With the American soccer season drawing close, it’s time to cast some MLS Week 1 predictions for 2023 down on paper.
The opening weekend is where ideas can manifest as perfect strategies for the MLS Cup or nightmares become realities with pre-season fitness lingering into competitive games.
MLS Week 1 predictions 2023
Nashville SC vs New York City FC, 25/02, 21:30 GMT
The very start of our Week 1 MLS preview comes with the curtain opener from GEODIS Park as Major League Soccer kicks off with Nashville SC hosting New York City FC.
When the sides last met on this ground, a raucous affair transpired which saw two red cards handed out and four goals in a 3-1 win for the home side. Mukhtar scored twice in that game, he will be itching to start his season with more net-busting activity.
New York City is no stranger to success, however. The 2021 MLS Cup was followed up by the Campeones Cup last season. Nick Cushing will be targeting more trophies with this franchise going forward.
This fixture is set to feature one of the best MLS players in 2023 in the shape of Hany Mukhtar, who notably scored twice when the sides met here back in 2021. As two of the 2022 playoff teams, this game could well set the benchmark for any franchise looking for success this year.
- Prediction: Mukhtar to score for sure. 2-1 Nashville.
Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew, 26/02, 00:30 GMT
2022 MLS Cup finalists and runners-up, Philadelphia Union start their campaign to go again with the visit of the 2020 champions, the Columbus Crew; who begin their reboot of sorts. The Union come off the heartache of being so close to the MLS Cup trophy yet had it cruelly snatched away by the heroics of Gareth Bale and the subsequent penalty shootout.
By comparison, Columbus Crew has had an elongated suffering. Caleb Porter brought fresh life into the club building similar structures of success from his days at Providence Park with the Portland Timbers. Yet, despite that 2020 MLS Cup triumph, he was unable to qualify for the two subsequent playoff campaigns. This lead to the club’s relieving of his duties and hiring Wilfried Nancy, the man attributed to making Montreal Impact into a real force in 2022.
Therefore this match takes real precedence to gauge the season ahead. Will Philadelphia have the sustenance to play such attacking football again? Is Nancy the correct appointment? Columbus has struggled in the fixture having not won in their last five games against this opposition and losing three of them.
- Prediction: This could be the shock of the weekend. The Union could easily have a hangover from the MLS Cup final loss and see another game slip from their grasp if the Crew nick a goal. 2-1 to Columbus.
D.C. United vs Toronto FC, 26/02, 00:30 GMT
There might not be bigger preseason MLS Cup odds than those affixed to D.C. United. After all, the team was nothing short of tragic in 2022. This was encapsulated by the Philadelphia Union hitting seven past them at Audi Field. Hernan Losada and Chad Ashton both had brief tenures as head coaches but the man entrusted with taking the club forward is Wayne Rooney.
Toronto FC by all accounts wasn’t much better last season. Contrastingly, the board stuck by their man at the helm, Bob Bradley. The former USMNT manager is being afforded the chance to work with the Italian influx as Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi, and Raoul Petretta all now call BMO Field home.
This early season matchup between the two stragglers of 2022 will be a perfect acid test to see how they’ve improved in the offseason. The match has typically displayed a high propensity for goals with 11 scored in the last three encounters.
- Prediction: This one could be like pulling teeth or a goal-fest. Let’s be positive and say neither defence shows up with a 3-2 win for D.C. United.
Orlando City vs New York Red Bulls, 26/02, 00:30 GMT
It took Orlando City six seasons to make the playoffs and even longer to get their hands on silverware. Yet, 2022 saw them lift the US Open Cup with the help of their talisman Facundo Torres. While the Uruguayan couldn’t carry them beyond the first round of the playoffs, the transfer business, including keeping Torres, is a statement of intent for their 2023 campaign.
The New York Red Bulls stem back to the original MLS season yet still are awaiting that first MLS Cup victory. The three Supporters’ Shields are nice additions to the trophy cabinet yet seldom make up for the lack of the primary trophy.
Given the inconsistencies in results in this fixture, it makes for a difficult MLS Week 1 predictions 2023 inclusion. However, there is almost certainty for goals. Last year New York won 3-0 away from home, yet on the same ground lost 5-1 in the US Open competition. The Scotsman Lewis Morgan notably scored in both fixtures.
- Prediction: Orlando City arguably has a better roster this year and at home should show that. 3-1 to Orlando.
LA Galaxy vs LAFC, 26/02, 02:30 GMT
MLS Week 1 predictions 2023 don’t come much harder to forecast than El Trafico. The eighteenth overall meeting should be no different from the others, in that it will be a highly entertaining and goal-laden fixture. This will be the first time the match will be contested at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
These two Los Angeles rivals met in the Western Conference semi-finals of the MLS Cup playoffs season, in a frantic match ending 3-2 to LAFC. The rest is history as Steve Cherundolo’s team went on to win the entire season much to the displeasure of LA Galaxy supporters.
As two of the stronger teams in MLS, very few additions have been needed. Aaron Long did, however, join LAFC from NYRB. There should be nothing to get in the way of another high-octane game for the bragging rights to LA. The all-time series is still tipped in Galaxy’s favour with 7-5 wins (five draws too), yet LAFC could move closer to correcting that with a win here.
- Prediction: Neither team will want to lose on opening day, 2-2.