Golden Boot

MLS Golden Boot: Who are the main contenders halfway through 2023?


Matchday 18 is upon us and nine clubs around Major League Soccer have 17 games completed – the halfway mark of the 2023 season.

Given that, let's check in on the Golden Boot presented by Audi race and who's leading the way thus far.

The top dozen candidates are listed below. Plenty of movement is expected as the summer of soccer truly gets underway.

  • Production: 10 goals, 7 assists - 16 games

Mukhtar, the reigning Golden Boot winner and Landon Donovan MLS MVP, hasn't missed a beat in 2023. He has the most goal contributions (17) in MLS and has contributed to over 70% of Nashville's tallies.

  • Production: 10 goals, 2 assists - 13 games

Bouanga has been in electric form in 2023, both in league play and as LAFC reached the Concacaf Champions League final. Now in his first full season with LAFC, Bouanga is one of two Designated Players (alongside Carlos Vela) on the reigning MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield winners.

  • Production: 10 goals, 2 assists - 17 games

Ferreira is on pace to surpass the 18 goals he scored during the 2022 campaign, which helped earn him a World Cup roster spot with the US, Best XI presented by Continental honors and the league's Young Player of the Year award. This homegrown standout is vital to FC Dallas' attack.

  • Production: 9 goals, 3 assists - 15 games

One of two Union players in the Golden Boot race's top tier, Carranza already has two Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire awards this season (Matchdays 15 & 17). He provides a great one-two punch at striker alongside Mikael Uhre.

  • Production: 9 goals, 1 assist - 15 games

Morris enjoyed a blistering stretch at striker for Seattle, highlighted by a four-goal performance at Sporting KC. The US international has cooled off some these past two months, though is one goal away from reaching double-digit strikes for the fourth time in his career and possibly setting a new career-high in single-season goals (previous is 12).

  • Production: 9 goals, 0 assists - 13 games

Giakoumakis, brought in this offseason as Atlanta's new No. 9 in the post-Josef Martínez era, has looked the part thus far. The Greek international ably leads the line and has a poacher's instinct that's hard to teach.

  • Production: 8 goals, 5 assists - 16 games

Espinoza is no stranger to impressive production, tallying 13 and 14 assists in two different past seasons with the Earthquakes. But now he's added goals to his repertoire as San Jose look rejuvenated under new head coach Luchi Gonzalez.

  • Production: 8 goals, 2 assists - 16 games

Benteke is the focal point in D.C. United's attack, especially in the air. Signed last summer, he's showing why he previously recorded 86 goals and 23 assists in 280 Premier League matches for Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Aston Villa.

  • Production: 7 goals, 8 assists - 15 games

Fresh off helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, Almada has leveled up this year and seems primed for a big-money outbound transfer one day (perhaps surpassing Miguel Almirón's previous record). The only hindrance to Almada's Golden Boot contention may be how long he's in MLS.

  • Production: 7 goals, 8 assists - 15 games

Gazdag was in Golden Boot contention until the last matchday in 2022, finishing with 22 goals (one shy of Mukhtar's final tally). It was no fluke, as the Union's Hungarian international No. 10 is again among the most dangerous attacking players in MLS.

  • Production: 7 goals, 7 assists - 14 games

Zelarayán is on pace for over 30 goal contributions, one season after reaching 22 with the Crew. Call it the Wilfried Nancy bump, as Columbus have the most goals scored (33) in MLS and one of the most dangerous DP attacking duos with Zelarayán and Cucho Hernández.

  • Production: 7 goals, 3 assists - 15 games

FC Cincinnati have raced out to the Supporters' Shield and have Acosta as their leading scorer, all after being the MLS assist king in 2022 with 19 helpers. Their playmaker is well on his way to surpassing his previous MLS single-season high of 10 goals (reached twice before).