MLS 2024

MLS Western Conference preview & predictions: LAFC & Seattle once again top choices

ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here with your 2024 Western Conference preview which sees more teams in flux compared with the East. But once again, Seattle and LAFC are the class of the league. But FC Dallas could surprise while St. Louis could have tougher go. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 20, 2024
11:00 PM

THE MLS WESTERN CONFERENCE in 2024 is the weaker of the conferences as more teams are betting on newcomers and facing difficult questions with existing players. Once again, it becomes tough to bet against LAFC and Seattle just because of a strong existing core under the same coaches. But even with them, there are moments that give us pause.

When revisiting my predictions from 2023, I fared well in the Eastern Conference, but I bombed out in the West. I completely missed out on St. Louis where I had them last and they finished first. In second to last, I had Houston and I missed out on their impressive revival. I completely overrated Austin FC and while I figured the Galaxy would struggle, I didn’t fully grasp the depth of their problems.

To make matters worse, I feel less certain about the West at the start of the 2024 season than I did last year. But that’s what makes this fun – literally anything can happen. The West doesn’t have the MLS Cup champ, the Supporters Shield winner, or the Inter Miami circus. Instead, we just have a lot more rebuilding.


Here we go.


Seattle Sounders

Prediction: 1st in the West


It seems boring to pick Seattle to finish first, but they return a lot of the same core that has brought them so much success. But there is one huge change as Nicholas Lodeiro left the club and he was the heart and soul of the Sounders for a long time. He also was one of the most successful designated players in the history of the league. But it was also the right time as his best days were behind him and the Sounders needed to get younger.

Enter Pedro de la Vega who arrives from Lanus in Argentina as the most expensive acquisition in club history. That will carry with it expectations, although expecting him to be the equivalent of Lodeiro in his prime is unfair. He needs to find his own way and make his own mark, but he does need to contribute right away. The good news is that he is surrounded by players who have played together for years.


Seattle still has age-issues in some areas. Jordan Morris is still only 29, but has multiple ACL injuries in his legs and has shifted to the No. 9 role as opposed to the wings. Forward Raul Ruidiaz will turn 34 this season, Joao Paulo will turn 33. Albert Rusnak will turn 30. Stefan Frei will turn 38.

But Seattle has been improving in this front. Danny Musovski will add important depth at forward after Herber struggled to do so. Plus, some of their homegrown talents are starting to hit in the form of Josh Atencio, Obed Vargas, and now Reed Baker-Whiting. The latter two will be part of the U.S. U-20 team this cycle while Atencio has Olympic hopes.

Overall, Seattle made a big splash with a high-end DP winger on the younger side, made a few tweaks here and there, are promoting youngsters from within, and have a good defensive unit. That should be enough in a year where the West is full of changes.

Key departures: Nicholas Lodeiro, Heiber

Key additions: Pedro de la Venta, Danny Musovski


Los Angeles FC

Prediction: 2nd in the West


If the West was as strong as the East, there would be more concern over LAFC. For one, how can anyone expect Denis Bouanga to replicate his record-breaking season (25 MLS goals, 7 Concacaf Champions League goals, and 6 Leagues Cup goals) in 2023? It’s unrealistic to expect that. Soon to be 35-year-old Carlos Vela is also still a free agent.

But a team like LAFC never sits still and some good pieces are back. For the sake of having a dependable option, the club brought back Eduard Atuesta on loan from Palmeiras. Young Mexican left back Omar Campos replaces the departed Diego Palacios. Then you have World Cup winner Hugo Lloris now in goal.


What’s encouraging is that LAFC is also attracting young players and they signed Tomas Angel, 21, from Atletico Nacional (he is the son of Juan Pablo Angel) and David Martinez, 18, from Monagas. Martinez is considered a high end talent and is a Venezuelan youth international.

There are questions about LAFC but there is talent and a strong existing core despite the number of players who left. But it’s also tough to be down on LAFC because they still have two open DP spots and it’s hard to see them going the whole season with one DP in Bouanga.

Key departures: Diego Palacios, Carlos Vela (although he could return), Maxime Crepeau, Kellyn Acosta, Giorgio Chiellini

Key additions: Hugo Lloris, Omar Campos, Eduard Atuesta, Tomas Angel, David Martinez


FC Dallas

Prediction: 3rd in the West


FC Dallas could be onto something in 2024. Even with Alan Velasco out with a long-term ACL injury, the team boasts an attack that just makes sense. The big news was the very expensive acquisition of a bona-fide No. 9 in Petar Musa, 25, from Benfica. Musah had 12 goals in 44 league games with Benfica and has earned six caps from the Croatian national team.

Now with a top No. 9, Jesus Ferreira will shift to the second striker role, where he is at his best. But if Ferreira is sold this summer, that could leave a big void. Then you have wingers in captain Paul Arriola and the promising Bernard Kamungo, who showed a ton of potential in 2023 and could be on the U.S. Olympic team. Newly acquired Enes Sali is a teenager who has already been capped by Romania.


