2023 MLS season preview
⚙️ How it works
Let’s start with a quick refresher on the league setup: The 29 MLS clubs, including expansion team St. Louis City SC, are split into two conferences — 14 in the Western Conference and 15 in the Eastern conference.
- Each team will play 34 regular-season games, facing each of their conference opponents at least twice, as well as a handful of games against non-conference foes.
- Most matches will kick off on Saturdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. local time, but it’s best to keep the schedule handy to stay in the know.
While the team with the best regular season record across both conferences will earn the Supporters’ Shield, the main objective of the 34-match schedule is to secure a playoff berth.
- Nine teams from each conference will have a shot at the ultimate prize — the MLS Cup — thanks to the league’s new (but complicated) playoff format.
🏆 The contenders
Last year’s top teams are prepping to repeat. The Philadelphia Union was last season’s most balanced squad, and may be the case again with the majority of their stars returning. After falling short in the MLS Cup Final, the East’s No. 1 team also added key reinforcements to get the job done this time around.
- Don’t sleep on the reigning champs, though. LAFC also maintained most of its championship-winning squad and leveled up their defense by acquiring the USMNT’s Aaron Long, making them poised to be the best in the West once again.
Right on their heels? After finishing a dismal seventh in the East in 2022, Orlando City SC is targeting a top spot following an active offseason. The Lions re-signed several important players, and also added new talent, most notably winger Martín Ojeda on a designated player contract.
- As for the West, don't be surprised if Austin FC competes for top conference billing once again. The attack-minded team will let the goals do the talking, even if the defense has some inconsistent days. Don’t mess with Texas.
You can never rule out surprises in MLS, however. In the East, FC Cincinnati has lofty ambitions after star striker Brenner failed to land his dream move to England’s Premier League, while the New York Red Bulls are hoping to get their wings after picking up forward Dante Vanzeir.
- And, although they missed the postseason for the first time ever last year, you can’t bet against perennial Western Conference heavyweights, Seattle Sounders.
- Finally, the LA Galaxy is ready to rise up the ranks after finishing fourth in the West in 2022.
⚽ Players to watch
Goalscoring is the name of the game in MLS, so expect attackers around the league to shine bright in 2023. Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar will likely be firing on all cylinders after winning the MVP award last year, while the Galaxy’s Riqui Puig and Toronto FC’s Lorenzo Insigne are set to dominate on either side of the border.
- Playmaking midfielder Luciano Acosta will once again be vital to Cincinnati’s gameplan, while Sporting Kansas City striker William Agada may take the league by storm during his first full MLS season.
The league is also home to impressive defensive players, like Nashville and USMNT World Cup star, Walker Zimmerman. For their part, the Red Bulls have a standout player in USMNT up-and-comer John Tolkin, while Union goalkeeper Andre Blake remains as reliable as ever…and has the silverware to back it up.
🆕 The new club on the block
MLS expands to the Gateway to the West this year with its 29th team, St. Louis City SC. The Missouri city is a historic hotbed for soccer, and is now home to MLS’ first female-majority owned club. What, like it’s hard?
- St. Louis will make its MLS debut tonight in Austin, but will play in its brand-new soccer-specific stadium, CITYPARK, for the first time next week against Charlotte FC.
While the Western Conference team boasts some impressive talent, including goalkeeper and captain Roman Bürki (who made his name playing for German giants Borussia Dortmund) and MLS defensive vet Tim Parker, a playoff spot seems unlikely.
- In attack, St. Louis will be counting on striker João Klauss to find the back of the net after showing up as a goalscorer in European leagues.
📺 How to watch
Starting this season, every match will be available on Apple TV+ through MLS Season Pass. The brand-new offering costs $12.99 for Apple TV+ subscribers and $14.99 for non-subscribers, and is a treasure trove for MLS enthusiasts — Season Pass includes exclusive content, an archive of the league’s best games, drone stadium tours and much more.
- Some MLS Season Pass content will also be available to Apple TV+ subscribers at no additional cost, so you can learn about FC Dallas midfielder (and Becky G’s fiancé) Sebastian Lletget’s passions while also bingeing Ted Lasso.
No subscription? No problem. Select matches will be available for free on Apple TV+ throughout the season, while Fox will carry 34 games in English and Spanish. T-Mobile is also providing all of its U.S. customers with a free subscription to MLS Season Pass.
- TSN and RDS will have Canadian fans covered with TV broadcasts in 2023.