Voices: Joseph Lowery

Is your team meeting expectations? Assessing the 2024 MLS season to date


We're nearly one-third of the way through the 2024 MLS season.

Up until now, what have we learned? Are teams underperforming or overperforming?

Let's answer that, going club by club.

Preseason expectations: Host a home playoff series

Season so far: There's been a whole host of highs and lows in Atlanta. The attack can blow the doors off even the best defenses in MLS, but injuries and mind-bending mistakes are popping up far too often.

Verdict: Not meeting expectations, but the blueprint is there

Preseason expectations: Dreaming of a Wild Card spot

Season so far: It looked like Austin FC might have been doomed to battle it out for the bottom spot in the West, but there’s hope after four wins in their last five games (and some legit promising attacking play that features more than just rapid-fire crosses). Only three teams are out-performing their xG more than Austin, though, according to FBref. So let’s not get carried away.

Verdict: Dust off the laminator, we’re exceeding expectations

Preseason expectations: Hover around the playoff line, but in a more stable way

Season so far: Dean Smith has brought his pragmatic, sensible approach to Charlotte. It’s been a whole lot of mid-block defending and 4-2-3-1 transition attacking, which isn’t a bad thing for a club that was hurting for consistency for two years.

Verdict: Meeting expectations

Preseason expectations: Fight for a Wild Card spot

Season so far: Despite splashing the cash to sign Hugo Cuypers from Belgium, the Fire can’t find him in dangerous areas. They also don’t have top-end talent in any line of the field. The problems in Chicago are predictable and plentiful, but hope isn’t lost with nine teams sneaking into the playoffs out East.

Verdict: Meeting expectations while dreaming of summer reinforcements

Preseason expectations: Trophy, even amidst transition

Season so far: It's not all pretty as Cincy adjust to playing with five new starters after winning the 2023 Supporters' Shield. But you know what? Things are starting to click, even with Aaron Boupendza relegated to the bench. This isn’t the final form for Pat Noonan’s team, though.

Verdict: Meeting expectations

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Colorado Rapids

Preseason expectations: Sneak into the playoffs

Season so far: No singular Rapids player is lighting the league on fire, but at least that allows us to confirm the three eternal principles of life: death, taxes, and Colorado doing things by committee. But with a more unified approach and a higher talent floor than last year, Chris Armas and Co. are taking advantage of a soft Western Conference.

Verdict: Exceeding expectations

Preseason expectations: Compete for everything

Season so far: Folks in Columbus should be ecstatic about how 2024 is treating them. They battled through the Cucho blip, are on the cusp of the Concacaf Champions Cup final, and are doing just fine in MLS play at 1.5 points per game.

Verdict: Meeting expectations in style

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FC Dallas

Preseason expectations: Comfortably in the playoff field

Season so far: Gulp. Things have gone horribly wrong for FC Dallas in 2024. Their midfield has been injured, their best creator has missed time, and their center backs look exactly as bad as we all feared they would. It’s hard to find a silver lining in Frisco right now.

Verdict: Not even close to meeting expectations

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D.C. United

Preseason expectations: Cross your fingers and hope for the playoffs

Season so far: I’m really, really high on what Troy Lesesne and Ally Mackay are doing with D.C. United. One of the youngest manager and chief soccer officer duos in the league, those two have given D.C. a new up-tempo approach without limiting the impact of Christian Benteke. There’s tons of work to do, but the Black-and-Red look refreshed.

Verdict: Exceeding expectations, even if the real payoff won’t come until 2025

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Preseason expectations: In the automatic playoff spots

Season so far: Despite injuries to Héctor Herrera and seemingly every other potential final-third difference-maker outside of Coco Carrasquilla, the Dynamo have stayed afloat in the West. Their big issue from last year, a lack of chance creation, is back this year. Will a return to health for Herrera fix that? Or, more likely, will a busy summer window?

Verdict: Meeting expectations

Preseason expectations: Top three in the West

Season so far: With just one DP (Denis Bouanga) in the squad and Steve Cherundolo’s distaste for fluid, possession-heavy soccer, parts of 2024 have been a bit of a slog for LAFC. But they’re sitting in a very respectable fifth place and look primed to explode this summer.

Verdict: On track

Preseason expectations: A solid playoff team with crazy-high upside

Season so far: Sure, there’s the inescapable fact that LA's central defensive personnel and their defensive transition structure aren't great right now. But their attacking personnel is genuinely so freaking good that they’re winning far more than they’re losing this year from their second-place perch out West.

Verdict: Blowing past expectations like Joseph Paintsil blowing past opposing left backs

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Inter Miami CF

Preseason expectations: In contention for every trophy

Season so far: Their abbreviated Concacaf Champions Cup run is a black mark, but this team is pushing towards the Supporters’ Shield. Lionel Messi is doing exactly what we all expected and Inter Miami have added more depth to support him.

Verdict: Meeting expectations

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Preseason expectations: Fighting for the playoffs

Season so far: Look, I had the Loons finishing seventh in the West in my season predictions, but more than a dozen of my peers placed them outside the playoffs. So, we’re meeting in the middle on the preseason expectations. Regardless, Minnesota have banded together and are performing at a higher level than anyone would’ve guessed without Emanuel Reynoso.

