Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

MLS 2024 countdown! What has defined your club's offseason?


MLS is almost back, folks.

Matchday 1 begins on Feb. 21 when Inter Miami CF host Real Salt Lake (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). The 2024 season then really kicks into gear Feb. 24-25 with a full weekend slate.

Given those timelines, let's break down every MLS club's offseason story so far. Please keep in mind that the Primary Transfer Window remains open until April 23.

Atlanta got their business done early, acquiring midfielder Bartosz Slisz, center back Stian Gregersen and goalkeeper Josh Cohen. They also held onto star No. 10 Thiago Almada (likely through the summer), permanently acquired winger Xande Silva and lost center back Miles Robinson in free agency. The Five Stripes brought in veteran midfielder Dax McCarty, too.

On paper, this could be Atlanta's best team since their MLS Cup 2018-winning group.

It's been a slow burn for Austin, who brought in veteran MLS attackers Jáder Obrian and Diego Rubio. Brazilian left back Guilherme Biro is another key addition.

Will that (combined with a healthy backline) be enough to return to Western Conference contention? I have some doubts.

Dean Smith is now Charlotte's head coach. Two DPs (Polish internationals Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak) are out. One DP (Argentine striker Enzo Copetti) remains.

Those are the big headlines, though I expect that to change soon given their roster flexibility and ownership's spending history.


Chicago have officially signed DP striker Hugo Cuypers in a club-record deal, reportedly paying Belgian side Gent $12 million with $2 million in add-ons. They've also reportedly added USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta in free agency. And they remade their defense with left back Andrew Gutman, center back Tobias Salquist and right back Allan Arigoni all arriving. The Fire even opened a DP spot, mutually agreeing to terminate Jairo Torres' contract.

That lengthy playoff drought could end after all.

Squad evolution is the name of the game for FC Cincinnati. The defending Supporters' Shield champions replaced:

  • CB: Yerson Mosquera (loan from Wolves ended) with Miles Robinson (free agency)
  • CM: Junior Moreno (heading to the Saudi league) with Pavel Bucha (from Czech Republic)
  • ST: Brandon Vazquez (reported $7.5 million transfer to Liga MX's Monterrey) with Corey Baird (free agency)

They're also reportedly pursuing Luca Orellano (at Brazil's Vasco da Gama) to replace right wingback Santi Arias (signed with Brazil's Bahia). And they look set to hold onto left wingback Álvaro Barreal through the summer, despite consistent interest.

It's a lot, right? Especially for a title-winning group. But there's a valid argument that Cincy have improved, and that's a scary thought for the rest of MLS.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

By our count, Colorado have completed 28 transactions – incoming and outgoing – this winter. But that shouldn't be surprising after their last-place Western Conference finish in 2023.

The newcomer group is led by three USMNTers with MLS experience: goalkeeper Zack Steffen (transfer from Manchester City), left back Sam Vines (transfer from Royal Antwerp) and midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (transfer from AZ Alkmaar). For the sake of being concise, additional notables are midfielders Omir Fernandez and Lamine Diack.

Led by new head coach Chris Armas, it's a refreshed squad.

The defending MLS Cup champions have essentially stayed put. Their only notable loss is Julian Gressel, though U22 winger/wingback Marino Hinestroza arrives from Liga MX side Pachuca to help offset that.

Columbus enter 2024 as a top-tier favorite.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

FC Dallas (!) acquired Croatian international striker Petar Musa from Portuguese powerhouse Benfica for reportedly $9.7 million upfront, a fee that could rise to $13 million. He, um, looks quite good.

Elsewhere, it's a whole bunch of prototypical FC Dallas signings. No issues there.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

D.C. United have a new brain trust, with Troy Lesesne arriving as head coach and Ally Mackay arriving as GM. They both have MLS experience – Lesense previously led the Red Bulls, while Mackay was second in command at Nashville.

Transactions-wise, we've got D.C. at 10 players in and 13 players out. Their biggest signings are defender Aaron Herrera (trade with Montréal), midfielder Gabriel Pirani (permanent from Santos after loan) and midfielder Matti Peltola – the latter of whom is a Young DP and Finland international.

