2022 MLS Western Conference Preview

*Odds Since Posting Have Changed


(Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

Ohhhh, back to my dumb soccer brain once again. I see big-name players and cannot help but pick them. 90% of MLS writers say the Seattle Sounders will finish first, but that is boring and too easy. There's a difference with this LAFC team this time, and his name is Kellyn Acosta. He will be able to control the midfield, which LAFC desperately needed last season. They also have arguably the best player in Major League Soccer with Carlos Vela. The backline is problematic about this LAFC squad; they scored 53 goals last season but gave up 51. It does not seem they have done enough in the transfer market to tighten up the defense. They also bring in a new coach and former US Men's National Team player, Steve Cherundolo. There will be growing pains with a new coach, and it will take time to get used to his system. Another possibility that is worrying is that he has been a head coach at one stop with USL side Las Vegas Lights. But with all that, I still love the talent, and I fully believe this LAFC side at their best might be unbeatable. They are currently +300 to win the Western Conference and 8/1 to win the MLS Cup.

2. LA Galaxy

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Greg Vanney led LA Galaxy roughly had the same season as their crosstown rivals, LAFC. They finished three points off each other; LA Galaxy scored 50 goals and gave up 54. Both teams will make similar leaps this season as well. We are back with my dumb soccer brain; Chicharito and Douglas Costa might be the biggest stars in this league, and I love them. If they have the right attitude towards this season and stay healthy, how does this team not score upwards of 60 goals? Greg Vanney is a proven head coach in this league, and having a second year under his belt will do wonders for this club. There will not be a shortage of goals scored, but this team must figure it out defensively. If you are a gambler, this LA Galaxy team is a dream for over bettors. If they can secure the defense, this is the team I would pick to win the MLS Cup. LA Galaxy is currently 9/1 to win the Western Conference and 18/1 to win the MLS Cup. These are my favorite plays, these numbers will drop dramatically after the first month, and I think this will be the best number you can get it at.

3. Seattle Sounders

Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Sounders finished one point out of the top spot last season behind the Rapids. Then, the upset we all remember, losing in the first round on penalties to a Real Salt Lake team that barely squeaked in the playoffs. Seattle is a much better team than what we saw in that one game against Real Salt Lake. They also were tied as the best defensive team in the MLS last year, only giving up 33 goals, which does not seem to change. The club's top scorer, Raul Rudiaz, returns, and there's no reason he couldn't be the top scorer in the MLS this season. It would be naive to bet against a Brian Schmetzer coached team, and there is little doubt they will at least finish top three in the Western Conference. This team is rock solid, but I don't see them going to that championship level. But as we all know, trying to predict the MLS is like playing the lottery. The Seattle Sounders are currently +220 ($10 wins you $22) to win the Western Conference and the league favorite to win the MLS Cup at +650 ($10 wins you $65).

4. Sporting Kansas City

(Photo by Fernando Leon/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Sporting Kansas City ended the 2021 MLS Season by finishing 3rd in the Western Conference even after selling the Greensboro, North Carolina native, Gio Busio. Like the Sounders, they somehow got themselves upset by a scrappy Real Salt Lake team. In my eyes, this Sporting KC squad is almost a lock for the playoffs, and that is due to one main reason: Head Coach Peter Vermes. Since 2011, Sporting KC has missed the playoffs one time. For people who aren't soccer fans, this is the equivalent of betting against the San Antonio Spurs or the New England Patriots to miss the playoffs during their run. They did not lose much, and they only got stronger. They made some solid moves in the transfer market but did not go crazy. They are not higher on the list for me because the teams ahead of them, I feel, have much higher potential. They are currently 4/1 to win the Western Conference and 11/1 to win the MLS Cup. 

5. Nashville SC

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I could see Nashville finishing anywhere from tenth to third, but I guess that's the beauty of Major League Soccer. They made the move to the Western Conference, which is a positive in my eyes. Nashville also moves later in the season to a beautiful new stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds. They finished third last season, but I do not believe they did enough to maintain that same result. They bring back the star of the team, Hany Mukhtar, who finished tied for second in goals scored in the MLS and gift in assists. My concern with Nashville is that it relies too much on one player; if we saw Mukhtar go down for any period, we could see disastrous results for the Tennessee club. They are currently 14/1 to win the Western Conference and 22/1 to win the MLS Cup.

6. Real Salt Lake

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What a remarkable run from this Utah club last season by miraculously making the playoffs, then making it to the Western Conference Finals, and doing all of this without an owner. They finally got bought by Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith who basically owns most of Utah at this point. I'm sure you're thinking, "How on earth can you put Real Salt Lake at sixth?? They've done nothing in the transfer market and barely squeaked through!" There are a few reasons for this; first of all, Freddy Juarez has done a phenomenal job, and I fully believe he can do it again. Major League Soccer is a lot like College Basketball in that the number one thing that matters is great coaching. Secondly, they lost nobody that was integral to their team. Lastly, Pablo Ruiz will show why he is one of the best midfielders in Major League Soccer. The 23-year-old Argentine is one of my favorite players to watch in the MLS. Damir Kreilach also took that next step last season, and there are no signs of slowing down. They are currently 18/1 to win the Western Conference and 33/1 to win the MLS Cup.

