MLS kicks off its 26th season on April 17 with COVID hanging over the pitch once again. The bright spot, or shall we say bright verde spot, is Austin FC entering the league for its inaugural campaign. All eyes will be on the new club as they’ve methodically built the roster with a mix of wily MLS veterans and promising young South Americans. Even as training camp begins, the expansion team is looking near and far for the final pieces, adding Columbus Crew midfielder Sebastian Berhalter and Slovenian defender Zan Kolmanic on loan just this week.
Last year Nashville SC entered the league as the sole expansion club in the West, but swapped conferences midseason. Austin FC is drawing early comparisons to its successful Music City peer and lands on the list to the tune of No. 6.
At the top of the West, LAFC returns to dominance with a healthy Carlos Vela, while also adding forward Corey Baird from RSL to an already formidable attack. Right behind, Minnesota and Portland pick up where they left off last season, followed by Seattle Sounders, stumbling in the early rankings sans star playmaker Jordan Morris.
Here’s how the MLS West shakes out entering the 2021 season:
ATX FC claims the No. 1 preseason spot among the Texas triangle that includes Houston and Dallas. The badge may be new, but Houston, we have a (player) problem. Not enough big-time player signings this offseason to move the needle, and dynamic forward Mauro Manotas high-tailed it to Liga MX.
FC Dallas sits squarely behind the Verde in the power ranking. The Toros lose key players Reynolds, Cannon, and Barrios (traded to the Rapids). Throw-in a question mark about Paxton Pomykal’s health and it makes Dallas a power ranking head-scratcher going into 2021.
Tell us how you would rank the MLS Western Conference in the comments below.