at least 90%, anyway. Thus far in his recovery, he hasn’t been close.

Still, it’s early days and there’s no reason to think he’s permanently damaged (everybody comes back from torn Achilles these days). If it plays out like that, I don’t think there’s any chance NYCFC let him go.

Of course, I could see FC Cincinnati coming in over the top of every other bid. Cincy ask a lot of their fullbacks/wingbacks in attack, and Tinnerholm is one of the very best attacking fullbacks in league history.

TB: The second of three integral NYCFC players on this list, Sean Johnson is a free agent in a few months.

Johnson, 33, has been with NYCFC since 2017 and continued developing to where he’s a constant in the USMNT player pool and has a chance to go to the World Cup. He also won MLS Cup MVP in December after his penalty shootout heroics vs. the Portland Timbers.

Prior to NYCFC, Johnson spent eight years with Chicago Fire FC. He has made 341 regular-season appearances.

MD: As with Tinnerholm it’s hard to imagine NYCFC letting Johnson go, but if you’re running the ship in Atlanta, you’ve got to make them sweat it, right? Brad Guzan will be 38 and coming off a major injury, while none of the young ‘keepers who’ve soaked up his minutes since his injury have been particularly impressive.

Johnson, who’s from greater Atlanta, was technically part of the Five Stripes for an afternoon back in December 2016. They traded for him from Chicago, then shipped him along to NYCFC.

TB: NYCFC’s Peruvian international center back, Alexander Callens is a free agent this offseason.

Callens, 30, is in his sixth season with NYCFC. He has made 156 appearances in the league, making the playoffs every season. He, Johnson and Tinnerholm have been foundational pieces for the defensive unit for years.

The market for Callens is expected to be robust.

MD: Arguably the biggest prize in this year’s free-agent class, and another one that NYCFC have to do everything in their power to hold onto.

Basically every team in the league that needs a CB should be making a run at him. As with Long, I don’t think he’ll get a full DP deal, but max TAM somewhere – the Bronx, Frisco, Foxborough, Cincinnati – makes a hell of a lot of sense.

TB: Ola Kamara has spent parts of seven seasons in MLS and has scored everywhere he’s been, between stints with D.C. United, LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew. He has 81g/13a in 162 regular-season appearances, including seven goals in 938 minutes this year.

The former Norway international will be 33 this winter.

This year, D.C. have added Ecuador international center forward Michael Estrada on loan (from Liga MX’s Toluca) and are trading for Miguel Berry (from Columbus Crew). New manager Wayne Rooney is expected to play a 4-2-3-1 formation. Kamara has been available in trade talks all year.

MD: There are at least a dozen teams (probably closer to two-dozen) that could use him as a super-sub No. 9. This is the type of talent that CCL-caliber sides can bring off the bench, so I’d hope whichever teams punch that particular ticket look to bring Ola on for a super-sub role.

TB: Ryan Hollingshead was acquired by LAFC this offseason from FC Dallas in exchange for Marco Farfan and the versatile fullback, who can play on either side, has been a regular starter for the Supporters’ Shield leaders.

Hollingshead has continued his penchant for scoring goals from the fullback position with 4g/1a in 17 appearances for the Black & Gold. The 31-year-old spent the first eight seasons of his MLS career with FC Dallas.

He has 210 career regular-season appearances.

MD: Why leave home? LAFC seem a good bet to keep Hollingshead, who can play on either side of that backline and who makes a lot of sense for a possession-heavy team that uses its fullbacks to attack.

If it’s not the Black & Gold, then maybe up the coast in San Jose would make sense.

TB: Another MLS veteran acquired by LAFC this season, Franco Escobar arrived in a trade from Atlanta United.

Escobar, who turns 28 before opening day next season, won MLS Cup with Atlanta United in 2018 and has 72 career regular-season appearances. He has just seven starts with a loaded LAFC team so far this year.

MD: Another LAFC fullback who I’d expect to stay in LA. If that doesn’t happen, Escobar could end up being a very good fit for a St. Louis CITY SC expansion project that’ll need MLS veterans to help stabilize what’s looking to be an import-heavy group.