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10 Players Who Could Win the MLS MVP Award in 2022

| February 3, 2022 8:50 am PDT

That 2022 Major League Soccer season is fast approaching. With less than a month until the start of the new campaign, it’s time to look at the top MLS MVP contenders for this year.

The Landon Donovan MVP Award has been won by some special players over the years. New England’s Carles Gil scooped the prize last season, joining names such as David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco on the illustrious list of winners.

Can Gil become the first player in history to clinch back-to-back crowns? Could former winners like Josef Martinez and Carlos Vela return to the top? Or will a different player get their hands on the famous piece of silverware?

Here are ten players who could win the MLS MVP award in 2022.

Cristian Arango, Los Angeles FC

  • Age: 26
  • Position: Forward

Cristian Arango rewrote the definition of “hit the ground running” when he joined Los Angeles FC in August 2021. Following his mid-season move from Colombian side Millonarios, the lethal forward scored 14 goals in 17 games for his new team.

Most new players take time to adapt to Major League Soccer, especially when they move from overseas. But Arango made the transition look easy.

CRISTIAN ARANGO – LAFC (2021 MLS SEASON)
Games Goals Assists Goals Per Game
17 14 2 0.8

With Carlos Vela (2019 MVP) sidelined for much of the previous campaign due to injury – and Diego Rossi (2020 Golden Boot) moving to Turkish giant Fenerbahce – LAFC looked destined to struggle in the attacking department. Of course, the Black & Gold missed their two superstars last season. But Arango’s goals certainly softened the blow.

The 26-year-old is set to start the 2022 campaign as LAFC’s main forward. If he can take the club back into the playoffs, he will almost certainly put himself in the MVP conversation.

Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC

  • Age: 26
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

When Hany Mukhtar scored the fastest hat-trick in MLS history back in July, he etched his name into MLS folklore. In fact, I think the Nashville playmaker can count himself pretty unlucky to have missed out on the MVP award last season.

Mukhtar racked up more goal involvements than any other player in 2021, bagging 16 goals and 12 assists. However, he ended up finishing second in the MVP standings.

2021 MLS SEASON – MOST GOAL INVOLVEMENTS
  • Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC – 16 goals, 12 assists (28)
  • Valentin Castellanos, New York City FC – 19 goals, 8 assists (27)
  • Damir Kreilach, Real Salt Lake – 16 goals, 9 assists (25)
  • Daniel Salloi, Sporting Kansas City – 16 goals, 8 assists (24)
  • Gustavo Bou, New England Revolution – 15 goals, 9 assists (24)

There is absolutely no denying that Nashville is a club on the rise. After finishing fourteenth in the overall standings during their debut MLS campaign, the Boys in Gold finished third in the Eastern Conference last season – ending up seventh overall.

Not only do I expect Nashville to continue to strengthen in 2022, but I also expect Mukhtar to take his game to another level. Naturally, that makes him a serious MLS MVP candidate.

I already included both Mukhtar and Nashville among my bold predictions for the 2022 Major League Soccer season.

Daniel Salloi, Sporting Kansas City

  • Age: 25
  • Position: Left Winger

There was a time when Daniel Salloi was leading the 2021 MVP race. Between May and August, the Hungarian wizard notched 11 goals and five assists in 14 games – putting himself in pole position for the award.

Unfortunately, his productivity tailed off towards the end of the season. But if he can rediscover his best form in 2022, there is no reason why he can’t challenge for the award again.

Only three players registered more goal involvements than Salloi last season. As we know, goals and assists are non-negotiables when it comes to competing for the MVP award. The Sporting Kansas City winger can dish up both on a consistent basis.

At just 25, Salloi’s best years are still ahead of him. Having enjoyed a stellar breakout campaign in 2021, I’m confident that he will get even better this year.

Emanuel Reynoso, Minnestoa United

  • Age: 26
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

As one of the most valuable players in Major League Soccer, it is only natural that Emanuel Reynoso’s name invariably gets thrown into the mix when it comes to discussing potential MVP contenders.

In 2020, the ex-Boca Juniors star chalked up two goals and 12 assists in just 16 outings across his maiden MLS campaign. Last season, he bagged five goals and ten assists as he continued to cement his status one of the league’s top performers.

With screamers like the one below in his locker, the Argentine has the potential to mount a genuine charge for the MVP award.

Carles Gil, New England Revolution

  • Age: 29
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

Having scooped the prize last year, Carles Gil has to be one of the early favorites for the 2022 MLS MVP award.

The magical Spaniard contributed a whopping 18 assists as New England secured the 2021 Supporters’ Shield in record-breaking style. Sure, Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou scored a ton of goals between them. But Gil’s unrivalled creativity saw him claim the top individual honor.

2021 MLS MVP VOTING RESULTS
Player Club Player Votes Club Votes Media Votes
Carles Gil New England 37.00% 57.60% 61.60%
Hany Mukhtar Nashville 9.90% 15.20% 10.30%
Joao Paulo Seattle 3.10% 9.10% 2.50%
Daniel Salloi Kansas City 4.70% 6.10% 3.40%
Taty Castellanos New York City 4.70% 3.00% 3.90%

It is worth noting that only one player has won the Londan Donovan MVP Award twice – and that player is not Landon Donovan! Legendary midfielder Preki secured the silverware in 1997 and 2003, but nobody has achieved the feat since then.

