As ever, the new MLS season will begin with every team hoping to make an impact in the league, with the play-offs a minimum of their ambitions. And 2023 should also see some individual names come to the fore, some already well-known and others emerging talent.
Here are 20 players to watch out for in MLS 2023
Jacen Russell-Rowe (Columbus Crew)
Canadian forward Jacen Russell-Rowe was named the MVP for the 2022 MLS Next pro campaign, after scoring 25 goals playing for the second string of Columbus Crew. That helped his side win the league trophy, and he garnered a number of individual accolades, including a place in the best Xi and winning the inaugural Golden Boot.
The 20-year old will be hoping for first-team opportunities in 2023 and the chance to show he can replicate his goalscoring form at a higher level.
Bernard Kamungo (FC Dallas)
Another player hoping to make the senior MLS grade is Tanzanian midfielder Bernard Kamungo who is on the books of FC Dallas. He helped North Texas SDC reach the inaugural MLS Next Pro Play-Offs last season, and became their all-time leading goalscorer, with 22 goals in 47 appearances for them.
He has already played once for the Dallas first team, but 2023 could be his breakthrough year.
Marlon Vargas (Seattle Sounders)
Vargas could be one of the beneficiaries of the Sounders’ failure to reach the MLS play-offs for the first-time in their history last season, as they look to shake up their squad.
Playing for Tacuma Defiance last season he scored 13 times and provided six assists, earning himself a spot in the MLS Next Pro best XI.
He will be looking to force his way into contention for the senior team in 2023.
Romeo Beckham (Inter Miami)
Proving that sometimes the apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to soccer ability, Romeo Beckham’s creativity and passing ability helped Inter Miami fall just short of the MLS Next Pro play-offs.
With reported interest from European clubs, his father David may have a decision to make if he wants to keep his son with Inter Miami, and that may mean early first-team opportunities.
Aziel Jackson (Minnesota United)
Jackson has yet to make his senior debut for Minnesota, but after an outstanding campaign for their second team last season, in which he scored ten goals and provided seven assists in 23 matches, he is likely to get his chance sooner rather than later.
Another player to earn a berth in the MLS Next pro XI, his 71 key passes led the league.
Isaiah Parente (Columbus Crew)
Another member of the successful Columbus Crew II outfit from last season, Parente made six appearances for the senior side in 2021, but, after a year back with the junior side, the midfielder is ready to press for a regular starting berth.
He scored eight goals and six assists last season and it was his contribution in the play-offs that really stood out.
Kyle Hiebert (St Louis City)
Nobody played more minutes in MLS Next Pro last season than defender Hiebert who started all 27 games for St Louis City II. That was enough for the 25 year old to earn a contract with the senior side, who are looking for leaders at the back. This could be time for Hiebert to make the transition to the next level.
Anthony Sorenson (Philadelphia Union)
Having just missed out on the MLS title last season, Philadelphia Union will be looking to go one better in 2023, and, to do so, may want to dip into their home grown talent like full-back Sorenson, who played a starring role for their junior team last campaign. Still just 19 years old, he is tipped to have a big future in the game.
Talen Maples (Houston Dynamos)
Maples was one of the bedrocks of a defence for the Dynamos second string outfit that conceded the fewest goals in the Western Conference. The 23 year old now seems poised to step-up to the first-team, especially with the side currently in transition.
Luka Gavran (Toronto FC)
MLS has a history of producing fine goalkeepers, and Gavran might be the next off the production line. He kept six lean sheets in 20 appearances for TFC II last season, and was rated by many as one of the finest in his position in the league.
He will be hoping for first-team chances in 2023.
John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls)
Still just 20, Tolkin has been the number one starting left-back for the Red Bulls for the past two seasons, and topped the polls for the best under-21 full back in the world recently.
New York will do well to keep hold of him for the whole of the 2023 campaign, as he is being heavily linked with a move to Europe.
Tayvon Gray (New York City)
Another highly-rated full-back, although this time on the right-side, Gray already has 37 appearances for New York under his belt, and is expected to be their regular starter for them this season now that Swede Anton Tinnerholm has returned to Europe.
Jhon Mosquera (Portland Timbers)
Another highly rated right back, Colombian Mosquera has made just two starts for the Timbers after being signed from Independiente Medellin last July, but there are high hopes he could have a big MLS campaign ahead of him.
Alan Velasco (FC Dallas)
Another South American arrival last season forward Velasco joined FC Dallas from Argentine club Independiente. He scored six goals and provided 7 assists as they reached the play-offs, and Dallas will be hoping there is much more to come from him in 2023.
Talles Magno (New York City)
Yet another South American import, this time from Brazil, striker joined New York in 2021 from Vasco de Gama. He helped them win the MLS Cup in 2021 and Campeones title last season and can play either as a winger or central striker. He has 9 goals and 10 assists in his New York career so far.
Jackson Hopkins (DC United)
Still just 18, Hopkins is hoping to be part of the USA squad for the FIFA under-20 World Cup in May.
He will also be hoping to earn more chances in the coming season under head coach Wayne Rooney, who appears to trust the midfielder, having already made 21 appearances for them.
Douglas Costa (LA Galaxy)
Costa has a star-studded CV having previously played for Bayern Munich and Juventus, as well as earning 31 senior caps for Brazil. Injuries have hampered his progress in recent years, but now with LA Galaxy, he will be hoping to rediscover the form that made him one of the best wingers in the world in his pomp.
Riqui Puig (LA Galaxy)
Growing up in Barcelona’s La Masia academy and earning the title the next Xavi proved a tough task for Puig at his hometown club, and, with the emergence of players like Gavi and Pedri, Puig decided it was better to take his chances elsewhere, and chose to move to the MLS.
Still just 23, he will be determined to show Barcelona fans what they have been missing this season.
Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC)
Napoli fans took to the streets to protest when they found out the Serie A club had allowed him to join Toronto on a free transfer last season.
Six goals in 11 appearances for the Canadian club was good early return, and, with a full season ahead of him, he will be confident on improving on that record.
Gareth Bale (LAFC)
Bale has already made himself a legend at LAFC by scoring the injury time equaliser in extra time in the MLS Cup Final against Philadelphia Union, which forced the penalty shoot-out which LAFC eventually won.
The former Tottenham and Real Madrid man may not have had the best World Cups, where he captained Wales, but he still scored their only goal of the tournament.
He remains one of the biggest draws in the MLS.