New York Red Bulls John Tolkin
What you need to know

FIFA 2026 World Cup sites announced

The FIFA 2026 World Cup Final will be at MetLife Stadium on July 19, capping a tournament unfolding across three countries (United States, Canada and Mexico) after play begins with a June 11 opener at Mexico City's famed Estadio Azteca. Miami's Hard Rock Stadium was awarded the Third-Place Game. Mercedes-Benz Stadium – home of MLS side Atlanta United – and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas will host the semifinals.

New York Red Bulls name de Guzman sporting director

The New York Red Bulls continued their 2024 revamp on Friday, announcing Julian de Guzman as the club's new sporting director. The first-ever Canadian to play in LaLiga (with Deportivo La Coruña), the 42-year-old de Guzman also had stops in MLS with Toronto FC and FC Dallas before transitioning to managerial and general manager roles at now-defunct USL Championship side Ottawa Fury.

New York City FC sign Ojeda from Racing Club

New York City FC have acquired winger Agustín Ojeda from Argentine top-flight side Racing Club. Ojeda, a 19-year-old Argentine youth international, is under contract through the 2028 MLS season with an option for 2029. He joins as a U22 Initiative player.

D.C. United sign Finland international midfielder Peltola

D.C. United have filled their open Designated Player spot, announcing Friday they have signed Finland international midfielder Matti Peltola. The 21-year-old occupies a Young DP roster slot, affording the Black-and-Red maximum U22 Initiative flexibility (three spots). He is under contract through the 2027 MLS season with an option for 2028.

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Daily Kickoff Previews Day 1: New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

We’re so close. Vancouver even play an actual competitive game on Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions Cup. Competitive may not be the operative word in the end since they’re coming directly out of preseason into facing Tigres, but we know better than to count out Ryan Gauld and Brian White.

Since we’re so close, we figured we’d take a few days to run through each team in the league in as Daily Kickoff a style as we can without making you read a 5,000-word newsletter each morning. (Remember, you’re legally required to read the newsletter each morning.) Some things will change between now and opening day on Feb. 21, but we’ll still try and give you the upper hand on your friends when a club other than your own comes up in conversation.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

We spent the entirety of 2023 waiting for the Red Bulls to match their underlying numbers. They needed a last-minute John Tolkin penalty to sneak into the Wild Card Round and keep their playoff streak alive, but if we had played the season on a spreadsheet they would have had a home playoff spot wrapped by Decision Day. New York finished fourth league-wide in expected points and expected goal differential while allowing the fewest expected goals in the East. They even finished first in goals added differential. They were outstanding on paper. They were frustrating (and unlucky) on the field.

2024 DKO Range Prediction

Between third and ninth in the Eastern Conference.

It’s the Red Bulls. We have 14 years of precedent here that suggests picking them to not make the playoffs is a mistake. They’re going to finish ninth or higher. And it’s not tough to envision them turning some of those excellent underlying numbers last year into actual results. New DP midfielder Emil Forsberg could be their best signing in a long, long time. Attacker Lewis Morgan could be healthy again after a bummer of a season that saw him miss nearly the entire year. Their presence could be enough to send the Red Bulls toward their ceiling. If they fill their open DP spot with the elite No. 9 they’ve been missing, they’re going to be a nightmare to deal with. That doesn’t guarantee a top spot in this year’s East, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Player of the People

It’s Tolkin and it will be Tolkin until he leaves. The swagger, the hair, the talent. He’s a star. He shows us who we could be without all the crippling anxiety and self-doubt.

This could all go pretty well if…

If Forsberg is who we expect him to be, Morgan looks something like he did in 2022 when he scored 14 goals, and DP No. 9 to be named later is effective in the way other Red Bull strikers haven’t been, then this could be one of the best Red Bulls teams in a while. It may not show up in the standings in the crowded East, but they’re going to be a bear to wrestle every time out. That could translate to a stellar season. Or, ya know, it could end up feeling like the same old Red Bulls team struggling to be anything but dependable.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

Seattle’s numbers were remarkably similar to New York’s. They played outstanding defense, never quite created chances at an elite level, but still created chances and generally performed well. The difference for Seattle is they weren’t nearly as unlucky. They finished first league-wide in expected goals allowed and fifth in expected points. That translated to 53 actual points and a totally acceptable second-place finish in the West.