The jury's out on D.C. being a playoff-caliber group, but there's a long-term reset unfolding here.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

To state the obvious: This is worrisome if you're a Dynamo fan.

We truly cannot overstate how important Héctor Herrera was in Houston's 2023 resurgence under Ben Olsen, a Best XI honoree whose impact transcended the pitch. Also, livewire winger Nelson Quiñones suffered an injury while with Colombia's U-23s.

In terms of transfers, it's been relatively quiet. And they're seemingly banking on DP striker Sebastián Ferreira banging home goals like he did in 2022, putting a sub-par loan to Vasco da Gama in the rearview.

LAFC updates, "rapid-fire" style:

  • Legendary French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris arrived from Tottenham Hotspur on reportedly a team-friendly deal – helping replace John McCarthy (now with LA Galaxy) and Maxime Crépeau (now with Portland Timbers).
  • Star forward Dénis Bouanga is sticking around (maybe with an improved contract) after a mini transfer saga.
  • Old buddy Eduard Atuesta is back, this time on loan from Palmeiras, to help patrol the midfield.
  • Mexican international left back Omar Campos (from Liga MX's Santos Laguna) and Venezuelan international forward David Martínez (from Monagas) have joined on U22 Initiative deals. Campos, in particular, replaces Diego Palacios after he left on a free to Brazil's Corinthians.
  • Legendary Italian center back Giorgio Chiellini retired, though his mastery will be put to use as a player development coach. And he'll get to mentor Italian youth international Lorenzo Dellavalle, who's been promoted from LAFC's MLS NEXT Pro team.
  • RBNY legend Juan Pablo Ángel's kid, Tomás Ángel, joined an attack that saw both Stipe Biuk and Mario González get loaned to Spain's second division.
  • Oh, and there's still no word on club captain Carlos Vela's status (he's an out-of-contract free agent).

Got all that?

The Black & Gold have a couple of big roster levers out there, mainly two open Designated Player spots alongside Bouanga. They're still searching for a striker to replace Cristian Arango and would benefit from some midfield depth.

More to come as Steve Cherundolo's group chases a third straight MLS Cup appearance.

It's been all about the DPs, starting with the LA Galaxy moving on from Chicharito and Douglas Costa.

The first replacement is Gabriel Pec, a Brazil youth international winger who reportedly arrives from Vasco da Gama via a $10 million transfer fee plus incentives. That surpasses LA's club-record deal and he's a Young DP, helping increase roster-building flexibility.

TBD on who becomes LA's third DP, but a winger seems to be the most likely option. Ghana international Joseph Paintsil (at Belgian side Genk) and Paraguayan international Ramón Sosa (at Argentine side Talleres) are both reported targets.

The Galaxy, who have newfound GM Will Kuntz at the wheel, also brought in Japanese international right back Miki Yamane. He replaces the injured Lucas Calegari.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

This is an iconic MLS photo:

Inter Miami have gone all in on their Big Four, acquiring Luis Suárez to supplement Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. FC Barcelona boys reunite.

The Herons also signed Julian Gressel in free agency and brought in center back Nicolás Freire (loan from Pumas) after shipping Kamal Miller out to Portland.

On paper, this star-studded group should seriously compete for a title in every competition they enter. Doing so while navigating MLS' unique challenges is another question, and they're already weathering long-term injuries to youngsters Facundo Farías and Benjamin Cremaschi.

The ceiling for Inter Miami is sky-high. The floor might be lower than we thought, though. Either way, Messi & Co. promise to be appointment viewing.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

They're waiting on a head coach.

We could stop there, but the added context is important. New sporting director/CSO Khaled El-Ahmad only recently arrived stateside and is steering the process. For now, they're led by interim Cameron Knowles.

Roster-wise, Minnesota haven't made any "big" signings. Swedish international CB Victor Eriksson and Costa Rican international CM Alejandro Bran are intriguing additions, though. And the good news is Emanuel Reynoso's delayed 2024 preseason arrival was a matter of days, not months, after 2023's drama.

Laurent Courtois is CF Montréal's new head coach, replacing Hernán Losada. The Frenchman arrives after two years of leading Columbus' MLS NEXT Pro team, including to the 2022 league title.