Verdict: Exceeding expectations

Preseason expectations: Clawing to get out of the East’s basement

Season so far: There’s still a very real top-end talent issue in Montréal, but the Laurent Courtois era has begun more smoothly than anticipated. With a clear, observable tactical approach, Montréal's floor is higher than it’s been since Wilfried Nancy left ahead of last season.

Verdict: Exceeding expectations

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Nashville SC

Preseason expectations: Hovering around the playoff line

Season so far: If Nashville could wipe the memory banks and start this entire season over again, they would. They’re averaging less than a point per game and just became the first home team to not beat San Jose in 2024. Are things broken in the Music City?

Verdict: Not even close to expectations

Preseason expectations: A fringe playoff team

Season so far: All of the worst fears are being realized for the Revs right now. Carles Gil well-and-truly doesn’t have any real help and the goalkeeping situation has gone from “bad” to “unstable and bad”. New England need some major summer moves to retool every line of the field.

Verdict: Not even close to expectations

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New York City FC

Preseason expectations: Fighting for the playoffs

Season so far: The youngest team in MLS has found a bit of a foothold over their last five games, picking up 11 points in that stretch. Mounsef Bakrar can’t find the back of the net, but Santi Rodríguez and the rising wingers are starting to pick up the slack.

Verdict: Just above expectations

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New York Red Bulls

Preseason expectations: Probably in the playoffs

Season so far: Almost all of the Red Bulls’ dreams are coming true. They finally have a quality playmaker again in the form of Emil Forsberg, Sandro Schwarz is diversifying the tactical approach, and they’re finding the back of the net. Life is good.

Verdict: Exceeding expectations

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Orlando City SC

Preseason expectations: Run it back

Season so far: One point per game in MLS play. A tough CCC exit. An unsettled spine. Pedro Gallese is having his worst season in Orlando to date. The attacking pieces don’t seem to fit. It’s been a big ol’ yikes in 2024.

Verdict: Not (even close to) meeting expectations

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Philadelphia Union

Preseason expectations: Pushing towards a home playoff series

Season so far: Without much in the way of offseason changes, it was always going to be a battle of continuity vs. complacency for Philadelphia in 2024. Currently sitting eighth in the Shield race at 1.63 points per game (good for fourth in the East), it’s been a fairly even mix between those two traits this year.

Verdict: Meeting expectations

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Portland Timbers

Preseason expectations: Landing a bottom-end playoff spot

Season so far: This year has been flat-out wild for the Timbers under Phil Neville. They’ve allowed two or more goals in each of their last six games. They’ve scored two or more goals in each of their last five games. No one expected this much chaos in Portland when the year started.

Verdict: Meeting expectations, but in wild fashion

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Real Salt Lake

Preseason expectations: In the playoffs on Decision Day

Season so far: Between Chicho Arango’s amazing scoring form, a new-look tactical approach that takes the form of a 3-2-5 in possession, and young attackers taking the next step, RSL have been must-watch in 2024. More than that, they’ve been really good. They’re top of the West right now.

Verdict: Exceeding, exceeding, and then exceeding some more

Preseason expectations: Hanging out near the bottom of the West

Season so far: Well…yeah. That’s been about right. They’re last in the Shield race at 0.4 points per game. Amahl Pellegrino hasn’t provided a boost on the left wing, and the defensive reinforcements haven’t improved the backline. Goalkeeping is a huge issue, too. Maybe new DP Hernán López can help fix things?

Verdict: Meeting expectations

Preseason expectations: Top of the West

Season so far: One win from nine games. One postponed match. Three red cards in their last two games (one of which was rescinded). Injuries left and right. It’s been a nightmare first stretch of the season for Brian Schmetzer, who must be yearning to have a full squad at his disposal.

Verdict: So far underneath expectations that it’s not even funny

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Sporting Kansas City

Preseason expectations: Pushing for a home playoff series

Season so far: It’s been a lot of slow, stagnant soccer from SKC in 2024. The defense isn’t a strength, the 4-2-3-1 shape doesn’t seem to be working, and the attack? Well, they're attempting the seventh-most passes per 90, according to FBref, but are just 26th in MLS in passes into the box per 90.

Verdict: Well short of expectations

Preseason expectations: A low-end playoff team

Season so far: The results haven’t flowed quite like they did last year, but Bradley Carnell’s team is staying above water in the Western Conference. Getting Eduard Löwen back should help provide more of a bite in the attack, though there’s still lots of work to do when it comes to replacing the goals they lost over the winter.

Verdict: Meeting expectations

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Toronto FC

Preseason expectations: Say hello to the bottom of the East

Season so far: John Herdman and his players deserve real credit, because Toronto FC have looked more cohesive and bought-in this year than at any point in 2023. They’re still too inconsistent in Herdman’s preferred 3-4-3 shape, and Federico Bernardeschi needs to find a goal, but the floor is much higher than anticipated.

Verdict: Hugely exceeding expectations

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Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Preseason expectations: Fighting for a home playoff series

Season so far: The Whitecaps are playing like a team that finished comfortably in the playoffs last year and didn’t lose hardly anyone of consequence over the offseason. With Ryan Gauld floating either next to or underneath Brian White in Vanni Sartini’s fluid 3-4-3 shape, Vancouver are creating good looks on a regular basis.

Verdict: Meeting expectations