By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Nov 7, 2022) US Soccer Players – Another Major League Soccer season has come and gone. The postmortem of the 2022 season will be dissected in the coming days and weeks after Los Angeles FC came away with the MLS Cup following Saturday’s epic game against the Philadelphia Union. LAFC downed the Union on penalties after a 3-3 game that pitted the two top teams from the regular season. But there was more to the MLS season than the finale. In fact, there were many stories and talking points that deserve highlighting in a season that started early and ended in November to accommodate the World Cup.
The 2023 MLS season will start to take shape in January with preseason and the league’s 29 teams will include expansion side St. Louis City SC. MLS will also pause for a month starting next July 21 for the expanded Leagues Cup, which will see MLS teams play Liga MX opposition. In the meantime, here are five things worth noting from the just concluded 2022 MLS season.
Playoff-less in Seattle
Seattle arguably had one of the most bizarre seasons in MLS history. The team made history in May after breaking Mexico’s lock on the Concacaf Champions League, defeating UNAM Pumas in the two-legged final. In MLS play, the Sounders went 12-5-17 and finished a dismal 11th in the Western Conference, failing to make the postseason for the first time in 14 seasons. A series of injuries to key players certainly didn’t help, with Seattle one of a few clubs wondering what 2022 might have looked like at closer to full strength.
Looking to European talent
Several notable names from European soccer crossed the Atlantic to MLS this season. Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri arrived at the Chicago Fire, Toronto FC brought in Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, and LAFC signed Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale. It was Bale showing his class in the final, scoring the tying goal to push the game to penalties.
Hany Mukhtar’s MVP season
The race for league MVP was one of the most competitive in years. It was a sign of how great the quality of the talent in MLS has risen in recent years. Mukhtar’s performances for Nashville SC were a joy to watch, with 23 goals and 11 assists. He also won the Golden Boot as league top scorer, accounting for a third of all his team’s goals. That won him the award ahead of Austin’s Sebastian Driussi and Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and it bodes well for Nashville’s immediate future.
Charlotte FC’s promising start
With expansion a regular occurrence in MLS, this past season all eyes were on Charlotte FC and their first season in the league. Coming close to the playoffs in season one certainly counts, with Charlotte finishing 13-18-3 and in 9th-place in the East and six points out of the playoffs. That came after a tumultuous start that included a coaching change. Interim coach Christian Lattanzio now has the job full time and striker Karol Swiderski impressed with 10 goals and six assists.
New York City FC won it all in 2021 and picked up another trophy this season, beating Atlas 2-0 on September 14 to win the Campeones Cup. That seemed to draw a line between a streak of nine MLS games where New York only picked up four points and a strong end to the season. They won three MLS games in a row after lifting the Campeones Cup, adding two more playoff wins to advance to the Eastern Conference finals as the 3rd-seed.
As with everything in MLS, carrying that into next season is an ongoing question. It’s all part of a larger story line within the larger narrative that MLS is always growing and improving. The big takeaway is that this is a league that seems to get better with each passing season. At the same time, there’s always room for growth. That’s a talking point that carries over into next year as we await the start of the 2023 season.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Reflection, Revamping, and Rebuilding for the Dynamo and DC United
- Q&A with Alexi Lalas: “I think, quite honestly, that the crucial game is the first one against Wales”
- Adding to the Supporters’ Shield, NYCFC defends, and the potential for a first-time champion
- The Philadelphia Union is showing how to balance a roster in 2022
Photo by Andy Mead – ISIPhotos.com