It goes without saying that winning back-to-back MVP award would be a remarkable achievement. If Gil’s 2021 campaign is anything to go by, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he became the first man to defend the title.

Marcelino Moreno, Atlanta United

  • Age: 26
  • Position: Central Midfield

Marcelino Moreno didn’t get much of a chance to make an impact during his maiden season in Major League Soccer. He joined Atlanta United towards the end of the 2020 campaign and ended up making just six appearances.

Last season, however, the Argentine DP missed only two of the Five Stripes’ 34 matches. Having chipped in with nine goals and five assists in 2021, he is now one of ATL UTD’s most important players.

Yes, Josef Martinez is one of the most prolific MLS Golden Boot winners of all time. Ezequiel Barco and Miles Robinson are standout performers, too. But I can see Moreno becoming Atlanta’s star man this year.

The Five Stripes qualified for last season’s playoffs but fell to eventual champion New York City FC in the first round. With Moreno leading the charge, I expect them to go deep into the postseason in 2022.

Ola Kamara, DC United

  • Age: 32
  • Position: Forward

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Ola Kamara has not been the most prolific striker over the years. Granted, the 30-year-old has scored goals all over the world. But he isn’t known for being a super-productive forward.

However, he changed that perception last season. Across 28 MLS appearances for DC United in 2021, the Norwegian netted 19 goals. He scored the same number of goals as Taty Castellanos (2021 Golden Boot), but the NYCFC forward clinched the Golden Boot after registering more assists than Kamara.

2021 MLS SEASON – BEST GOALS-PER-90 RATIOS
  • Ola Kamara, DC United – 0.94
  • Cristian Arango, Los Angeles FC – 0.90
  • Javier Hernandez, LA Galaxy – 0.88
  • Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders – 0.71
  • Anderson Julio, Real Salt Lake – 0.70

Kamara enjoyed a phenomenal hot streak between May and September, scoring 16 goals 17 appearances. Although he managed to net just two goals in the final seven matches, he still pushed Castellanos all the way.

Of course, it will be difficult for Kamara reproduce those kinds of numbers for a second season running. If he does, though, he will almost certainly find himself in contention for the MVP award.

Joao Paulo, Seattle Sounders

  • Age: 30
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

I love watching Joao Paulo play soccer. The Brazilian makes the game look easy. If he’s not gliding past his opponents with ease, then he’s picking out perfect passes for his teammates.

The midfielder joined Seattle from Brazilian side Botafogo in 2020, notching two goals and five assists in 19 matches during his maiden season. In 31 appearances last season, he racked up three goals and 11 assists.

Only two players made more appearances for the Sounders in 2021. In a team full of superstars, Joao Paulo has become one of the leading lights.

Not only are the Sounders close to agreeing a contract extension with Joao Paulo, but they are also on the verge of tying down Raul Ruidiaz to a new deal. While Ruidiaz is an MVP outsider for 2022, Joao Paulo is among the frontrunners.

Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC

  • Age: 28
  • Position: Center-Back

It is no secret that defenders don’t win the MLS MVP award. Tony Meola – one of the greatest goalkeepers in Major League Soccer history – bucked the midfielder/forward trend all the way back in 2000. But no defender has ever scooped the prize.

That said, I wouldn’t be shocked if Walker Zimmerman became the first defender to win the award.

The USMNT center-back has been nothing short of immense for Nashville over the past two seasons. Thanks largely to Zimmerman’s exploits, they Boys in Gold boast one of the meanest backlines in the entire league.

In 2021, he became only the third player in history to win back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year awards. You don’t achieve that feat without being a special player.

Facundo Torres, Orlando City

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Left Winger

I’d be lying if I said I knew a great deal about Facundo Torres. Orlando City recently acquired the up-and-coming star from Uruguayan giant Penarol, signing him to a Young Designated Player contract.

At just 21, the winger already has ten senior caps for Uruguay. He also managed to racked up 71 appearances for Penarol across all competitions, bagging 16 goals and 15 assists along the way.

If the early stages of his career are anything to go by, then Torres is destined for a long and successful career. Since Nani and Daryl Dike have both left Orlando, Torres looks set to be the Lions’ main attacking threat.

More Potential MLS MVP Contenders for 2022

At this stage, it is difficult to predict who will win the MLS MVP award in 2022. Players will dip in and out of form, injuries will impact the race, and surprise packages will come from nowhere to challenge for the silverware.

With all that in mind, here are ten more players who could win the MLS MVP award in 2022.

  • Josef Martinez, Atlanta United
  • Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew
  • Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City
  • Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC
  • Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders
  • Talles Magno, New York City FC
  • Adam Buksa, New England Revolution
  • Javier Hernandez, LA Galaxy
  • Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas
  • Randall Leal, Nashville SC

Planning to bet on MLS this year? Be sure to check out my betting preview for the 2022 Major League Soccer season below. Also, head over the top-ranked MLS betting sites to find more futures for the upcoming campaign.

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Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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