The 2023 Major League Soccer is less than a month away when Nashville SC opens the show against New York City FC on the 25th of February. Before that, we at Franchise Sports make some MLS preseason predictions for 2023. We might be bold but there’s no fun in speculating the obvious.
MLS preseason predictions 2023
1. US teams to bolster in CONCACAF Champions League
Last season, Seattle Sounders finally etched an American team on the CONCACAF Champions League winners list. The years of investment in the competition have finally seen an American team win a continental title other than the now-defunct Champions Cup.
The 2023 CONCACAF Champions League features five Major League Soccer teams as Los Angeles FC, Philadelphia Union, Orlando City, Austin FC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps all look for continental success. Three of them have made it to the semi-final before and LAFC even made the final in 2020.
Typically, the Mexican teams have been the dominant force in the competition. This stems from Liga MX teams winning 13 of 14 finals. Nine of those finals have been contested by two teams from Mexico. While the 2023 season might not foster an all-MLS final, there will be most progress toward it.
2. Klich to become Kingpin at D.C.
There’s a lot to be said for superstars rocking up in Major League Soccer. Not everyone arrives and makes an instant impact. There’s a fair amount of reason to think that Mateusz Klich could become integral within D.C. United midfield.
Fans at Audi Field were subject to some poor performances throughout the 2022 season. Former player Wayne Rooney was installed to stop the rot – yet truly only patched up the damage. The former England international forward showed his knack for management with Derby County as he got results on the pitch, despite handling a multitude of off-field issues which would have potentially had the club liquidated.
In the last season, D.C. found it difficult to keep the ball and pose any kind of tangible pressure on opposing attackers. The former Leeds United midfield maestro is set to reprise his role as a kingpin and direct play from the center of the pitch.
3. Do it better or get sacked, Neville
Inter Miami picked up Josef Martinez and as a result, had their 2023 MLS season predictions rise in stature. Any club owned or linked with David Beckham will have massive expectations regardless of how long they’ve been playing in Major League Soccer. While Beckham will have a good working relationship with his former Manchester United teammate, Phil Neville, he has to be realistic.
While Gonzalo Higuain didn’t set the league alight as initially expected, he was weathered from prior inconsistencies. Josef Martinez is already acclimatized and ready-made for MLS triumphs. If two prolific strikers’ goals dry up, then questions have to be asked of the coach.
4. LAFC to tip the El Trafico series
The majority of 2023 MLS season predictions run through Los Angeles. Whether it’s the Galaxy or LAFC, the city has a lot to say when it comes to crowning a champion. LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo spent the entirety of his playing career at Hannover 96, where he became club captain. These leadership traits lent themselves to his managerial efforts, especially considering the LAFC job is his first major appointment!
Ahead of the 2023 season, Galaxy has won seven of the El Trafico derbies against their foes. LAFC won the last two meetings, meaning it’s 7-5 in the overall record along with another five that ended in stalemates. There will be at least three further meetings this season and given the upward trajectory LAFC have, they could end the season with an 8-7 winning record in the rivalry series.
5. Johnson to improve Toronto
Toronto FC might have some of the highest paid MLS players on their roster like Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi, and even Michael Bradley. These attacking threats amount to little when the team statistically can’t keep out the opposition.
Bob Bradley tinkered with the starting goalkeeper spot as Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg contested each other for the gloves, yet neither option was able to fend off too many opposition shots. Sean Johnson links up with Toronto and has become a club legend down the road at New York City FC. The USMNT international is most certainly an upgrade on the existing options and enhances the team by a big margin in terms of defending. Don’t be surprised that the preseason power rankings only get better for Toronto because of Johnson’s arrival.
6. Montreal to struggle without Nancy
Wilfried Nancy stepped up to the managerial position when Thierry Henry was relieved of his duties at CF Montreal. The Frenchman revolutionized the team during his tenure, as his full campaign in 2022 saw the club finish second in the Eastern Conference – a club-best.
That project ended abruptly, however, as Nancy decided to join Columbus Crew. While no one man can be the totality of their success, his successor is not widely tipped to keep up the winning trend. Hernán Losada has been appointed despite having a traumatic start to his MLS with D.C. United. It was his ill-fated tenure at Audi Field that saw the team miss out on the playoffs in 2021.
Eventually, he was ousted from the position as the team lost four of its first six games in 2022. It is hard to see favorable MLS preseason predictions for 2023 coming to fruition for Montreal under his managerial care.
7. St. Louis City to bravely challenge
One of the hardest 2023 MLS season predictions to forecast is the newcomers in St. Louis City. This is because there is no past performance to gauge how exactly debutant teams will take to Major League Soccer. Atlanta United famously finished fourth in their conference before winning the MLS Cup in their second season. It took FC Cincinnati much longer to adapt having finished rock-bottom in their first outing.
Bradley Carnell was appointed as the first-ever St. Louis City head coach. As mentioned above, it’s hard to judge just how well or badly they will perform. The recruitment policy seems to have taken a positive shape with Roman Burki taking the spot between the sticks.
8. FC Cincinnati to become force in 2023
Predicting 2023 MLS standings becomes a real headache when considering FC Cincinnati. This is a team who were used to winning trophies in the USL. Making the transition to MLS wasn’t as simple as continuing that glory-laden lineage, moreover, they became a basement team.
Pat Noonan changed all that in 2022 as his managerial direction took them to a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and subsequently a second-round finish in the playoffs. He’s made the club a desirable place to watch and play football again. As vindicated by the arrival of Matt Miazga, who left the Chelsea system to play under Noonan. It’s this form and quality of signing which will skyrocket Cincinnati up the ranking.
9. Þórhallsson to step up in Orlando
The regular MLS preseason predictions for 2023 might not stretch as far to cover Orlando City’s Icelandic acquisition, Dagur Dan Þórhallsson. Despite still being at the tender age of 22, he’s enjoyed a nomadic career having already played for six clubs across Iceland and Norway.
Orlando, Florida will offer a huge cultural difference from his birthplace of Hafnarfjörður, a port town with a population of just 30,000 people. The recruitment team at Orlando accredited the former Briedablik midfielder with great versatility. Given his age, he still has the ability to soak up knowledge and improve.
10. Mukhtar to strike it happy again
As the top scorer in the 2022 season, Hany Mukhtar is easily one of the best players in MLS this season.
While it might not be the boldest prediction, it’s certainly a common one to back the attacking midfielder to get another 20+ goal season.