But the rest of the team is strong. FC Dallas will now get a full season out of Spanish midfielder Asier Illarramendi who joined last August, and he will play alongside Paxton Pomykal. Also of note, winger/wingback Dante Sealy has had a great preseason. If he continues that form, that will only add to what is a good team.

Key departures: Jader Obrian, Facundo Quignón, José Martínez

Key additions: Petar Musa, Enes Sali


Sporting Kansas City

Prediction: 4th in the West


When you toss out the first 10 games of 2023, Sporting KC had a good season. During the offseason, they said goodbye to older club legends like Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza. It’s always painful to do that, but it’s necessary. But the one concern for Sporting KC is that they are still an older team in too many key areas (captain Johnny Russell and DP Alan Pulido are 33 and 32 respectfully). That’s true for a lot of teams, but it’s not clear if Sporting is set to do anything about it.

But Sporting should be solid with a team loaded with positive MLS experience, and they also have an open DP spot when Gadi Kinda left to return to Israel. The continuity they have from last year should help them with a Western Conference full of teams amid a lot of change.

Key departures: Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, Gadi Kinda.

Key additions: Memo Rodriguez, Zorhan Bassong


Houston Dynamo

Prediction: 5th in the West


The Dynamo were dramatically improved in 2023 under Ben Olsen but there are many questions surrounding the team that would be more costly if the West was as good as the East. But the West is full of teams with questions, so the Dynamo are just in the middle of the pack.

Hector Herrera is the engine of the team, but the Mexican international is hurt to start the season. Forward Sebas Ferreira also was forced out of the team’s Champions League game against St. Louis in the first half. Corey Baird also left for Cincinnati in the offseason where he will help fill the huge void of Brandon Vazquez’s sale to Monterrey.

But we’ll bet on Olsen and Pat Onstead for the direction the team is heading that they’ll get through the current injuries and play like they did in 2023.

Key departures: Corey Baird, Teenage Hadebe, Ivan Franco

Key additions: Jan Gregus


St. Louis CITY SC

Prediction: 6th in the West


St. Louis CITY defied all expectations in its first year where it finished atop the West. They started to come back down to earth towards the end of 2023 and were easily ousted in the playoffs by an experienced Sporting KC.

Is St. Louis as good as the team that dominated the first 75% of the season or is the end of the season more indicative? The answer is probably somewhere in between.

They have a lot of goals to make up for as they sold Nicholas Gioacchini (10 goals and 1 assist in 2023) and traded Jared Stroud (5 goals, 5 assists). Thus far, they haven’t made a splash yet in the attacking positions. The club upgraded at both fullback positions in signing Nikolas Dyhr from Midtjylland and Tomas Totland from BK Hacken.

Things won’t be nearly as easy for St. Louis in 2024 as they won’t take teams by surprise. Plus, they need more goal scoring options, and they can’t rely on goalkeeper Roman Burki as much as they did in 2023.

Key departures: Nicholas Gioacchini, Jared Stroud

Key additions: Tomas Totland, Nikolas Dyhr


LA Galaxy

Prediction: 7th in the West


The LA Galaxy have been in danger of becoming an after thought in Los Angeles with the success of LAFC in recent years. The Galaxy have struggled, but it hasn’t been for a lack of ambition. This year, the Galaxy have been extremely busy in the offseason.

The club is reportedly adding Ghanaian national team winger Joseph Paintsil from Genk. That comes on the heels of signing Brazilian youth international Gabriel Pec from Vasco de Gama. Those two wingers will reportedly cost the Galaxy nearly $20 million combined. They also added Miki Yamane, who was a standout in Japan's J League.


Along with Riqui Puig, the Galaxy should be able to get the ball foward.

The team also cut out a lot with Chicharito and Douglas Costa not being retained. Tyler Boyd became expendable with the addition of the pricy wingers.

The question for this team will be in defense and this is not helped by the current injury to U.S. youth international centerback Jalen Neal. There are a lot of expectations on the Galaxy this year to improve. If they struggle out of the gate, it could get ugly.

Key departures: Chicharito, Douglas Costa, Tyler Boyd

Key additions: Gabriel Pec, Joseph Paintsil, Miki Yamane


Vancouver Whitecaps

Prediction: 8th in the West


Vancouver is one of the Western team that improved in the offseason. With an established No. 9 in Brian White, the club added Damir Kreilach to play as a second striker. Right behind them is Ryan Gauld who was also solid in 2023. Newly acquired Fafa Picault will bring some experience and quality in the attack off the bench. It's not a star-studded lineup, but it is competent and it should be able to reach the playoffs if they can avoid serious injuries.


With Montreal and Toronto not looking great at the start of the season, the Caps are the class of Canada right now.

Key departures: Russell Tiebert, Richie Layera, Junior Hoilett

Key additions: Damir Kreilach, Fafa Picault


Real Salt Lake

Prediction: 9th in the West


The last playoff spot in the West goes to Real Salt Lake. It is true that RSL lost a lot of goal scoring in the offseason. DP Jefferson Savarino left for Brazil, Damir Kreilach is now on Vancouver, and Danny Musovski headed to Seattle.

