2022 MLS Season Preview


Major League Soccer is currently the fastest growing professional sports league in the United States, and the 2022 MLS season is looking to be the most exciting season yet. From world class signings, to a new expansion team, the 27th season of the MLS is one you can’t miss. I’m here to recap the previous season and keep you up to date on all of the biggest changes that happened during the off-season.


Last year we saw one of the most competitive regular seasons in MLS history. In the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution rose up to the top of the table by week eight, and stayed in the top two for the rest of the season, eventually finishing top of the East. This earned them the bye to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and led to them winning the Supporters’ Shield (most points during regular season) for the first time in club history.

With New England establishing their early dominance, focus quickly turned to the playoff fight, with the results changing every week. In the end, NYCFC, Atlanta United, Nashville SC, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union, and the New York Red Bulls clinched the final Eastern Conference playoff spots. 

Meanwhile in the Western Conference, the Colorado Rapids shocked everyone by finishing first and earning the round one bye. They beat the Seattle Sounders by one point! The top four were all separated by a maximum of three points, with Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers finishing third and fourth. The final three playoff spots in the West went to Minnesota United, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Real Salt Lake all at least 6 points away from the top four. 

With the playoffs came upset after upset. In the Western Conference, 7th seed Real Salt Lake (RSL) eliminated 2nd seed and 2020 MLS Cup runner-ups Seattle Sounders in a thrilling penalty shootout. RSL then proceeded to beat the 3rd seed Sporting Kansas City with a last minute goal to advance to the Western Conference Finals. 

On the other side of the bracket, the Portland Timbers easily won against 5th seed Minnesota United and beat 1st seed Colorado Rapids in the dying seconds to face RSL in the Western Conference Finals. This is where RSL’s hopes for a second MLS Cup came to an end when they lost 2-0 to the Portland Timbers. This allowed Portland to host their first ever home MLS Cup. 

Meanwhile on the East Coast, the 7th seed New York Red Bulls were seconds away from going to a penalty shootout against 2nd seed Philadelphia Union, until Union defender Jakob Glesnes hit a stunning volley from outside the box to win the game. In the Conference Semifinals, the Union scraped together a PK shootout victory versus Nashville SC to advance to their first ever Eastern Conference Finals. 

Meanwhile, after a strong victory over Atlanta United, the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) had to face the Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution without two of their best players(both out due to injury). After a long 120 minutes and a red card for NYCFC, the game went to penalty kicks where a clutch save from goalkeeper Sean Johnson sent NYCFC to their first ever Eastern Conference Finals. 

Philadelphia seemed to be favorites going into this game until three days prior to the Conference Finals, a COVID-19 outbreak spread through the team and caused 11 players (including world-class striker Alejandro Bedoya and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake) to miss the game. But NYCFC were also without star striker and MLS Golden Boot winner Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, who received a red card in the previous game against New England. After scoring an own goal, NYCFC quickly tied up the game after 90 seconds to make the score 1-1. Then, in the 88th minute, substitute Talles Magno scored a game winning goal to win NYCFC their first ever trophy and send NYCFC to their first ever MLS Cup. 

The 2021 MLS Cup was a very entertaining final match. The game started off with a bang, with Castellanos slipping the ball under the Portland goalie to give NYCFC a 1-0 lead. The game was slow until the final 10 minutes. Portland used the rest of their remaining substitutions to fill their lineup with midfielders and attackers, desperately trying to find a goal. With seven seconds left in the game, the ball bounced to Felipe Mora who smashed the ball past the NYC keeper to tie the game. Extra time was an incredibly defensive 30 minutes. The game ended up going to a PK shootout. Portland managed to save one NYCFC shot, but NYC goalie Sean Johnson saved two penalties, and NYCFC won their first ever MLS Cup after only seven years of existence.  

The 2022 MLS season brings new players, players leaving, teams switching conferences, and even a new team. That new team is Charlotte FC. This team will play in Charlotte, N.C., in the Bank of America Stadium (this stadium is shared with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL). With Charlotte FC being the 28th MLS Team, this puts the MLS 2 teams away from their goal of being a 30 team league, which would solidify the MLS as a top tier league in America. Charlotte FC came out with a bang signing left back Christian Fuchs from Leicester FC in the Premier League. But this team has been struggling. They haven’t filled up all of their roster spots, are missing staff, still have no wingers, and have only signed one out of three Designated Players (the salaries of Designated Players don’t count towards the salary cap). Also, with the most expensive tickets in the MLS, their attendance records will most likely be very low. 

On the transfer side of the MLS, we have many Americans leaving the MLS for Europe. Ricardo Pepi left FC Dallas to go to Germany and play for FC Augsburg, Daryl Dike left Orlando City to join EFL Championship side West Bromwich Albion FC, and James Sands left NYCFC to join Rangers FC in Scotland. 

But the biggest transfer news is about the players coming into the MLS: Lorenzo Insigne, Douglas Costa, and Xherdan Shaquiri. Lorenzo Insigne, a 2020 Euro champion with Italy, will be joining Toronto FC from Italian side Napoli, Douglas Costa, a 3 time Bundesliga and Serie-A champion, will join the LA Galaxy on loan from Juventus and play side by side with Chicharito, and Xherdan Shaquiri, a two-time Champions League and Club World Cup champion, will join the Chicago Fire from Olympique Lyon in France. 

All of these teams desperately needed these players as all three of these teams failed to make the playoffs. Toronto, a team who was the 2019 MLS Cup runner-up, came second to last in the Eastern Conference in 2021(Breaking News: Toronto may still be in trouble after trading USMNT and club legend Jozy Altidore to the New England Revolution). 

Some other big changes come in the form of teams moving conferences. Nashville SC spent their first two years of existence playing in the Eastern Conference. But with Charlotte FC joining MLS in 2022, Nashville is moving over to the Western Conference to have an equal 14 teams per conference. 

Starting on the 15th of February, the SCCL (Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League) will kick off, seeing the sixteen best teams from all of North and Central America face off, with qualification for the FIFA Club World Cup on the line. The five teams representing the MLS are the New England Revolution (through winning the Supporters’ Shield), the Colorado Rapids (for having the most points in the Western Conference), CF Montreal (from winning the Canadian Championship), the Seattle Sounders (from having the second best regular season record), and NYCFC (from being the MLS Cup champions). An MLS team has never won the SCCL, but this year looks like the MLS has their best chance ever. 

This season of the MLS will also have the earliest start and end in league history, in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Since Qatar has such intense heat, the tournament will be played in November instead of June/July for the safety of the players and teams. The MLS is moving games closer together to end the season quicker and plan to play the MLS cup in very early November, so anybody who plays in the MLS and is going to the World Cup has about 3 weeks to prepare and train. To put to scale how short this year will be, the MLS Cup will be played on November 5th, 2022, while the previous MLS Cup was played on December 11th, 2021. 


Now you are officially all caught up with the MLS and are fully prepared for the 2022 MLS season. The MLS begins February 26th with the Philadelphia Union playing Minnesota United at 1:00 pm EST, and will end with the MLS Cup Finals on November 5th, time TBD. Expect young breakout stars, shocking upsets, glorious goals, and one team hoisting the MLS Cup at the end of the year.