We're well-traveled along the road to 2020. With MLS growing to 26 teams with the inclusion of expansion sides Inter Miami and Nashville SC, the offseason is barreling towards next season. The full schedule has been released and some teams kicking off preseason in little more than a week. We're less than two months away from MLS opening weekend. And we’ve got you covered on a macro view of the affairs of each club.
Most notable move this week: Nothing official for Atlanta this week as the club near preseason starting ahead of the CCL.
Biggest move so far: The club traded maestro Darlington Nagbe to Columbus Crew SC for a pile of allocation money earlier this offseason, allowing the midfielder’s long-rumored move home to Ohio to come to fruition.
Biggest question/hole: In trading for Brooks Lennon, does this mean Julian Gressel moves to central midfield? Or does that give the club insurance for Gressel should he move on? His future remains one of the club’s top offseason priorities, given how integral the dependable German has become in Atlanta. He wants a new contract and has been public in his frustration with how negotiations are going. Will both parties find common ground or are his days numbered with the Five Stripes?
Rumors have it: Center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez has reportedly completed his transfer to Liga MX side Club Tijuana. Meanwhile: Atlanta are reportedly looking at Paraguayan central midfielder Mathias Villasanti. They had success with their last Paraguayan center mid, a fella by the name of Miguel Almiron, if you remember.
Projected starting XI (3-4-2-1, right to left): Guzan; Escobar, Robinson, Gonzalez Pirez; Gressel, Hyndman, Remedi, Pereira; P. Martinez, Barco; J. Martinez
Chicago Fire FC
Most notable move this week: The first big sporting moves of the offseason are out of the way for Chicago as they built out their key technical staffers: The Fire appointed Georg Heitz as sporting director, followed by Raphael Wicky as head coach and Sebastian Pelzer as technical director.
Biggest move so far: *Takes deep breath* Okay, so, is it the stadium change? Or the ownership change? Or the head coaching change? Or the fact that the club have moved on from Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nico Gaitan, Nemanja Nikolic, Aleksandar Katai and Dax McCarty, thus opening all three DP slots, some international slots and more cap space?
Biggest question/hole: It’d be too lazy to say “everywhere” given they have so much flexibility, but instead, a tale of caution: The Vancouver Whitecaps also had a huge expansion-like makeover last season, then finished bottom of the Western Conference. How will the Fire manage this tectonic shift? (P.S.: Obviously, take absolutely no stock in the projected XI below).
Rumors have it: Now that Heitz, Wicky and Pelzer are in place, expect the roster news to start flowing.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Kronholm; Kappelhof, Marcelo, Calvo, Bornstein; Azira, Medran, Mihailovic; Frankowski, Sapong, Edwards
Most notable move this week: Quiet week for FC Cincinnati.
Biggest move so far: Haris Medunjanin's acquisition is a big coup for Ron Jans’ preferred possession-based 4-3-3. Though 34 years old, Medunjanin is one of the top distributors in the league and would be a natural fit for that style of play. He was still one of the league's best midfielders in 2019 despite his age.
Biggest question/hole: How much change can general manager Gerard Nijkamp cultivate this winter? The team are hamstrung by contracts signed last offseason that are guaranteed through 2020, so it’s an uphill battle to turn the roster over. The midfield and defense is solid, but the attack needs more top-end talent.
Rumors have it: It was reported that Cincy will aim to sign three DPs this offseason, but no strong links there yet. Also: Both Cincy and Fanendo Adi have been public in their hope to move on, but there’s no news on that front.
Projected starting XI (right to left): Richey; Deplagne, Waston, van der Werff, Garza; Medunjanin, Bertone, Cruz; Manneh, Vazquez, Mattocks
Most notable move this week: All quiet in Colorado for a few weeks after a few early moves.
Biggest move so far: The Rapids getting Lalas Abubakar back was a deal many expected to get done this offseason, but the Auston Trusty trade came as a surprise. It continues a recent Rapids trend of taking fliers on young, high-ceiling Homegrown MLSers. If Trusty recaptures the lofty potential he flashed in his 2018 campaign, when he played every single minute of the regular season, the trade will look like a steal. Robin Fraser has a number of strong defenders to deploy.