2024 DKO Range Prediction

Between first and third in the Western Conference.

Nico Lodeiro is gone, but the roster is as steady and strong as ever. They have too much experience and too much talent to do anything but finish near the top of a conference that, as of now, doesn’t seem to have any clear challengers at the top. The group as a whole didn’t get the kind of refresh that seemed plausible – in particular, Raul Ruidiaz is still there and occupying a DP spot despite making just 25 starts over the last two seasons – but Seattle did go out and find a new DP attacker to help guide them in a post-Lodeiro world. Twenty-two-year-old winger Pedro de la Vega will be tasked with unlocking defenses via his on-ball ability and could be key to pushing Seattle toward their first Supporters’ Shield of the Brian Schmetzer era.

Player of the People

You’re probably very familiar with most of the cast here, so we’ll go with 22-year-old midfielder Josh Atencio who made 10 starts last season and projects to play an even bigger role this season. He represents those of us working to make it in a highly competitive field.

This could all go pretty well if…

There’s not a severe injury crisis. If Seattle keep relatively healthy, they’re going to finish near the top of the West. It’s one of the most surefire bets of the offseason. Even if Ruidiaz doesn’t play much, they should be able to find enough production at striker from Jordan Morris and new addition Danny Musovski. They don’t even need de la Vega to be a world-beater. They just need him to be effective. That said, while the floor is high, the ceiling is de la Vega-dependent.

He’s not your typical Seattle DP. He’s young, he’s never been with a club that isn’t Lanus, and we don’t know how he’ll adapt. He could be an immediate star. In fact, that seems like the likely outcome. But there’s risk there.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

Bad. Real bad. 

Last. Last in all the underlying numbers. Like all of them. Think of an underlying number. They were last. That translated in the standings to a Wooden Spoon. 

2024 DKO Range Prediction

Between 10th and 15th in the Eastern Conference.

We’re talking about an actual miracle run to the playoffs if they make it happen. It involves some kind of montage where the team learns to overcome their differences, believe in each other and themselves, and climbs the standings as presented through a series of newspaper headlines and a collection of wacky in-game and off-field moments that show how their confidence is growing. There are also actual, literal angels from heaven involved so that a down-on-his-luck child can find his real dad. That part is very important.

Last year can be counted among some of the all-time disaster seasons in MLS, and the team straight up has not changed since then. Everyone involved seems to realize this year is about taking more pain and incrementally improving until they can jettison the bad contracts holding the roster down. 

Player of the People

We know he’s not a player, but we’re going with new manager John Herdman here. He represents all of us who have taken on a new job and been overwhelmed by the amount of work they actually need us to do.

This could all go pretty well if…

The whole thing about the angels comes good. Either that or Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi suddenly become who we hoped they could be when they arrived and a whole bunch of young or unknown players find their way well ahead of schedule.

Other Things

Real Salt Lake sign left back Katranis: Real Salt Lake have acquired left back Alexandros Katranis from Polish top-flight side Piast Gliwice. The 25-year-old former Greek youth international is under contract through the 2025 MLS season with club options for 2026-27.

Columbus Crew sign Zawadzki to contract extension: Reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew have signed Sean Zawadzki to a contract extension through the 2027 season. A homegrown midfielder/defender, Zawadzki is entering his third MLS season with 4g/0a in 35 matches. He took a significant step forward last year, showing versatility and making his US men's national team debut in January camp.

Columbus Crew, Molino mutually terminate contract: The Columbus Crew and midfielder Kevin Molino have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. The 33-year-old Trinidad & Tobago international has played in MLS since the 2015 season, tallying 34g/29a in 135 regular-season matches across Columbus, Minnesota United FC and Orlando City SC.

Rowe retires after 12-year MLS career: Veteran MLS midfielder and former US international Kelyn Rowe is retiring from professional soccer after a 12-year career. The 32-year-old made the announcement Friday, ending a successful, decade-plus run in the league that included stints with the New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City and, most recently, Seattle Sounders FC.

LA Galaxy star Puig changes number for 2024 season: Riqui Puig is no longer sporting No. 6 for the LA Galaxy. For the 2024 campaign, the Spanish midfielder will now don the No. 10 – a shirt most recently worn by Douglas Costa for the record five-time MLS Cup champions.

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Good luck out there. Keep important dates in mind.