MLS Power Rankings: Philadelphia Union, Los Angeles FC in a class of their own

The last two teams standing in 2022 enter the season a step above the rest.

Denis Bouanga of LAFC and Olivier Mbaizo of Philadelphia Union battle for the ball during the 2022 MLS Cup Final. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Denis Bouanga of LAFC and Olivier Mbaizo of Philadelphia Union battle for the ball during the 2022 MLS Cup Final. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Happy Opening Day to all who celebrate. After three and a half long months, MLS is back and there’s no better way to celebrate than to gauge every team’s offseason and establish some power rankings.

It’s important to remember that power rankings are not necessarily predictions, but more so an evaluation of a team’s standing in the league heading into the season.

1) Philadelphia Union

They were less than a minute away from winning one of the most dramatic and exciting MLS Cup Finals in history and have only gotten better. It’s tough to imagine anyone that could challenge Philadelphia in the East and it really does seem like a repeat berth in the final is theirs to lose.

2) Los Angeles FC

First and second place is incredibly close to one another, but the top spot goes to Philadelphia because LAFC still has some depth concerns up top and needs a proper No. 9 to lead the attack. Besides that, they've somehow managed to keep their biggest stars and could definitely set up an MLS Cup Final rematch.

3) Austin FC

Austin just keeps on getting better and has shown the blueprint for how a successful expansion club should go about establishing itself quickly. Teams involved in a CONCACAF Champions League almost always struggle in MLS at the start, but when you have Sebastian Driussi, anything is possible.

4) Orlando City SC

Saying that Orlando had a busy offseason might be the understatement of the season. Bringing in the likes of Martin Ojeda and Ramiro Enrique means that Orlando could have one of the most supercharged attacks in MLS. They barely qualified for the playoffs last year, but could very well stroll into the postseason this time around.

5) New York Red Bulls

New York has brought in considerable reinforcements, so if they can pair that with what was already one of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference last year, a top-four finish is almost assured.

6) FC Cincinnati

Cincinnati made a habit of scoring goals for fun last year, running through any team in their path and failing to score in only five games. Now, add a slew of defensive reinforcements to that dynamite offence and you don’t just have a dark horse, you have a real problem in the East.

7) Seattle Sounders

Seattle’s going to be good, but the question remains just how good will they be? They missed the playoffs last year and the team’s age as well as its injury issues are extremely disconcerting. That being said, João Paulo is back, and the people of Seattle can breathe that much easier.

8) New York City FC

Last season’s departure of players still boggles the mind. They lost so many good pieces that their steep drop-off in form last year coincides almost exactly with that exodus. That being said, NYCFC has one of the most dynamic and explosive front threes in MLS, so if any team is going to hurt you by filling the net, you’re looking at them.

9) FC Dallas

Dallas kind of snuck under everybody’s radar last season and didn’t do much to improve in the offseason. They were the second best defense in MLS behind an impossibly good Philadelphia side. They did, however, bring in designated player Alan Velasco, who could provide the offensive shot in the arm they so badly needed.

10) LA Galaxy

They were last year’s conference finalists for a reason — their big players show up when they need it most. However, there are still just too many holes in the roster to make a push for any kind of silverware. In fact, making the conference finals again this year would be a huge accomplishment given how solid the West is this year.

11) Toronto FC

Credit where credit is due, Toronto had a number of gaps in their lineup and they went out and filled most of them, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They have an incredibly deep attack this year but are still in danger of being overrun in the midfield, which could end up being their undoing.

12) CF Montreal

There are just so many questions surrounding CF Montreal and how they’re going to follow up on one of their greatest-ever seasons. This is the first year of the Hernán Losada era and while the majority of the core has remained intact or has been effectively replaced, there are still just too many unknown variables to get an accurate reading on how the season is going to play out.

13) Nashville SC

Hany Mukhtar. That’s it. That’s Nashille’s attack. The German attacking midfielder had one of the best individual seasons in recent memory but it seems like he’ll have to do it on his own once again because Nashville inexplicably refuses to pick up a striker. Until they do that, Nashville’s ceiling will be rather limited.

14) Columbus Crew

Columbus wins the award for the best off-field acquisition when they brought in former CF Montreal coach and 2022 Coach of the Year finalist Wilfried Nancy. Everybody saw how deadly Djordje Mihailovic was under Nancy, which means that someone like Lucas Zelarayán is probably salivating at the season ahead.