Biggest question/hole: There has been a lot of talk in Colorado about the 2020 season, with increased cap flexibility. With Tim Howard retiring and Shkelzen Gashi waived, the Rapids now have three open DP slots. How will they be used?
Rumors have it: The Rapids are searching for a DP No. 10, but no specific players linked just yet.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Irwin; Rosenberry, Abubakar, Trusty, Vines; Price, Wilson, Acosta; Rubio, Kamara, Lewis
Columbus Crew SC
Biggest move so far: While Darlington Nagbe's return home to Ohio was huge, Zelarayan gives the club another attacking star that potentially moves them up a tier in the Eastern Conference.
Biggest question/hole: The weeks prior, this space was filled with complimenting the depth of the squad but questioning if the club had enough top-end talent. Then they went out and gave Tigres a bag of cash for Zelarayan. Can he take them to the next level?
Rumors have it: After sealing the Zelarayan transfer, the rumor mill is all quiet in Columbus.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Room; Afful, Mensah, Keita, Valenzuela; Trapp, Nagbe; Diaz, Zelarayan, Santos; Zardes
Most notable move this week: FC Dallas secured a loan deal for Chilean talent Pablo Aranguiz to Universidad de Chile. The agreement comes with an option to purchase following the loan.
Biggest move so far: Fafa Picault is a key addition thus far this offseason for a club that have been chasing a goalscoring winger for a couple of seasons.
Biggest question/hole: Dallas have a deep and talented squad, but are there enough elite playmakers to take them over the top? Can the cadre of Homegrowns take another leap in 2020?
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Gonzalez; Cannon, Hedges, Ziegler, Hollingshead; Acosta, Servania; Barrios, Pomykal, Picault; Ondrasek
Most notable move this week: Quiet week for D.C. United, as the club continue to prepare for life after LuchoRoo.
Biggest move so far: Though signed at the end of last season on a pre-contract agreement for 2020, Yamil Asad returning to the club after a year gone is great news. Perhaps even bigger is Bill Hamid returning after a huge year in 2019.
Biggest question/hole: Will Asad, Ola Kamara and Paul Arriola be enough to carry the burden or will the club invest in more attacking talent with Rooney and Acosta vacating two DP slots? Will Russell Canouse return to 2018 form?
Rumors have it: According to reports, Canouse is a target for 2. Bundesliga side Dynamo Dresden. Reports also noted the the club is in "advanced talks" to acquire Peruvian international winger Edison Flores from Morelia.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Hamid; Fisher, Birnbaum, Brilliant, Mora; Canouse, Moreno; Asad, Arriola, Segura; Kamara
Biggest move so far: For the culture and future, it’s hiring Tab Ramos as head coach. As for players, acquiring attacker Darwin Quintero from Minnesota United raises their attack and offers insurance should either Mauro Manotas and/or Alberth Elis depart this offseason. Could a front four of Manotas, Elis, Quintero and Christian Ramirez co-exist?
Biggest question/hole: After bringing in Victor Cabrera and Zarek Valentin, the club are on their way to re-shaping their backline but they still need more goalies, with just one on the roster. Most importantly, they need to decide on the future of Manotas and Elis. (Once again: Don’t take much stock in the projected XI at this stage.)
Rumors have it: Manotas is reportedly a target for a few French clubs while Houston are set to sign former Croatian youth international goalkeeper Marko Maric.
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Nelson; Bizama, Struna, Cabrera, Valentin; Vera, Garcia; Elis, Quintero; Ramirez, Manotas
Biggest move so far: Uruguay U-23 midfielder Francisco Ginella represents the biggest coup thus far this offseason after a big summer that saw highly-rated youngsters Brian Rodriguez and Diego Palacios join.
Biggest question/hole: LAFC are returning most of their record-setting 2019 side while giving Rodriguez and Palacios a full season with the club. More of the same in 2020? Will Carlos Vela play as a false nine alongside Diego Rossi and Rodriguez, or will Rossi be sold?
