6 Bold Predictions for the 2021 MLS Season
It’s always fun to make predictions before each MLS campaign. Of course, the majority of pre-season suggestions don’t end up coming to fruition. But that doesn’t stop us from dreaming up crazy scenarios for the upcoming year, does it?
With the new MLS season set to kick off on April 3, I thought it would be a good idea to share my bold predictions for Major League Soccer in 2021.
Now, it’s probably worth mentioning that you should take my 2021 MLS predictions with a pinch of salt. I mean, the chances of Lionel Messi playing in America are pretty slim, right?
But with Austin FC’s admission taking the total number of Major League Soccer teams to 27 this year, it feels like next season could easily turn out to be the craziest ever.
So, let’s get stuck into my bold predictions for the 2021 MLS season.
Austin FC Will Qualify for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs
It’s not easy being an expansion team in Major League Soccer – just ask FC Cincinnati!
The Ohio franchise finished ten points adrift at the bottom of the Supporters’ Shield standings back in 2019, and things didn’t exactly get any better for Jaap Stam’s side last year.
But when it comes to Austin FC, something just feels different.
Led by head coach Josh Wolff and sporting director Claudio Reyna, as well as boasting high-profile investing partners such as actor Matthew McConaughey, I can see Austin enjoying a successful maiden season in MLS.
The club has already spent big money on Paraguayan duo Rodney Redes and Cecilio Dominguez, while ex-New York City FC captain Alexander Ring has been acquired. With Daniel Pereira – the number one overall pick at the 2021 MLS SuperDraft – also on board, it’s safe to say that Austin has built a competitive inaugural roster.
Austin will be aiming to take a leaf out of Nashville SC’s book this year, with the former expansion team making it all the way to the conference semi-finals in 2020.
Of course, the Western Conference is packed with top teams. The likes of Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and LAFC won’t be easy to tame. But with seven postseason berths up for grabs, Austin will fancy their chances of reaching the MLS Cup playoffs in 2021.
Keep reading for more bold MLS predictions for 2021.
Carlos Vela Wins the 2021 MLS Golden Boot
Major League Soccer just wasn’t the same without Carlos Vela last year, was it?
The gifted Mexican forward lit up MLS in 2019, scoring 34 goals in 31 games on his way to producing the most prolific Golden Boot-winning season in the league’s history. However, a lengthy injury saw him spend the majority of the previous campaign on the sidelines.
But in 2021, I’m expecting Vela to bounce back in style.
At the end of the day, Vela’s numbers speak for themselves.
Since joining Los Angeles FC from Real Sociedad back in 2018, he has managed to notch up a whopping 62 goals and 25 assists in 80 appearances in the Black & Gold jersey.
With a record of 52 goals in 66 regular-season matches for LAFC, I don’t think that anybody would be shocked if Vela rediscovered his best form and clinched the Golden Boot in 2021.
Fellow goal-machine Josef Martinez is also set to return to action this year after missing the bulk of last season through injury. But if Vela hits the ground running, he could easily finish as the league’s top scorer.
|CARLOS VELA’S REGULAR-SEASON RECORD IN MLS|
Inter Miami Will Make a Deep Playoff Run
With a season’s worth of Major League Soccer experience in the bank, I’m expecting Inter Miami to mount a serious playoff challenge in 2021.
Sure, the MLS Cup may be out of reach for the time being. But a run to the conference semi-finals – or possibly further – should be achievable this year.
Given that the Herons were competing in their debut MLS season in 2020, I think things went pretty well. A lot was expected of David Beckham’s franchise last year, and securing a postseason berth capped off a solid maiden campaign.
Still, I can see the club building on last season’s success in 2021.
Diego Alonso did a decent job as head coach last term, yet he has been replaced by Phil Neville during the offseason. Not only does Neville bring a wealth of experience to Florida, but he also possesses a vast range of contacts.
With big-name stars like Blaise Matuidi and Gonzalo Higuain already at the club, Neville will be confident of adding more high-profile players to his roster throughout the transfer window.
Personally, I’m excited to see what Inter Miami brings to the table this year. If the team gets off to a good start, this could turn out to be one of my better predictions for the 2021 MLS season.
Thierry Henry Becomes the First Coaching Casualty
There is no doubting Thierry Henry’s ability as a player. In fact, he is one of the best overseas players in MLS history. But since hanging up his boots in 2014, he has done very little to prove himself as a coach.
After spending a couple of years as an assistant coach for the Belgium national team, Henry landed his first head coach role in October 2018, taking over at AS Monaco. However, three months later, he was sacked following a dreadful run of results.
The Frenchman arrived in Montreal back in November 2019, leading his team to a ninth-place finish in the Western Conference last season. But if the Canadians pick up where they left off last term, they could find themselves even further down the standings in 2021.
Don’t get me wrong – there are probably plenty of head coaches that are already fearing for their job this year. That’s just the way that soccer works.
But with Henry’s club recently undergoing a complete rebranding, the former Red Bulls star could easily be the subject of CF Montreal’s next big change.
One glance at Henry’s coaching record, and it’s easy to see why I’ve made this one of my Major League Soccer predictions for 2021.
|THIERRY HENRY’S COACHING RECORD|
Jesus Ferreira Will Be Named 2021 MLS MVP
Jesus Ferreira has only scored a handful of goals for FC Dallas. But if his recent performance for the USMNT is anything to go by, 2021 could well be the young forward’s year.
The Colombian-born prodigy only turned 20 in December, yet he announced himself on the international scene with a memorable performance against Trinidad and Tobago in early February.
After bagging two goals and three assists in the USA’s 7-0 thrashing of the Soca Warriors, I’m backing Ferreira to take Major League Soccer by storm this year – and possibly even become the youngest winner of the Ladon Donovan MVP Award.
Ferreira made his MLS debut all the way back in 2017, making just a single substitute appearance for FC Dallas that year. He also played one game off the bench during the 2018 season before contributing eight goals and five assists in 34 matches the following campaign.
The youngster struggled to make an impact in 2020, racking up just one goal and one assist in 21 appearances last term. But I can see him taking his game to the next level this year.
There have been some shock MVPs over the years, although it’s probably fair to say that Ferreira would be the biggest MVP shock in MLS history.
Still, in a season that looks set to produce many twists and turns, why can’t Jesus Ferreira clinch the biggest individual accolade that Major League Soccer has to offer?
Lionel Messi Signs for New York City FC
Okay – this is more of a hope than an actual prediction. But hear me out!
Lionel Messi looked set to leave Barcelona last year, only to perform a U-turn. The Argentine wizard chose to stay in Catalonia for the 2020/21 campaign, yet he is still expected to leave Camp Nou at the end of the La Liga season.
Having previously expressed a desire to team back up with former manager Pep Guardiola, Man City is Messi’s most likely destination.
|LIONEL MESSI’ RECORD FOR BARCELONA (2004/05 – 2019/20)|
Now, presuming that Messi ends up in Manchester, NYCFC’s links to the City Football Group could open up the opportunity for a short-term loan move to Yankee Stadium during the European offseason. Of course, a move of that magnitude wouldn’t be easy to pull off. But it could happen.
Ultimately, it’s 2021. Stranger things have already happened this year, right?
Looking Ahead to the 2021 MLS Season
That’s it for my bold MLS predictions for 2021.
With the new Major League Soccer season just a couple of months away, it’s probably about time that you started to make your predictions for the upcoming campaign, too.
And don’t worry – they don’t have to be as crazy as the predictions I’ve made in this post!
The new campaign gets underway on Saturday, April 3. If you’re already planning to wager on this year’s winner, why not check out my early betting preview for the 2021 MLS Cup?