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MLS: 10 best signings ahead of 2024 season

It was a busy offseason in MLS with plenty of recognizable names from the United States Men's National Team and beyond either changing clubs or returning to the league.

Of course, last summer's transfer of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami is still creating headlines, and for good reason since Messi still might be the best player in the world.

But Miami have brought in another one of Messi's friends, last year's best team got even better, and a couple of teams in and around the bottom of the standings made big signings.

Here, we'll review 10 of the best MLS signings ahead of the 2024 season.

Miles Robinson to FC Cincinnati

When a team wins the Supporters' Shield and finishes the MLS regular season six points clear of the nearest runners up, its hard to imagine that team getting much better. They lost their star striker and center back, but they replaced both players and managed a serious upgrade on one of them. Miles Robinson, the top free agent of this offseason, signed for FC Cincinnati to replace Yerson Mosquera, who was on loan to Cincy from England's Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Robinson has 28 USMNT appearances under his belt and is one of the most athletic center backs in MLS. Cincinnati manager Pat Noonan prefers a 3-4-1-2 formation, so Robinson and another defender with USMNT experience, Matt Miazga, will hold down two of the three center back spots and will form the foundation of what should be one of the league's top defenses.

Luis Suarez to Inter Miami

It's a victory for the league any time a big name comes to the United States, but Luis Suarez, even at 37 years old, provides more than merely a big name who is a friend of Messi. Over his career, Suarez has scored a goal every 125 minutes of game time on average. He has never scored less than 10 goals in a full domestic league season, and in 33 matches with Brazilian club Gremio in 2023, he scored 17 goals and added 11 assists.

Suarez won La Liga with Barcelona five times, he scored 31 goals in the 2013/14 Premier League season with Liverpool to win the Golden Boot and the league's Player of the Season award, and he won the Champions League alongside Messi and Neymar with Barcelona, scoring seven goals and providing three assists including scoring the game-winner in the final against Juventus. At +700, he has the second-shortest odds to be the top MLS goalscorer in 2024, behind Messi at +200.

Read more: 2024 MLS Cup odds

David Martinez to Los Angeles FC

South and Central American wingers moving north to MLS has been a tried-and-tested route, but it doesn't always work out. For every Facundo Torres, there are usually two Thiago Martins or Yeferson Soteldo equivalents. There's no sure-fire way to guarantee a new signing's success in a new club, country, and culture, but getting a guy who produced in the past is usually a good indication of future performances. David Martinez, an 18-year-old Venezuelan, did just that and is perfectly suited as a replacement for Los Angeles FC's former star Carlos Vela.

Martinez scored five goals and added four assists in 29 appearances (1,641 minutes played) for Monagas SC in Venezuela. He even scored a goal and added an assist in the Copa Libertadores - the premier South American continental competition - in 328 minutes over five matches. He is likely the long-term replacement for Vela, another left-footed right-winger. Martinez has huge shoes to fill as Vela scored 78 goals and added 41 assists in six MLS seasons, but the presence of reigning MLS Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga will alleviate much of the short-term pressure.

Djordje Mihailovic to Colorado Rapids

Major League Soccer's designated player rule seems to incentivize teams to sign foreign players to become a club's primary goalscorer and/or playmaker. Mihailovic kind of fits that bill as he is arriving from AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands after a disappointing spell there, but he is an American playmaker who will take the reigns of the Colorado Rapids attack.

Mihailovic is only the fourth American designated player in MLS, joining Walker Zimmerman of Nashville SC, Darlington Nagbe of reigning MLS Cup winners Columbus Crew, and Jesus Ferreira of FC Dallas. Ferreira is the player most similar to Mihailovic in this list, and Ferreira's tally of 30 goals and 10 assists in 60 matches over the past two seasons is evidence that, in the right situation and given the right player, American attackers can thrive when their teams rely on them for heavy production.

Sam Vines to Colorado Rapids

Fullbacks have long been undervalued in MLS, but Sam Vines is one of the highest-profile wide defenders to join the league in his prime. Vines was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and he played for the Rapids from 2018-2021 before moving to Belgian club Antwerp for about $3.5 million after the 2021 MLS season. He has the chance to shine as an attacking left back - and put USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter on notice - in his return to MLS.

