Actual, real-life, competitive soccer kicks off next week for five MLS teams competing in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League. But transaction-related news still takes center stage.

Let's sift through the biggest official, reported and rumored news of the last few days. Another edition of Transfer TL;DR (shoutout Andrew Wiebe).

It's happening. Xherdan Shaqiri will soon officially be a Chicago Fire FC player.

As first reported by MLSsoccer.com, the Fire and Ligue 1's Lyon agreed to a $7.5 million transfer for Shaqiri. The player underwent his medical and will sign his contract before being officially announced as the Fire's newest star.

It should go without saying, but this is a huge deal. Shaqiri plus Toronto signing Italy international Lorenzo Insigne this winter are two (hopefully) trendsetting moves.

Shaqiri, 30, is the captain and a constant with Switzerland's national team, which has already qualified for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. He just earned his 100th cap. While his move to Lyon this summer didn't quite work out as expected, he still had five goal contributions across 684 minutes. Not a bad return.

The attacker won the 2020-21 Premier League with Liverpool and the 2020 Champions League final with the English club, playing a key role in the famous 4-3 aggregate comeback over Barcelona, assisting the series-tying goal. He won the Champions League with Bayern Munich, as well as three league titles with the German club, plus three league titles with FC Basel, back when Fire sporting director Georg Heitz was leading the Swiss club.

Shaqiri will immediately become one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the league, with his penchant for golazos.

The soon-to-be league's newest star is on track to be fit and available to debut during the Fire's opener against Gonzalo Higuain and Inter Miami CF on Feb. 26.

Shaqiri isn't the only well-known global attacker joining MLS immediately.

The LA Galaxy are finalizing a deal to sign former Brazil international winger Douglas Costa, as first reported by MLSsoccer.com.

Costa, 31, hasn't been so successful in recent seasons but remains a preternaturally talented attacker at the end of his prime. He's only a few years removed from a four-goal, 12-assist Serie A campaign with Juventus.

The Brazilian has played for Bayern, Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk after making his professional debut with Gremio. He could be a boom-or-bust type signing with his profile and talent.

Costa is the Galaxy's third DP, alongside Chicharito and Kevin Cabral. Those three are expected to make up Greg Vanney's first-choice attacking line in his preferred 4-3-3 formation, but there are plenty of options and flexibility with the likes of Dejan Joveljic, Efrain Alvarez and Samuel Grandsir as further attackers in the group.

Fabrizio Romano reports the technicalities that he will arrive on loan from Juventus for six months, then continue with LA as a free agent. It sounds complicated but the bottom line is he's here. ... And even teased it himself.

The Portland Timbers' talisman is staying home.

After prolonged contract negotiations thanks to early hurdles around a medical, then a dalliance with free agency that included interest and offers from MLS, South America and elsewhere, Blanco will return to the Timbers on a two-year deal. Sources expect the agreement to be finalized and announced this week.

Blanco will be the Timbers' third DP this year – alongside Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Yimmi Chara — but he will not make more than the max-TAM charge ($1.62m), meaning the club can use all three U22 Initiative slots, per sources. It also means Portland can buy him down off a DP spot in the future. If they do that, they would need to add a Young DP to retain use of three U22 Initiative slots, something the club will be doing.

Portland already have Santiago Moreno and David Ayala occupying two U22 Initiative slots. They plan to sign a third this year, either before the Primary Transfer Window closes in mid-spring or the summer. Moreno arrived last summer and can play anywhere in the attack, while Ayala is a central midfielder who's adept at both defensive and box-to-box roles.

Blanco, 33, has been with the Timbers since 2017 and has 33 goals and 42 assists across 127 regular-season appearances. He has helped lead Portland to MLS Cup twice, in 2018 and 2021. Last season he returned from a torn ACL to great effect, accruing seven goals and seven assists in just 1,182 minutes.

Prior to his injury in 2020, Blanco was an MLS MVP candidate and led Portland to the MLS is Back Tournament title.

NYCFC added another DP this week: Center back Thiago Martins from Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos, a fellow City Football Group outfit.

The Brazilian defender isn't what fans necessarily expected in terms of a DP for NYCFC – the Cityzens have previously added rising attacking talents Talles Magno, Alexandru Matan, Jesus Medina and more for significant transfer fees. Center backs are rarely signed to DP deals in MLS.

I stress that I'm not reporting this or saying it definitively, but: Rarely is a center back firmly a DP. Players have spent time being classified as a DP, like Alan Franco in Atlanta or Teenage Hadebe in Houston, but both can be bought down. We won't know unless transfer/contract details come out, but one would imagine Thiago Martins can be bought down if need be.