Rumors have it: Rossi has been linked with a move to Europe, though nothing new of late.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Sisniega; Blackmon, Segura, Zimmerman, Palacios; Atuesta, Kaye, Blessing; Rodriguez, Vela, Rossi
Biggest move so far: Moving past Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Aleksandar Katai as a TAM player could be a sneaky good move. The winger showed flashes of brilliance with the Chicago Fire but couldn't quite find consistency. Maybe a change of scenery will help.
Biggest question/hole: What happens in Ibrahimovic’s absence? That’s where it all starts. After that, they'll need to solve the puzzle of how to improve their defense in 2020. (There are many players to come in, so, don’t take the projected XI too seriously at this stage.)
Rumors have it: The Galaxy are linked with Peruvian defender Carlos Zambrano.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Bingham; Feltscher, Gonzalez, Steres, Insua; dos Santos, Lletget, Corona; Pavon, Zubak, Katai
Inter Miami CF
Most notable move this week: Worth the wait? Inter Miami appointed two-time CCL winning manager Diego Alonso to be their inaugural head coach. They also signed center back Roman Torres and forward Juan Agudelo.
Biggest move so far: Their first players signed: Matias Pellegrini and Julian Carranza, two highly-rated 19-year-old Argentinians who are expected to be two of MLS' most exciting young talents in 2020.
Biggest question/hole: Now that a coach is sorted, the clock continues to tick for Miami heading toward preseason on the playing side. They have two vacant DP spots as well as a number of international slots left. Who will join?
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Robles; Powell, Makoun, Torres, Sweat; Ulloa, Chapman; Pellegrini, Nguyen, Agudelo; Carranza
Most notable move this week: Another slow week by way of official transactions for Minnesota United as the calendar flips to 2020.
Biggest move so far: MNUFC sent star attacker Darwin Quintero to the Houston Dynamo, signaling an impending revamp of their attack.
Biggest question/hole: How will the Loons replace Quintero? Is Mason Toye ready to lead the line for a full season? Similarly, will Angelo Rodriguez remain with the club? And can MNUFC retain goalkeeper Vito Mannone after his loan expired?
Rumors have it: Minnesota are reportedly chasing Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla, who led the Ecuadorian top flight in goals this season.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Ranjitsingh; Metanire, Opara, Boxall, Gasper; Alonso, Dotson, Gregus; Lod, Toye, Molino
Biggest move so far: Ignacio Piatti is set to be the club’s leading man once more now that he’s back, but appointing Thierry Henry as manager is a huge coup and signal of intent.
Biggest question/hole: After conceding 60 goals in 2019, fixing the defense will be Henry’s first task, while finding that ever-elusive best combination of interesting attacking pieces. Which position will Bojan fill and who plays center forward?
Rumors have it: Orji Okwonkwo returned to sister club Bologna after his loan ended, though sporting director Olivier Renard told MLSsoccer.com that "the plan is" for Okwonkwo to be back in Montreal for the 2020 season. Meanwhile, though the club picked up his contract, Piatti has (again) been linked with a move back to Argentina.
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Bush; Corrales, Camacho, Raitala, Yao; Piette, Taider; Piatti, Bojan, Lappalainen; Urruti
Most notable move this week: Another quiet week for Nashville as they build for their inaugural MLS season.
Biggest move so far: Given it’s an expansion offseason, let’s take two rather than just one. The club’s first DP Hany Mukhtar will be an attacking centerpiece, while Dax McCarty will help anchor the midfield as well as usher in the culture head coach Gary Smith seeks to create.
Biggest question/hole: At the moment, Nashville don’t have a proven center forward nor an upper-tier center back. Is Dom Badji the answer up top? With plenty of time to go in the offseason and cap/DP flexibility, expect those to change before their inaugural MLS match.
Rumors have it: Rumors are struggling to keep up with the actual transactions Nashville are making.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Willis; Beckeles, Anibaba, Romney, Lovitz; McCarty, Godoy; Leal, Mukhtar, Accam; Badji
New England Revolution
Most notable move this week: No new moves this week for the Revs, not far removed from signing Polish striker Adam Buksa as the club's third Designated Player.