But RSL didn’t stand still. They added attacking midfielder Matt Crooks from Middlesbrough and Mexican U-17 winger Fidel Barajas who joined from Charleston Battery. This will also be the first full season with Chicho Arango at the No. 9 and even Diego Luna who didn’t really start for RSL until after the U-20 World Cup. The team needs more production from Andres Gomez, which is possible.

There are concerns in defense and in goalkeeping, but RSL also has an open DP spot to use in the middle of the year. Also of note is the team’s homefield advantage in altitude. They always are in the mix for the playoffs and should be again.

Key departures: Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach, Danny Musovski 

Key additions: Matt Crooks, Fidel Barajas


Portland Timbers

Prediction: 10th in the West


There are simply too many variables with Portland to pick them to be a playoff team right now. Of course, that could change, and they could turn out to be good. But a lot needs to break their way.

First, there is a new manager in town with Phil Neville who had a rocky time managing Inter Miami – his only first team head coaching job on the men’s side. Then you have the fact that there are still two open DP spots, leaving only Evander. Yes, Maxime Crepeau is a good addition in goal and Kamal Miller will upgrade the defense.

When you combine that with multiple club veterans all leaving, it just seems like this is a transitional season and very much a work in progress.

Key Departures: Yimmi Chara, Sebastian Blanco, Jaroslaw Niezgoda

Key arrivals: Maxime Crepau, Kamal Miller


San Jose Earthquakes

Prediction: 11th in the West


In 2023, San Jose snuck into the postseason to make the play-in game. That was a step in the right direction under first year coach Luchi Gonzalez. But heading into 2024, the club lost some key players in the offseason and made only one significant upgrade.

Cade Cowell was sold to Chivas, Jamiro Monteiro is in Turkey (and he frees up a DP spot), Jonathan Mensah is now a center back for New England, left back Miguel Trauco is now back in Brazil. Losing four starters is tough.


In terms of additions, winger Amahl Pellegrino is very interesting as he arrives having won the Golden Boots in Norway’s Eliteserien in 2022 and 2023.  The other additions do not have that kind of resume. Bruno Wilson will play in central defense and he comes from a Vizela team that is last in Portugal. Brazilian left back Vitor Costa played in the Portuguese second tier.

But the club needs Niko Tsakiris to take big steps in his game or else the attack could be starved of service. Jeremy Ebobisse is a good forward, but he needs service.

Key Departures: Cade Cowell, Jamiro Monteiro, Jonathan Mensah, Miguel Trauco.

Key arrivals: Amahl Pellegrino, Bruno Wilson, Vitor Costa


Minnesota United

Prediction: 12th in the West


There are some good things about Minnesota. Emmanuel Reynoso is a true No. 10. Teemu Pukki was very good last year when he arrived to play the No. 9 (10 goals in 1040 minutes). But the roster isn’t deep and so much will rely on Reynoso, Pukki, and to a lesser extent Bongokuhle Hlongwane who broke out in 2023. If anything happens to them, Minnesota should struggle.

But on top of it, the team doesn’t even have a permanent head coach despite having all winter to make a hire. That alone makes it tough to feel good about United in 2024.

Key additions: Ménder García, Bakaye Dibassy, Jan Gregus

Key departures: Victor Eriksson, Alejandro Bran


Colorado Rapids

Prediction: 13th in the West


Colorado was very busy this past offseason. But again, there are questions. Djordje Mihailovic was a record import from AZ in the Netherlands, but this time he won’t have the benefit of being coached by Wifried Nancy, who connected well with him. Zack Steffen is now in goal, but he hasn’t played in eight months, his knees are always a concern, and his last stint at Middlesbrough wasn’t great.  Sam Vines returns to play left back, but he replaces Andrew Gutman (who wasn’t necessarily a weakness). Omir Fernandez joined after a solid but sometimes inconsistent run with the Red Bulls.

On top of that is the new head coach Chris Armas who only had two head coaching jobs before (New York Red Bulls and Toronto) and neither ended well. But he was busy with assistant jobs in England since then, including Manchester United.


There has been change in Colorado, but not close to the amount of change needed after a dreadful 2023 season where they finished last.

Key additions: Djordje Mihailovic, Sam Vines, Zack Steffen, Omir Fernandez, Lamine Diack

Key departures: Diego Rubio, William Yarbrough, Danny Wilson, Jack Price


Austin FC

Prediction: 14th in the West


Last season’s 12th place finish was a massive disappointment for Austin after the success of 2022. Josh Wolff kept his job but could be on the hot seat with a bad start. The great run the team had in 2022 was over-reliant on an MVP season from Sebastian Driussi and when his goals dipped from 25 to 11 in 2023, the whole team kind of fell apart.


The team wasn’t nearly as busy as you’d expect after such a bad season. Diego Rubio comes from Colorado, and he should start. Jader Obrian might be an occasional starter and he arrives from Dallas. But that’s about it. Once again, it’s all on Driussi.

Key additions: Diego Rubio, Jader Obrian,

Key departures: Maxi Urruti, Nick Lima

Post a comment