What you need to know

MLS statement on new CBA for Match Officials

The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) have finalized a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The agreement, covering the next seven years from 2024 through 2030, represents the longest CBA for match officials in Major League Soccer history. The match officials represented by PSRA will return to officiate MLS games beginning Saturday, March 30 (Matchday 7).

FC Dallas midfielder Pomykal out for 2024 season

FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal will undergo season-ending surgery to address cartilage damage in his left knee. An update on his recovery will be provided upon completion of the surgery.

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Who's the most surprising team so far?

Y’all should know how we feel about the MLS Soccer Dot Com preseason predictions at this point. Even calling them “educated guesses” is probably a step too far considering how impossible it is to predict this league. They’re not gospel. But they are a good barometer for the general vibe around a team heading into the year. Plus people get to yell about something and someone or a team's social media account gets to post “WE KEPT RECEIPTS” content at the end of the year when their team finishes eighth instead of 12th. 

Anyway, the early returns on the accuracy of those predictions have been, as always, mixed at best. However, a few teams have been more of a surprise than others. To find out which ones, I looked at each team’s average preseason projection and compared it to their current spot in the standings.

Hand up here. I had Dallas third in the Western Conference. The average prediction had them fifth.

The logic here still feels fine. First and foremost, everyone beyond LAFC and Seattle (yes we’re going to get there) felt like an uncertainty. You could have put spots 3-12 in any order and it would have made some sense. Second, Dallas didn’t entertain last year, but they did put together consistent performances defensively. They allowed the second-fewest goals in the conference. When you combined that solidity with an expensive DP striker in Petar Musa, and preseason reports the team’s switch to a back three had them looking Columbus Crew-esque, it made sense to think they could jump a few spots from their seventh-place finish in 2023.

Instead, they have just three points through four games. Their lone win came in stoppage time against San Jose. They haven’t turned into a dynamic attacking side and may have even started to abandon the back three. And now Paxton Pomykal is out for the season.

Very little has gone right to start the year and it may be that injuries keep them from being able to course correct. Either way, my third-place prediction is a long shot. Fifth place may be a tough ask, too.

It’s not like the Revs were expected to be a juggernaut. The average prediction had them eighth in the Eastern Conference and playing in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. But “dead last in MLS” didn’t seem on the table.

Even with their current position, it still doesn’t. They aren’t Wooden Spoon-level bad. But a combination of Concacaf Champions Cup play and lackluster performances across the board have already put their playoff hopes in a precarious position.

In the end, they’ll have enough firepower to at least push for a playoff spot by the end of the season, especially if their dynamic attacking midfielder, Dylan Borrero, returns from last year’s season-ending knee injury looking somewhat like himself. But there’s a chance they’ve already buried themselves too deep to make it across the line in Caleb Porter’s first season.

Life is hard when you're in CCC and it’s even harder when you don’t have world-class shot-stopping for the first time in years.

Montréal’s average projection came out to a totally reasonable 12th in the East. They missed the playoffs last year, changed managers and didn’t make a ton of changes to their roster. Somewhere near the status quo felt about right.

What we didn’t know, though, is Laurent Courtois would have this team humming from the start during his first year in charge. Through four consecutive road games to start the year, CFM have earned seven points and some of the best underlying numbers in the league. They were remarkably close to earning 10 points in four games before blowing a 3-1 lead against Chicago.

Their performance so far and the fact they’re already burning through their road games have me convinced. This is a team that can make the playoffs. Even if they don’t deviate too far from their preseason prediction, they’ll at least push for one of the East’s final spots barring a disaster. There’s a chance they may end up pushing for much more than that.

The Red Bulls had an average projection of ninth in the East coming into the year. Even in hindsight, that doesn’t seem unfair.

If you were paying attention last year, you knew the Red Bulls were putting in performances that gave them outstanding underlying numbers, but no end product. They clearly needed a boost in attack, but they were unlucky last season.

So far this season, they’ve gotten a huge boost in attack while maintaining their defensive solidity. The addition of Emil Forsberg and the reintegration of a healthy Lewis Morgan has immediately elevated this team. Even DP forward Dante Vanzeir has taken a step forward. Plus, they still have an open DP spot to add to that attack.

I don’t know if that means they’ll stay in second place, but it’s not implausible. This is the best Red Bulls side in a long while.

We shouldn’t spend much time here. Orlando were projected to finish fourth and are currently 13th. That says far more about balancing CCC and MLS in this case than the actual quality of their roster. I don’t think they’ll end up in a home playoff spot, but they’ll eventually be back in the fray in the middle of the East.

Heading into the year, the Loons had outstanding underlying numbers from 2023, Emanuel Reynoso and a returning cast of talented players. But they didn’t have a full-time manager. And they didn’t really make a whole lot of moves to improve themselves because their new chief soccer officer (Khaled El-Ahmad) arrived late in the offseason.

Despite a quality roster, it all felt too disjointed to put much faith in Minnesota United. Even for a “managers don’t matter” truther like me. Their average projection had them 11th in the West.

Well, so far, the quality of their roster has won out. Amazingly, it’s won out despite missing Reynoso for an extended period to start the year. Well, now Reynoso is back, their full-time manager (Eric Ramsay) has arrived and everything is setting up for the Loons to be a genuine contender at the top of the West. Right now, it doesn’t feel like anyone but the two LA teams are going to be able to challenge them.

We talked about this already this week. Progress is a good thing. Even if immediate success isn’t entirely sustainable. Even if you’re only actually slightly improved and things might get a little dire if Lorenzo Insigne is out for an extended period, you can take solace in the fact you probably aren’t going to finish in last place like everyone said. The John Herdman Effect is real.

I think we should just appreciate how Seattle have gone to an absolute extreme here. It’s genuinely impressive.

The Sounders were a near-unanimous pick to finish first in the West. I had them as my Supporters’ Shield winner. I could easily envision a world where they mowed down the rest of the West and collected point after point despite being a step behind a few teams in the East.

Instead, nearly everything has gone wrong. They’ll be healthier again soon, but they’re in a genuine hole after earning just two points through their first four games. It feels like the next few weeks are about pure survival instinct kicking in until they can get new DP winger Pedro de la Vega back from injury. It’s a little weird and difficult to explain, to be honest. This team, even with injuries, is better than this. At least I think so.

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Good luck out there. Have a bounce in your step.