7. Portland Timbers

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

We almost saw a fairytale ending for MLS and club legend Diego Valeri last season when Portland created one of the most exciting MLS Cup Finals we have ever seen. The club legend is now gone, and next season will be eye-opening for the Oregon club. Portland's Head Coach ​​Giovanni Savarese has yet to miss the playoff since his appointment to the club in 2017. So why bet against them? The team is still rock solid; they will win plenty of 1-0 matches this year. Now there is a new era for the Portland Timbers, it is nowhere near the same magnitude, but it does feel like when Peyton Manning left the Broncos. I still think this team is solid, but I do not see them competing for an MLS Cup or the conference. The Timbers are currently 16/1 to win the Western Conference and 29/1 to win the MLS Cup. 

8. Minnesota United 

(Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Minnesota United finished fifth last season and bowed out of the playoffs in the first round 3-1 against the Western Conference Champion Portland Timbers. They have possibly one of the most dynamic players in the MLS in Emmanuel Reynoso. But this team just stayed put and did not make any necessary moves. They needed to go big on attackers, and they did not go big enough for me. I still like what other teams did around them a lot more. As we know in the MLS, Minnesota could easily finish second and make me eat my words, but I just do not see enough goals on this side. I see them finishing right outside the playoffs or just barely sneaking in. They are currently 16/1 to win the Western Conference and 36/1 to win the MLS Cup. 

9. Colorado Rapids

(Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What goes up must come down. These are the hot takes you're looking for in these articles. The Colorado Rapids finished first in the Western Conference last season and got bounced in the second round of the MLS Playoffs by the Timbers. They sell arguably their top midfielder in Kellyn Acosta to LAFC, and they are trying to run with a Moneyball approach. This approach simply will not work in Major League Soccer. Their defense and midfield are much more susceptible now, and they get rid of crucial pieces like Kellyn Acosta and Sam Vines. I also do not see them scoring enough goals either. I will give the Charles Barkley' GUARANTEE!" that the Rapids will miss the playoffs this year, They are currently 8/1 to win the Western Conference and 16/1 to win the MLS Cup.

10. Austin FC

(Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

Austin FC finally has one year of MLS experience under their belt, and now it's time to start winning games. It's like the first few months of dating someone; eventually, the honeymoon phase is going to end. It's fun finally having a pro sports team in your town, but after that first year of not winning, it gets old quickly. Austin FC ended second to last in the Western Conference last season. This season they spend big money bringing in Russian winger from Zenit, Sebastian Driussi. This team has the potential to do damage but not sure if that will be consistent. We will see matches from this Austin FC team where they look like the best team in the league and then string a couple of games where they look like they've never kicked a ball before. This team is one of my dark horse teams to make a similar run in the playoffs like we saw Real Salt Lake did last season, but I worry too much about their defense. They made the right moves for attackers this offseason, but I don't think they did enough for their defense. Genuinely would not be shocked to see this team finish from twelfth to fifth. Austin FC is currently 29/1 to win the Western Conference and 50/1 to win the MLS Cup.

11. FC Dallas

(Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

FC Dallas finished 11th in the Western Conference last season, and I predict they finish in the same position this season. Yes, I understand they spent big and got US Men's National Team Starter Paul Arriola and Argentine winger Alan Velasco but once again, the backline was the issue last season. They also lose future World Cup Golden Boot Winner (hopefully) Ricardo Pepi. They barely did anything to fix their defense, and they will still have to replace the goals Pepi scored, which will not be easy. I don't see a catastrophically terrible season from Dallas, but it is difficult to see much improvement. They are currently 23/1 to win the Western Conference and 65/1 to win the MLS Cup.

12. San Jose Earthquakes 

(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The San Jose Earthquakes are similar to the Portland Timbers but worse. They enter a new era without their club legend Chris Wondolowski. No significant changes for the Northern California club besides losing Wondolowski. They finished 10th last season, and it very much seems like they will end below that. The club relies heavily on a young star in Cade Cowell, who will be drawing interest from top clubs worldwide. This year will be like watching number one draft pick Cade Cunningham this year on the Detroit Pistons for an NBA comparison. It will be exciting when they come to town to play your MLS club to see this future star play, but do not see them sniffing anywhere near the playoffs. The team behind them got a little bit better and got a little bit worse, which is all it comes down to. The Quakes are currently 36/1 to win the Western Conference and 80/1 to win the MLS Cup.

13. Vancouver Whitecaps

(Photo by Christopher Morris - Corbis/Getty Images)

The British Columbia club dealt with the challenges like every other Canadien club. They had to play games in Sandy, Utah, at Real Salt Lake's stadium in front of no fans. Despite that, the Whitecaps finished 6th in the Western Conference and were eliminated in the first round of the MLS Playoffs by Sporting Kansas City. It was honestly a miracle they got to the playoffs last season, and I think we see a massive drop-off. They did nothing but sell in the transfer market while everybody around them improved. It was shocking they made the playoffs last year, and it would be even more incredible if they made it back again. Hopefully, Canadien teams will have full stadiums this season and will not be forced to move. They are currently 44/1 to win the Western Conference and 80/1 to win the MLS Cup.

14. Houston Dynamo

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Hello, darkness, my old friend. The Houston sports curse (besides baseball ironically) continues even with the MLS team this season. The Rockets, Texans, and the Dynamo all experienced being the worst teams in their leagues, and nothing changes this year either for the Dynamo. They are in crisis mode as a club. They are attempting to grab some decent signings with the likes of Sebastian Ferreira and the former LAFC forward Corey Baird. It's just flat-out not enough. Dynamo Head Coach Paulo Nagamura will not be able to change the trajectory of this club overnight. He will need plenty of time to turn it around, but there should be minimal expectations for this team until then. Houston is currently 50/1 to win the Western Conference and 110/1 to win the MLS Cup.