Biggest move so far: Buksa sneakily gives the Revs one of the top attacks in the league. Can the 23-year-old, who is on the cusp of making his international debut, grow in the league and become a big star?
Rumors have it: No fresh rumors around the Revs this week.
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Turner; Bye, Delamea, Farrell, Buttner; Caicedo, Zahibo; Bou, Gil, Penilla; Buksa
New York City FC
Most notable move this week: It's been a quiet offseason for NYCFC. The club are still without a coach as the clock ticks down towards Concacaf Champions League action in February.
Biggest question/hole: The club's coaching vacancy is currently the biggest hole for one of the league’s most talented and deepest teams. Will the team have another transitional phase to nail down new tactics once again like when Dome Torrent came aboard in 2018?
Projected starting XI (3-4-1-2, right to left): Johnson; Chanot, Sands, Callens; Tinnerholm, Ring, Moralez, Matarrita; Mitrita; Castellanos, Heber
New York Red Bulls
Biggest move so far: The two huge exits of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles are the Red Bulls' biggest moves. It’s the start of something new in Harrison.
Biggest question/hole: For years, it was simple: The Red Bulls had one of the league’s best goalscorers and goalkeepers. How will the club replace BWP and Robles? With Josh Sims’ future in question, the Red Bulls may well have two DP spots open behind Kaku, too.
Rumors have it: The rumor mill has gone quiet for the Red Bulls.
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Meara; Duncan, Parker, Long, Lawrence; Casseres Jr., Davis; Royer, Kaku, Muyl; White
Orlando City SC
Most notable move this week: For the second consecutive week, Orlando signed a South American defender on loan with option to buy. This week, it was 26-year-old Brazilian Antonio Carlos.
Biggest move so far: While Colombian U-20 midfielder Andres Perea may be a key acquisition, appointing Oscar Pareja head coach – and the stability they seek under him – is their biggest move thus far.
Biggest question/hole: What will the club look like under Pareja, particularly in defense? The Lions made strides in defense last year, though having been the league’s worst defensive team in 2018, there was nowhere to go but up.
Rumors have it: OCSC reportedly turned down a hefty offer for midfielder Sebastian Mendez.
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Rowe; Ruan, Jansson, Carlos, Miller; Mendez, Rosell; Nani, Pereyra, Akindele; Dwyer
Biggest move so far: After a club-record season and first-ever playoff win, changes have already taken place for Philly. They've moved on from Haris Medunjanin, Marco Fabian, Fafa Picault, Auston Trusty and more ahead of next season. Jose Andres Martinez is the first reinforcement.
Biggest question/hole: What will they do with this newfound flexibility and how will sporting director Ernst Tanner further his vision for a high-pressing Union side after that club-record 2019?
Rumors have it: Not much on the rumor mill around Philly, as the club aim to keep Jamiro Monteiro permanently after a successful loan.
Projected starting XI (4-4-2 diamond, right to left): Blake; Gaddis, Elliott, McKenzie, Wagner; Martinez, Bedoya, Turner, Aaronson; Przybylko, Santos
Biggest move so far: The attack has a new star, as the 28-year-old Yimmi Chara comes to the club in his prime and with big expectations. The Colombian international will help form one of the most talented front lines in the league.
Biggest question/hole: With Chara in, joining Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Jeremy Ebobisse in attack, where will the Timbers use that final DP slot? Also: The club have one natural center forward on the roster.
Rumors have it: After chasing Chara for a bit, no new rumors in Portland just yet.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Clark; Moreira, Mabiala, Tuiloma, Villafana; D. Chara, Zambrano; Blanco, Valeri, Y. Chara; Ebobisse
Real Salt Lake
Most notable move this week: It's been a quiet few weeks for RSL as the club head toward the season.
Biggest move so far: RSL doubled down on their build-from-within ethos, removing the interim tags from Freddy Juarez and Elliot Fall. Both have been with the club for a long time. On the field, keeping Everton Luiz. is also a big deal.
Biggest question/hole: With the club structure set now, there aren't a ton of questions. Similar to Columbus and Dallas, RSL are talented and deep, but do they have enough elite quality? Can Jefferson Savarino make a leap? Who fills Rimando's shoes in net?
