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Ranking MLS Western Conference Teams for 2021

| January 31, 2021 1:23 am PDT
Ranking Each MLS Western Conference Team for 2021

Three teams finished the regular season on 39 points in the Western Conference last season, with Sporting Kansas City edging Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers on a points-per-game basis.

At the other end of the standings, five-time MLS Cup champs LA Galaxy missed out on a playoff place altogether, while Houston Dynamo finished rock bottom.

With the recent announcement that the 2021 MLS season will kick off April 3, now feels like a good time to predict how the Western Conference will end up this year.

Join me as I rank each MLS Western Conference team for 2021.

1. Seattle Sounders

The Sounders have arguably been the most consistent team in Major League Soccer in recent history.

Since 2009, Seattle hasn’t finished outside the top four in the Western Conference, picking up one Supporters’ Shield (2014) and two MLS Cups (2016, 2019) in the past seven seasons.

The Sounders enjoyed another hugely successful campaign in 2020, only to fall to Columbus Crew at the final hurdle. But with long-standing head coach Brian Schmetzer recently signing a new multiyear contract extension, the future looks bright in Washington.

Jordan Morris has joined English Championship side Swansea City on loan, although Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz are more than capable of filling the void left by the USMNT star.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS – RECENT WESTERN CONFERENCE FINISHES
Season Finish Point Per Game Average
2020 2nd 1.77
2019 2nd 1.64
2018 2nd 1.74
2017 2nd 1.56
2016 4th 1.41
2015 4th 1.50
2014 1st 1.88

2. Portland Timbers

Portland kicked off 2020 by winning the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida before finishing the regular season third in the West. But a disappointing first-round playoff exit brought an abrupt end to their campaign.

Still, only one team – LAFC – scored more regular-season goals than Giovanni Savarese’s men last term.

Having been named in the 2020 MLS Best XI, veteran midfielder Diego Chara doesn’t look like he will be slowing down anytime soon. The club has also made a number of high-profile acquisitions, with Yimmi Chara and Jaroslaw Niezgoda arriving in Oregon.

Savarese is heading into his fourth season with the Timbers, and his side has improved year after year under his guidance.

3. LAFC

When the new campaign gets underway, it is difficult to imagine Bob Bradley’s men performing as poorly as they did last term.

After clinching the Supporters’ Shield in 2019, LAFC finished all the way down in seventh place in the Western Conference last year, with the Sounders knocking the Los Angeles outfit out of the playoffs in the first round.

Of course, Carlos Vela was sorely missed by the Black & Gold last season. The 2019 MVP was sidelined for the majority of the campaign through injury. But Diego Rossi stepped up in the Mexican’s absence, securing the 2020 Golden Boot.

With Vela and Rossi combining in 2021, I’m expecting LAFC to improve on last season’s shortcomings.

4. FC Dallas

It’s safe to say that FC Dallas hasn’t had much to shout about since securing two straight first-place finishes in the West back in 2015 and 2016. However, the team showed heaps of promise throughout the previous campaign.

In fact, the Texans are among the bookies’ early favorites to win the 2021 MLS Cup.

Luchi Gonzalez’s men will need to score more goals than they did last term if they are to challenge for silverware this year. But after achieving the second-best defensive record in the Western Conference in 2020, they should finish towards the top end of the division again.

5. Minnesota United

Following a couple of tough opening seasons in Major League Soccer, the Loons have now established themselves as one of the most consistent teams in the West.

Back-to-back fourth-place finishes have made people stand up and take notice of Minnesota United, although that does mean that Adrian Heath’s side will be expected to build on their recent rise in 2021.

With Kevin Molino – who bagged 13 goals and three assists last term – joining the Crew during the offseason, the Loons will have to cope without their one-time star performer. But I believe that Emanuel Reynoso is ready to replace Molino as Minnesota’s main man.

I’m backing Heath’s team to enjoy another solid season in the Western Conference.

6. Colorado Rapids

Call me crazy, but I’ve got a really good feeling about the Rapids this year.

Despite playing four or five games less than the majority of teams in the West last term, Colorado still managed to finish fifth, ending up with a commendable points per game average of 1.56.

The team’s playoff dreams were ultimately crushed by Minnesota in the first round, but the Rapids can take plenty of confidence from their efforts in the previous campaign.

If future USMNT stars like Cole Bassett and Sam Vines can pick up where they left off last year, there is no reason why Colorado can’t finish in the top half of the table for a second consecutive season.

WESTERN CONFERENCE – POINTS PER GAME (2020)
Team Games Points Points Per Game
Sporting Kansas City 21 39 1.86
Seattle Sounders 22 39 1.77
Portland Timbers 23 39 1.70
Minnesota United 21 34 1.62
Colorado Rapids 18 28 1.56

7. LA Galaxy

We all know that the Galaxy endured a season to forget in 2020. The five-time MLS Cup champs ended up finishing third from bottom in the standings, conceding a colossal 46 goals in 22 games.

