It’s been an incredible year for American soccer as Major League Soccer delivered a tumultuous season of entertainment on the pitch. The MLS Cup came down to the wire at the Banc of California Stadium, but ultimately, it was LAFC that broke the hearts of Philadelphia fans and players alike.
As most European clubs pause their domestic seasons for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, the MLS has already finished theirs, and a well-deserved rest will be taken until the 2023 season kicks off in February next year. With that in mind, let’s preview the top 10 teams in North America’s top-tier professional soccer league.
#1 – LAFC
It’s a no-brainer that LAFC would top our list, not just because they obtained the MLS Cup, but because their overall season performance of 2022 was unmatched.
LAFC finished the most recent MLS campaign as the best-performing regular season team, shut out the opposition in the playoffs, and assisted in delivering one of the most memorable MLS Cup finals in the league’s history.
The Philadelphia Union were on the brink of winning their first-ever MLS Cup when Jack Elliot found the net in the 124th minute of extra time. The scoreline was 3-2 with two minutes remaining, and the LAFC was sure they were out of luck until the Welsh sharp-shooter Gareth Bale leveled the score with 120 seconds remaining. The stands erupted as Bale salvaged commiserations, and LAFC went into the penalty shootout and dominated 3-0.
#2 – Philadelphia Union
Professional sports in Philadelphia are alive and kicking. Still, after losing the MLS Cup final, the cheese steak capital of the world suffered repeated anguish when the Phillies lost in the MLB World Series. The Eagles are currently the most dominant team in the NFL, and there is still hope for a trophy in Philly, but despite their downfalls, the City of Brotherly Love has a lot to be optimistic about – especially their MLS team.
Jack Elliot stole the show in the MLS Cup finals, delivering an 85th last-gasp equalizer to take the game into extra time. He returned with a 124th-minute second extra-time “winner” that looked like a trophy-lifting moment until Bale stole his spotlight.
Heading into 2023, should Philly fix their road trip nervousness in which they only won seven games last term, they can undoubtedly reach the heights of the MLS Cup final once again.
#3 – Austin FC
While their season-end was lackluster, to say the least, Austin FC had one of their most successful MLS regular season outings to date. The Texas fan base is electric, and the playoffs atmosphere was untouchable, as they were a mere 90 minutes from reaching the MLS Cup final.
Considering this is just a second-year franchise, we must tip our hats to Austin FC. But they must repeat this year’s performance in 2022; the question is, can they handle the pressure with a lot more eyes and new fans watching that have high expectations?
#4 – New York City FC
They couldn’t overcome their state rivals Philadelphia in the conference finals, but NYFC proved they could overcome late-season personnel adjustments while remaining a top contender in the East.
Aside from Philly, this team owned one of the best defenses in the MLS, conceding just 41 goals during the regular season. We expect big things from New York next term.
#5 – CF Montreal
Failing to reach the Eastern Conference final was unquestionably a dampener to their impressive regular season outings, especially after entering the season with little, to no expectations. They placed second in the East, 10 points ahead of third-place NYFC, and just two points behind Philly, and this positioned them as a favorite to compete with Philly for the coveted position in the MLS Cup final.
Entering the new season, they’ll be stronger and more confident as the foundations have been built; however, no team will overlook them again, and they’ll need to be sharper than ever.
#6 – FC Dallas
The big Texas rivalry ended FC Dallas’ route to the MLS Cup final. While they barely made it beyond Minnesota, which took them to penalties, their state rivalry loss to Austin was the gut-wrenching moment they’d hoped to avoid.
Despite losing, the 2-1 scoreline proved Dallas isn’t a pushover, and revenge will be in mind when the Lone Star State rivals meet again in 2023.
#7 – FC Cincinnati
Pre-season predictions didn’t expect Cincinnati to finish as high as fifth in the MLS regular season standings, as the club’s improvements in 2022 are undeniable.
With some minor adjustments and new signings, they certainly own the potential to contend with NYCFC and Philly for the Eastern Conference top spot in 2023. We can expect bettors to support Cincinnati at the best sports betting sites in Ohio in the new season.
They were several under-priced at the sportsbooks heading into the Conference Semi-finals against Philadelphia, and the Eastern Conference champions barely squeezed out a 1-0 victory, thus proving the Queen City should be on your wagering radar for the foreseeable future.
#8 – LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy doesn’t hold the same threat they used to, but a postseason victory led them into a rivalry meeting with LAFC, where they couldn’t be broken until a stoppage-time heartbreaker walked them to the exit. However, their performance against the MLS Cup winners should give them newfound confidence for the 2023 season.
#9 – New York Red Bulls
The ups and downs of the New York Red Bulls season can’t be ignored. They weren’t expected to finish as a top 5 team, let alone score 50 goals and concede just 41. While their defensive structure was solid in the regular season, as the expectations raised into the playoffs, the pressure surmounted the Red Bulls despite having a home-field advantage versus a lower-seeded team.
#10 – Nashville SC
For the first time in its three-year history, Nashville failed to win a playoff game. That said, they’re a new Wester Conference team that can build on the positives, such as Hany Mukhtar taking the MLS Most Valuable Player award and the opening of GEODIS Park.