Then on the field, Montréal have quietly done really solid work in the transfer market. They've reworked the attack by acquiring strikers Matías Cóccaro and Josef Martínez, plus added Bulgarian international midfielder Dominik Yankov. Raheem Edwards and Ruan are new wingbacks, while goalkeeper Sebastian Breza and defender Joaquín Sosa help improve depth.

It's too soon to declare Montréal "back." But I fully expect them to improve upon last year's regression and playoff miss.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

It's been an offseason embodying the Nashville SC Way.

By that, we mean winger Tyler Boyd and midfielder Dru Yearwood are their major moves (the club loves mining the intra-league trade market). Those signings followed them letting winger Fafà Picault and midfielder Dax McCarty walk in free agency.

Yet some key questions persist: Will center back Walker Zimmerman be back to full fitness? Can mid-2023 signing Sam Surridge come good as a DP striker? Will that "Hany Mukhtar overreliance" theme finally be put to bed?

From a leadership POV, New England's post-Bruce Arena era landed on Curt Onalfo as sporting director and Caleb Porter as head coach. They're calling the shots.

From a roster POV, they permanently acquired Argentine forward Tomás Chancalay as a DP and hope Henrich Ravas is a solution at goalkeeper after Djordje Petrovic was transferred to Chelsea for nearly $20 million last summer. Veteran defenders Nick Lima and Jonathan Mensah improve New England's depth, too.

The Revs scream "win now" mode, interspersed with some top young talent. They've kept onto homegrown midfielder/England youth international Noel Buck despite Premier League interest, and homegrown attacker Esmir Bajraktarevic, who made his USMNT debut in January, might be legit.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

NYCFC have two new wingers in Argentine youth international Agustín Ojeda (signed from Argentine side Racing) and former Austrian youth international Hannes Wolf (signed from German side Borussia Mönchengladbach). They might get another striker, too, if the reports for Red Star Belgrade standout and Serbian youth international Jovan Mijatović pan out.

Toss in midfielder Andrés Perea's permanent deal and depth defender Strahinja Tanasijević, and NYCFC have positioned themselves for a 2024 bounce back.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Early on, Emil Forsberg looks like a home-run DP signing. The Swedish international and longtime Bundesliga standout at RB Leipzig is saying all the right things, brings a much-needed skill set to the final third and has boatloads of experience.

But can RBNY now add another DP – ideally a No. 9 – alongside Forsberg? They freed up a spot when transferring midfielder Luquinhas to Brazilian side Fortaleza.

In the absence of a new DP, New York are banking on Lewis Morgan and Dante Vanzeir to lift the attack while returning from long-term injuries. Julian Hall and Serge Ngoma, two homegrown prospects, could step up. So could Elias Manoel.

Land a Forsberg-like No. 9, though, and we're talking about a legit trophy contender under new head coach Sandro Schwarz.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

In Orlando, it's all about strikers.

Duncan McGuire, for now, is back with the club. The abbreviated version: McGuire was heading to English second-tier side Blackburn Rovers on a six-month loan with a purchase option, but an administrative error means the deal fell through. We recommend reading other outlets for more extensive details.

Luis Muriel is reportedly filling their open DP spot, arriving from Serie A side Atalanta. The Colombian international, on paper, seems like a great addition alongside DP wingers Facundo Torres and Martín Ojeda. Let's see how McGuire's situation impacts all this, too.

Some other headlines for the Lions:

  • Wilder Cartagena and Iván Angulo are now on permanent deals after being on loan.
  • After parting ways with club captain Mauricio Pereyra, they've added another Uruguayan No. 10 in Seattle Sounders legend Nicolás Lodeiro.
  • Center back Antônio Carlos got transferred to Brazilian side Fluminense. He's been replaced by Slovenian international David Brekalo (arrives from Norwegian side Viking FK).

After a club-record season in 2023, and retaining head coach Oscar Pareja, Orlando raised the bar. Let's see if they replicate (or surpass) this newfound standard.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

They're running it back.

Left back Kai Wagner and central midfielder Alejandro Bedoya stuck around after all, giving the Union's core another go at silverware. Cue up more "The Last Dance" analogies for Philadelphia.