But with former Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney replacing the departed Guillermo Barros Schelotto at the helm, I’m expecting the Galaxy to make a comeback in 2021.

Vanney enjoyed two stints with the Galaxy during his playing days, making over 200 appearances for the club. The 46-year-old is likely to bring a feel-good factor back to Carson, so I can see the Galaxy improving dramatically this year.

8. Sporting Kansas City

After ending up second from bottom in 2019, Sporting KC came from nowhere to finish atop the Western Conference last season. However, it will be extremely difficult for the Wizards to reproduce that kind of magic in 2021.

The club could lose a handful of key players before the new campaign gets underway, making it tricky for head coach Peter Vermes to plan for the upcoming season.

Finishes of first (2018), eleventh (2019), and first (2020) in the last three years make it tough to predict exactly how SKC will fare this time around. We could see the Wizards drop back down into the bottom half of the table in 2021.

9. Austin FC

It goes without saying that Austin FC will be hoping to replicate the sort of maiden MLS season that Nashville SC enjoyed last year.

Nashville set the benchmark for expansion teams last season by reaching the conference semi-finals in their debut campaign in Major League Soccer. Now, it’s Austin’s turn to prove themselves at the highest level.

Josh Wolff has been busy building his inaugural MLS roster, selecting Daniel Pereira as the first pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. With experienced MLS stars like Alexnader Ring, Nick Lima, Diego Fagundez, and Ben Sweat also on board, Austin FC will be competitive in 2021, that’s for sure.

Having said that, I can’t see the newcomers troubling the top teams in the West.

10. Real Salt Lake

RSL’s third-place finish in 2019 feels like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?

The Claret & Cobalt was nothing short of dreadful last season, with a points per game average of just 1.00, seeing the club end up second from bottom in the final Western Conference standings.

Freddy Juarez’s men were the lowest scorers in the division last term, although the Real Salt Lake hierarchy seems to be backing the head coach heading into the 2021 campaign, at least for now.

I’m confident that RSL will improve on last season’s failure, but the team still has plenty of work to do before it can be considered as one of the best in the West.

11. San Jose Earthquakes

The Quakes haven’t finished any higher than sixth place in any of the previous eight seasons, with back-to-back eighth-place finishes following a disastrous twelfth-place finish in 2018.

Against the odds, San Jose managed to scrape into the playoffs last year, although Sporting KC downed the California club in the first round.

San Jose would have been boosted by the news that Chris Wondolowski has decided to stay for another year. But having recently turned 37, the veteran striker obviously isn’t the threat that he once was.

I’m predicting another testing season for the Quakes.

12. Houston Dynamo

It feels like the Dynamo has been going downhill for a while now. After finishing ninth in 2018 and tenth in 2019, the Texans ending the previous campaign at rock bottom of the Western Conference, picking up just four wins in 23 games.

Scoring goals wasn’t too much of an issue for Houston last term, although the team’s overreliance on Darwin Quintero is a cause for concern. But if Tab Ramos’ men want to keep away from the foot of the standings in 2021, they will need to tighten things up defensively.

The Dynamo let in 40 goals last year, conceding at a rate of 1.74 goals per game. Needless to say, that is not good enough.

13. Vancouver Whitecaps

It’s been a difficult couple of years in Vancouver. But unfortunately for the Caps, I can’t see things getting any better for them in 2021.

Not only were Marc Dos Santos’ men the second-lowest scorers in the West the last term, but they also finished the campaign with the third-worst defensive record. Worse still, they suffered 14 defeats in 23 matches without picking up a single draw along the way.

A couple of first-round picks in the SuperDraft could help to improve the team, but I won’t be surprised if the Whitecaps end the 2021 campaign rock bottom of the Western Conference.

Summary

Despite Sporting KC’s heroics last season, it is difficult to look past the Sounders when it comes to predicting which team will finish atop the Western Conference this year.

I’m expecting the Timbers to enjoy another successful campaign in 2021, while both Los Angeles sides should improve in the upcoming season.

The Rapids could be the surprise package in the West this year, but the Dynamo and the Whitecaps are likely to struggle again.

As we approach the start of the new MLS campaign, make sure you keep up to date with all the latest developments in our soccer blog.

In another recent post I ranked all of the MLS teams in the Eastern conference, so you might want to check that out.

Ranking Each MLS Eastern Conference Team for 2021

The MLS Eastern Conference is going to look a whole lot different in 2021. Ben Olsen won’t be leading DC United into the new season, Montreal Impact is now Club de Foot Montréal, while Toronto FC, Atlanta United, and Inter Miami all have a new...

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Ben Morris
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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