15) Portland Timbers

Portland finds itself in a situation very similar to that of Nashville. The club has the most expensive signing of the offseason in Evander from the Danish Superliga and will be looking at him to generate the most offense. Not much else had changed in Portland, meaning the Brazilian could be the difference-maker with regard to a potential playoff spot.

16) Atlanta United

There are so many different ways that Atlanta’s season can go that it gives you a headache just thinking about it. They did manage to replace the departure of Josef Martinez, who has struggled with knee problems, and now boast a much more balanced attack. Between that and some key players returning from injury, Atlanta’s ceiling is very high, but its floor is also extremely low.

17) Sporting Kansas City

Kansas City really began turning it around towards the end of last season with William Agada finding insane form and pulling them out of the Western Conference basement. There are still some concerns on the defensive side of the ball, which means that Agada will have to play at an MVP level — something he is more than capable of doing — in order to see this team get the best result possible.

18) Vancouver Whitecaps

The defending Voyageurs Cup winners have a lot of things to look forward to this season as they’ve really addressed some problem areas on their backline and in goal. Making the playoffs is still a bit of a stretch with their current squad, but stranger things have happened.

19) New England Revolution

The Revs experienced one of the most disappointing 180s in MLS history last season. After a historic 2021 season that ended with them claiming the Supporter’s Shield, they were simply unable to keep up with the demand of a Champions League run, along with the usual fixture congestion, and ended up missing the playoffs. They have made some improvements in the offseason, but a lot of things have to go right in order for them to sneak into the playoffs.

20) Real Salt Lake

After losing two of their best players this offseason and not doing much to replace them, Real’s path to the postseason is dubious at best. They’re still one of the hardest-working teams in the league and will give any team a difficult 90 minutes, but a lack of quality does limit how far this team can go.

21) Charlotte FC

Watching Charlotte’s offseason, you can’t help but feel like they’re going to take a big step forward this year if it wasn’t for some gaping holes in the midfield. They may have found a killer striker tandem, but it unfortunately doesn’t seem like it will be enough.

22) San Jose Earthquake

San Jose’s team looks incredibly balanced and versatile this year. However, it is rare that a team finds success in MLS without any kind of star power. They’re most likely going to be significantly improved on the defensive end, but it’s tough to see them get anywhere near a playoff spot

23) Inter Miami CF

Lionel Messi this, Lionel Messi that. One way or another, he won’t be wearing an Inter Miami jersey this season and placing all your eggs in the basket of landing the GOAT is a dangerous gamble. Back in the realm of reality, Ganzalo Higuain and Alejandro Pozuelo are not coming back and with the addition of an injury-prone Josef Martinez whose best years are behind him, a playoff team does not make. The former Golden Boot and MVP Winner would need to win Comeback Player of the Year just to get Miami anywhere near the playoffs.

24) Colorado Rapids

Colorado’s offseason was a bit of a head-scratcher with their only notable offensive addition being Kevin Cabral, who struggled with the LA Galaxy. It’s tough to see them improve on 10th place in the West with so few improvements, especially in problem areas.

25) D.C. United

Last year was bad, like historically bad. With head coach Wayne Rooney’s first full season in charge, it seems as though United is looking to make strides going forward. They have a number of reputable attackers who can help improve the offensive end but have not done anything to mitigate the whopping 71 goals they conceded last year.

26) Minnesota United FC

Would you like to know an absolutely insane stat? Emanuel Reynoso had 13.5 percent of Minnesota’s touches on the ball last year and 25.5 percent in the final third — both league-leading numbers. The biggest problem with that is the fact that Reynoso still hasn’t reported to the team and won’t play in the club's season opener. It’s difficult to overstate just how catastrophic a Minnesota season without their star creative midfielder can be.

27) Houston Dynamo FC

It will be interesting to see what new head coach Ben Olsen brings to this Houston team that struggled a lot last year. The team doesn’t look too different, so barring some kind of tactical revolution there’s very little to expect from this year

28) Chicago Fire FC

There are simply far too many issues to name for Chicago ahead of the season. With the only two teams behind them last season making improvements, Chicago is staring down the barrel of a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference this season.

29) St Louis SC

No hard feelings, guys. It’s custom practice for any team’s inaugural season. They have made some interesting signings and will definitely be worth watching even if they don’t find much success this year.