Otherwise, it's a whole bunch of Football Manager-esque signings by sporting director Ernst Tanner. And banking on homegrowns to level up.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Portland have a new head coach in Phil Neville, added two CanMNT starters in goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau and defender Kamal Miller, and have two open DP spots after parting ways with Yimmi Chara and Jarosław Niezgoda.

The last part is significant, with Neville teasing that big swings await: "We've got ownership's backing to go out there and bring in a top, top DP. I think over the next two or three weeks, there will be some exciting news coming our way."

Expect some movement in the Rose City.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL opened one DP spot when transferring winger Jefferson Savarino to Brazilian side Botafogo, then another when (rather painstakingly for fans) Damir Kreilach and the club couldn't reach a new deal.

Keep this in mind, though: RSL broke their club-record incoming transfer amount twice last season. The first got them winger Andrés Gómez, while the second brought striker Cristian Arango back to MLS. So ownership isn't afraid to spend.

For now, RSL's biggest boost involves Pablo Ruiz returning from injury and Diego Luna building off his USMNT debut. Don't sleep on Mexican youth international winger Fidel Barajas arriving from USL side Charleston Battery, either, or new signing Matt Crooks.

Cade Cowell is out, heading to Liga MX side Chivas for a club-record fee. The homegrown standout and US international reportedly netted the club $4 million plus add-ons and a sell-on percentage.

Amahl Pellegrino is in, arriving from Norwegian top-flight side Bodø/Glimt. He's won back-to-back Eliteserien Golden Boots and was named the 2023 Eliteserien Player of the Year.

San Jose have made some other key moves, landing left back Vítor Costa and center back Bruno Wilson after they played in Portugal. But the big one remains elusive. It has to be a game-changing No. 10, helping replace DP midfielder Jamiro Monteiro.

Seattle said farewell to club legend Nico Lodeiro, then used that open DP spot to land Argentine youth international winger Pedro de la Vega from Lanús for reportedly a $7.5 million fee.

The kid – well, he's 23 now, so maybe not a "kid" – looks legit.

Elsewhere, the Sounders made some promising depth signings (like striker Danny Musovski). And they've kept most of their 2023 core, leaving them primed for trophy contention.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

Nothing major transaction-wise for Sporting KC. It's a little "wait and see" mode re: their open DP spot after Gadi Kinda jetted for the Israeli Premier League.

One setback: Khiry Shelton underwent ankle surgery and is expected to be out through early April. The veteran forward is a depth piece nowadays, but this also serves as a reminder that "healthy SKC" are right in the mix. If depth needs to step up, problems could arise.

It's all about St. Louis avoiding a sophomore slump after their record-setting, Western Conference-leading expansion season.

To that effect, the club has brought in starting-level fullbacks Tomas Totland and Nikolas Dyhr from Scandinavian leagues. They also added midfielder Chris Durkin in a trade with D.C. United, delivering depth in several spots.

What happens next? Potentially a striker after they dealt Nicholas Gioacchini to Italian second-division side Como 1907. The US international departed for a reported $2 million fee that could reach $4 million with add-ons (great business for an Expansion Draft pick).

Underlining everything is how St. Louis won't sneak up on anybody in 2024. Last year's playoff setback looms large (just ask Roman Bürki).

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Toronto still have high-priced DPs Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. No takers for the Italian forwards, despite a steady flow of rumors.

Beyond that, they acquired Honduran d-mid Deybi Flores and took Tyrese Spicer No. 1 overall in the SuperDraft. This squad, truthfully, hasn't changed much from 2023's Wooden Spoon finish (last place).

All that places extra emphasis on head coach John Herdman getting more out of the squad. It's a must.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver's big newcomers are MLS-proven forwards Damir Kreilach and Fafà Picault. They return nearly their entire 2023 group. And their open DP spot remains unfilled (related: Richie Laryea was formally named to Nottingham Forest's EPL squad).

The Whitecaps had a shorter offseason timeline than everyone else, too. They've already played Leg 1 of their Concacaf Champions Cup series vs. Liga MX powerhouse Tigres (1-1 draw).