Rumors have it: Not much in the rumor mill around RSL.
Projected starting XI: (right to left): Ochoa; Herrera, Glad, Onuoha, Holt; Luiz, Kreilach; Baird, Rusnak, Savarino; Johnson
San Jose Earthquakes
Biggest move so far: Espinoza returning — as well as defensive midfielder Judson — is a big coup for the club. He was one of the league's top wingers last year. What can he do in 2020?
Biggest question/hole: What can Almeyda do in Year 2? San Jose made huge strides in 2019 before running out of steam, despite not making many changes to the side that finished bottom of the league in 2018. Will Chris Wondolowski be the club's primary striker again?
Rumors have it: No hot rumors for the Quakes, while GM Jesse Fioranelli tells MLSsoccer.com that he's very happy with the work done thus far and is "obligated" to have the team ready by the start of preseason.
Projected starting XI (4-4-1-1, right to left): Vega; Thompson, Yungwirth, Kashia, Lima; Espinoza, Judson, Yueill, Eriksson; Vako; Wondolowski
Seattle Sounders FC
Most notable move this week: It's been another slow week for the reigning MLS Cup champs, who have yet to add a player this winter.
Biggest move so far: Roman Torres is now with Inter Miami, Kim Kee-hee is out of contract and Brad Smith’s loan is up. What now for the back line?
Biggest question/hole: Their attack is still one of the league’s best, behind Raul Ruidiaz, Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, but defense is a question mark. Who will partner with Xavier Arreaga in central defense and who will play left back?
Rumors have it: Seattle are reportedly interested in Brazilian defensive midfielder Gregore, a 26-year-old currently playing for Bahia.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Frei; Leerdam, Arreaga, Svensson, Jones; Cecchini, Roldan; Morris, Lodeiro, Bwana; Ruidiaz
Biggest move so far: Many have been wondering what Sporting might look like with a proven, DP goalscorer leading the lines. Well, they've got it now. The success Raul Ruidiaz and Brian Fernandez had in coming from Liga MX to MLS bodes well for Pulido.
Biggest question/hole: SKC got their big-money center forward, they've added to defense with Croatian defender Roberto Puncec and signed Khiry Shelton to help with attacking depth. What's next? And: In 2020 will they be the same possession juggernaut that they morphed into in recent years or play a bit more conservative after conceding so many goals in 2019?
Rumors have it: Felipe Gutirrez is a target for LDU Quito, but the player said he wants to remain at SKC for years to come.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Melia; Zusi, Besler, Barath, Martins; Ilie, Espinoza, Gutierrez; Gerso, Pulido, Russell
Biggest move so far: TFC were able to get Bradley back for the future and open a coveted DP spot in the process, a perfect resolution for the club.
Biggest question/hole: Toronto are well set for 2020 with most of their MLS Cup-finalist core returning. They could use another winger, depending what happens with Nicolas Benezet, and perhaps more cover for Jozy Altidore up top. What will they do with that DP slot?
Rumors have it: Toronto are linked with Portuguese winger Bruma, currently playing for PSV.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Westberg; Auro, Mavinga, Gonzalez, Morrow; Bradley, Delgado, Osorio; Endoh, Altidore, Pozuelo
Biggest move so far: Cavallini's capture spurs the club forward, as it's difficult to underestimate the value of an above-average center forward. Before the wheels fell off for the 'Caps in 2019, they played a number of hard-fought draws or one-goal losses as they spurned multiple chances. How many more points could they have had with Cavallini?
Biggest question/hole: With Cavallini sorted, the club checked off their biggest need. But with Doneil Henry gone, and Erik Godoy in limbo, last season's (at times) promising defense needs more bodies. (Another shot in the dark for projected XI incoming…)
Rumors have it: The club have reportedly acquired Godoy on a permanent basis while Yordy Reyna is a target for his former club Alianza.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): Crepeau; Nerwinski, Khmiri, Cornelius Adnan; Rose, Erice, Hwang; Reyna, Cavallini, Montero