Vines got the 14th-most minutes among Antwerp players during the 2022/23 season where the team won the Belgian Pro League with the left back starting 15 of 34 games. Antwerp picked up 2.2 points per match when Vines played, which was the fourth-best mark in the league that season and the best among Antwerp players. Vines has four goals and nine assists in his professional career, and he will be tasked with holding down the left flank for a revamped Colorado team.

Petar Musa to FC Dallas

Between Alan Velasco, Jesus Ferreira, Bernard Kamungo, Paul Arriola, Paxton Pomykal, and Asier Illaramendi, FC Dallas has one of the strongest collections of top-end talent in MLS, and the signing of Petar Musa provides those players with a focal point to play off of high up the pitch. Musa is a 6-foot-3, left-footed forward who last played with Benfica in Portugal, and he was signed for a club-record $10.8 million fee.

In a season and a half with Benfica, Musa scored 12 league goals in 44 appearances, although only eight of those appearances were starts. Prior to his Benfica spell, he scored 11 goals in 2021/22 for a mid-table Boavista team, also in Portugal. He scored a goal every 99 minutes for Benfica - a number that would put him in elite company if it was over a larger sample size - but the question is whether he can sustain a comparable scoring rate as a starter in MLS.

Luis Muriel to Orlando City

Five seasons ago, Luis Muriel began a two-year stretch of scoring at a nearly unparalleled rate. Coming off the bench in most matches for Atalanta, he scored 18 goals in 1,260 minutes in 2019/20 and 22 goals in 1,436 minutes in 2020/21. He has seriously cooled off since, but he is still a talented forward with the ability to find space in the box.

Muriel, a 32-year-old Colombia international, was signed to replace young forward Duncan McGuire, who was thought to be headed to Blackburn Rovers in England at the end of the January transfer window. McGuire's move did not go through due to an error on Blackburn's end, so Orlando City now has a plethora of strikers. But that could suit Muriel: his best years with Atalanta were spent playing off of a target forward in Duvan Zapata, and McGuire is a similarly physical forward whose style contrasts Muriel's quick bursts of movement.

Kellyn Acosta to Chicago Fire

Every team can use a field general, especially a team that finished with the sixth-fewest points in MLS last season. Kellyn Acosta is just that, and he can play pretty much any role in midfield.

Acosta most recently played for LAFC, winning MLS Cup in 2022 and finishing as the runner-up in 2023. He didn't post eye-popping numbers, but he is good with either foot, keeps possession moving, has plenty of experience in MLS and with the USMNT, and can take set pieces. Acosta has never scored more than three goals or provided more than four assists in a season, but he can move the ball to the difference makers in the final third. For Chicago, those guys are Xherdan Shaqiri, Kacper Przbylko, Brian Gutierrez, and the next guy on this list, and the coaching staff will hope Acosta is the guy who puts them in position to succeed.

Hugo Cuypers to Chicago Fire

Similar to the aforementioned Petar Musa, club-record $12.5 million signing Hugo Cuypers is a forward with a solid goalscoring record in Europe. In 20 games this season, Cuypers had scored nine goals for Genk in all competitions before moving to MLS. Before that, he had 20 goals and four assists in 2022/23, and his 13 goals with Mechelen in 2021/22 had earned him that move to Genk.

While Przbylko, a 6-foot-4 forward, likes to drift wide while his team holds possession, Cuypers should be more of a focal point up front and at the center of the attack. That could free up more space for Shaqiri, who has been solid in MLS but hasn't reached the expectations people had when he joined the league. As long as he meshes with the current Chicago Fire roster, he should be a nice addition to the attack. Cuypers is +5000 to be the top goalscorer in MLS in his debut campaign.

Julian Gressel to Inter Miami

Between Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, Inter Miami has a ton of talent, but also four players who are past their physical peaks. The club needed a guy who can cover a ton of ground, and they got that player in Julian Gressel. Gressel has won MLS Cup twice, with Atlanta United in 2018 and this past season with Columbus Crew.

Gressel has also been traded midway through the season in both 2022 and 2023. The 30-year-old German-born fullback with six USMNT caps to his name will want to establish himself as a key player for what should be one of the league's best teams. With Messi, Busquets, and teenage playmaker Ben Cremaschi moving the ball in the center of the park, the pace and stamina of Gressel will be key for spreading the field. Gressel is primarily an attacking right wing-back: he ranks in the 90th percentile or better among fullbacks in goals, assists, key passes, through balls, switches of play, crosses shot-creating actions, and goal-creating actions.

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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