Maxi Moralez can also be bought down from his DP tag, be it now or later. But for now, it looks like Magno, Moralez and Martins will open the season as DPs for NYCFC.

Enough of the boring cap stuff. NYCFC were in desperate need of another ready-made center back beyond the MLS Cup-winning pairing of Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot. Every MLS club needs three good center backs, a regular Jim Curtin truism. Now central defense isn't thin anymore.

Concacaf Champions League run, anybody?

Another deal that's gone official: D.C. United acquired Ecuador international forward Michael Estrada from Liga MX's Toluca on a loan with a purchase option.

Estrada, 25, had 17 goals and five assists for Toluca in 66 appearances over the last few years and has started most of Ecuador's World Cup qualifying matches.

The Washington Post reports the purchase option is set at $5 million, which would mean he'd be a DP next year if D.C. make the move permanent. Nashville SC previously were interested in Estrada as a secondary target during their chase of Ake Loba, who was signed last summer from CF Monterrey for a club-record $6.8 million.

The move is the latest in a busy few weeks for United, who have signed Estrada and Taxi Fountas (DP), plus traded $750k GAM to Seattle for Brad Smith. That's all after the departures of Kevin Paredes to Wolfsburg (transfer for club-record $7.35 million) and Paul Arriola to FC Dallas (trade for $2 million GAM).

Charlotte FC are closing in on signing Venezuelan winger Darwin Machis as another DP. Sources say Charlotte remain confident the deal will get done, but nothing is 100% just yet. The deal is reported to be around $6 million.

Machis, who just turned 29 this week, currently plays for La Liga side Granada. He has 31 goals and 22 assists in 145 appearances for the Spanish club and has featured for the likes of Udinese, SD Huesca and more in his career. He has 35 caps with the Venezuelan national team.

The move would help complete Charlotte's opening day attack, following recently-signed DP center forward Karol Swiderski, who joined for $5 million from Greece's PAOK. Machis would slot in at left wing, while Titi Ortiz and Yordy Reyna are likely options on the right-hand side of Miguel Angel Ramirez's preferred 4-3-3 formation.

Charlotte open their expansion season against D.C. United on Feb. 26 before hosting their inaugural home match against LA Galaxy on March 5.

As has been reported for months, Jozy Altidore is headed for a Toronto FC exit. It was always most likely to be a contract buyout, and it looks like that's where we're going.

Toronto head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said Tuesday to expect an "announcement on Jozy soon."

NBA insider Marc Stein first reported that Altidore is nearing a deal with the New England Revolution, reuniting him with former USMNT manager Bruce Arena. Once his TFC exit is official, Altidore can join the Revs.

ESPN's Jeff Carlisle reports the deal will be in the TAM range, meaning he'll make more than the max budget charge ($612,000). Carlisle also reported Sporting KC tried to sign him too, with star center forward Alan Pulido out for the season.

For New England, Altidore provides further insurance in case Adam Buksa leaves for Europe in the summer. Buksa's expected to command offers after a number of clubs looked into signing him this winter, including a deadline day approach that fell through.

Altidore, 32, has 77 goals and 25 assists across 176 MLS regular-season games (135 starts) with the New York Red Bulls and Toronto. He was a leader of Toronto's 2017 treble-winning season where they captured MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and a Canadian Championship. With 115 caps and 42 goals with the USMNT, he's among the most accomplished players in national team history.

Altidore is Toronto’s second all-time leading scorer behind Sebastian Giovinco. Speaking of...

Sebastian Giovinco

While we're on Toronto and Altidore, his old running mate Giovinco nearly returned to MLS. A headline reunion with Toronto wasn't to be for the 35-year-old, who has officially signed with Sampdoria in Serie A.

Giovinco had been in preseason camp with TFC, while a few other MLS teams showed interest in him. For those further down the Allocation Order, maneuvering up added another complication to the chase, per sources. Giovinco would have relished a return to MLS, particularly Toronto. TFC are currently second in the order, behind FC Cincinnati, though a deal never materialized as fans expected when they saw him in preseason.

"When Seba joined us, there were still discussions going on about his situation... honestly it was great to have him around for some days," Bradley said. "But then the way a lot of these different things came together, he felt the best option was going back to Italy."

Giovinco had 68 goals and 52 assists across 114 regular-season games with Toronto upon joining from Serie A powerhouse Juventus. He’s a club legend who helped bring numerous trophies to Toronto, highlighted by an MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship treble in 2017.