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MLS: Five international players to watch

The wait is almost over for Major League Soccer fans, as the 2023 season gets underway this weekend with a record 29 teams competing following the addition of St. Louis City SC as an expansion team.

This will be the 28th season of the MLS and some of the world's best players have graced the competition during that time, including the likes of David Beckham, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.

The 2023 season promises to be no different, with a wealth of international stars set to showcase their talents and we have picked out five to look out for.

WhatMLS 2023 season
WhereUSA and Canada
When25th February - 21st October 2023
How to watchApple TV
OddsLos Angeles FC 9/2, Philadelphia Union 7/1, New York City FC 8/1, New York Red Bulls 12/1

Hany Mukhtar - Nashville SC

German attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar may not be a big name in Europe after forgettable spells at the likes of Hertha Berlin, Benfica and Brondby, but he has starred during three seasons in the MLS with Nashville.

Mukhtar finished as the league's top scorer last season with 23 goals and he was also named MVP after helping Nashville to a fifth-placed finish in the Western Conference.

NSC were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs and both the team and Mukhtar may feel they have unfinished business to complete during 2023.

At 27, there may be even better to come from Mukhtar over the coming years and he is 9/1 to retain his regular-season Golden Boot, with Nashville 16/1 in the To Win Outright market to go on and lift the MLS Cup for the very first time.

Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi - Toronto FC

Toronto FC have developed an affinity for Italian players ever since Sebastian Giovinco's successful four-year spell on Canadian soil between 2015-19 and they look to be continuing that love affair with Lorenzo Insigne.

Insigne swapped Serie A for the MLS last summer and it is fair to say he have taken to life across the Atlantic well, with former Napoli star Insigne grabbing six goals in 11 appearances during the second half of last season.

That wasn't enough to propel Toronto into playoff contention, but with the Italian international part of Bob Bradley's squad from the off this term, the Reds could defy their 25/1 odds and land a second MLS Cup in 2023.

Douglas Costa - LA Galaxy

Another Serie A star who arrived in the MLS during 2022 was former Juventus winger Douglas Costa, who joined an LA Galaxy side that are no stranger to big names following, among others, Beckham and Ibrahimovic's stints at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Costa initially made the move to Los Angeles on loan, but that deal was quickly made permanent and he went on to feature 29 times during his debut season with the Galaxy.

The 32-year-old, who also counts Bayern Munich and Shakhtar Donetsk among his former clubs and has featured 31 times on the international stage for Brazil, may not be the player he once was, but he is still capable of sending shivers down the spine of many a defender in the MLS.

LA Galaxy are the most-successful team in MLS history and, with Costa in their ranks, they could be in the running to land a record-extending sixth MLS Cup in 2023 - which is available to back in the To Win Outright market at 12/1.

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Dante Vanzeir - New York Red Bulls

While Insigne and Costa are over 30 and Bernardeschi is not far off reaching that landmark, it could be argued they have moved to the MLS to wind down their careers - however, the same cannot be said of Belgium international Dante Vanzeir, who joined New York Red Bulls earlier this month aged just 24.

Vanzeir netted 27 goals across the last season-and-a-half at former club Union Saint-Gilloise, including 10 in this season's Jupiler Pro League, as well as strikes in Champions League qualifying against Rangers and the Europa League when his side faced off with Braga.

A full Belgium international, it appears a real coup that the Red Bulls have been able to land Vanzeir at this stage of his career, with the former Genk youngster 25/1 to finish as the MLS' top scorer this season.

Cucho Hernandez - Columbus Crew

Hernandez was a rare bright spark in an otherwise dismal 2021/22 season for Watford, as the Hornets were relegated from the Premier League despite the Colombia international's five goals and two assists.

A move away from Vicarage Road was always on the cards last summer, but it was a slight surprise that he opted for the MLS, with Columbus Crew paying a reported club-record $10m for his signature.

The 23-year-old did not disappoint over the second half of last season, scoring nine goals from just 14 starts and he is 25/1 in the Top Goalscorer market this term.

The Crew narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season, but with Hernandez leading their line, they may be better placed to challenge for MLS Cup glory in 2023, which can be backed in the To Win Outright market at 25/1.

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