Complete 2021 MLS predictions, including MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield

Written By Harrison Hamm on April 16, 2021

The 2021 MLS season is about to start, so it’s time for predictions! Let’s get right to it.

2021 MLS Eastern Conference Predictions

  1. New England Revolution
  2. Columbus Crew
  3. Atlanta United
  4. Philadelphia Union
  5. Orlando City SC
  6. Nashville SC
  7. New York Red Bulls
  8. NYCFC
  9. Toronto FC
  10. Chicago Fire
  11. CF Montreal
  12. Inter Miami
  13. FC Cincinnati
  14. D.C. United

— The East is looking pretty solid this year. I’m not sure there’s a true juggernaut here — though one could certainly make the case for the Crew — but a number of teams look legitimately solid.

— The Revs will be really difficult to play against, and they have the attack to break into the true elite after an impressive playoff showing in 2020. Their ability to finish first relies on a full season from Carles Gil, their top attacker and the 2019 Newcomer of the Year.

Josef Martinez will guarantee Atlanta a playoff spot, and their other additions will push them higher up in the Eastern Conference, particularly new manager Gabriel Heinze. I’m betting that the midfield will be solid with the new acquisitions and Miles Robinson will figure himself out at center back. Atlanta isn’t back as a dominant force, but I think they have a good chance to finish top three in the East.

— Philly is running their franchise admirably. I like Anthony Fontana, but trusting Fontana to replace Brenden Aaronson as the full-time creator might be enough to drop Philly a bit in the standings.

— I’m kinda high on Nashville this year. I even considered pushing them a bit higher here. They made aggressive moves to give themselves a palatable attack, and if those work out, they will be a real challenge for most teams.

— A bit of a fall from grace for Toronto FC and NYCFC, both of which are aging and heading toward a transitional period. I have them both narrowly missing the playoffs to the Red Bulls, who always find a way — even though NYRB will be relying heavily on youth again this year.

— I don’t mind the Phil Neville hire, but Miami didn’t get anything from Blaise Matuidi last year and generally lacked any sort of cohesion. They would need a lot of internal improvement to break into the playoff race and I’m not sure I see that happening. Gonzalo Higuain is still helpful, but he only scored one goal last year.

— Apologies to FC Cincinnati and D.C. United. Cincy made a legitimate effort to get better this year, and they very well might. But even if new forward Brenner lives up (not a guarantee with this team), they had to trade disgruntled midfielder Frankie Amaya, and there will be a lot of changes in defense. Lucho Acosta, aside from one season, has never really been good or productive.

DCU is also in a rebuild state. They have some injuries to start the season and they’re still looking for their foundational pieces.

2021 MLS Western Conference Predictions

  1. LAFC
  2. Portland Timbers
  3. Minnesota United
  4. Sporting KC
  5. Seattle Sounders
  6. Colorado Rapids
  7. LA Galaxy
  8. FC Dallas
  9. San Jose Earthquakes
  10. Austin FC
  11. Vancouver Whitecaps
  12. Houston Dynamo
  13. Real Salt Lake

— I think the first nine teams have a pretty solid chance of making the playoffs. It was tough to leave out FCD, a stable organization who seem to have improved in the offseason, and San Jose, who still have lots of nice pieces. But there is stiff competition for these spots.

— LAFC (newsflash!) is really good. The pieces are healthy and they’re well-positioned to make a run at multiple trophies before some key pieces move on. I love that they kept the gang together for a run at a Cup.

— Portland, Minnesota, and Sporting KC are just solid teams with the right coaching, defense, and top-end talent to get it done. SKC is ready for the Gianluca Busio breakout, and as long as some new additions (including midfielder Remi Walter) pan out, they’ll be good. Minnesota lost Kevin Molino, but other than that, I see no serious worry with that team. Just wait until the Timbers get Sebastian Blanco back.

— The Sounders are not as good, but Nicolas Lodeiro is like James Harden: a playoff berth unto himself. They have the flexibility to make moves in the summer to correct some of the issues that face the team given the departures/losses of Jordan Morris, Kelvin Leerdam, and Joevin Jones.

— I might be overrating the Galaxy, who haven’t actually come through in a while, but they changed the defense and should have a healthy Jonathan dos Santos. Colorado will be more reliable — a solid, possession-based team that gets the best out of its players.

— Austin will be okay for an expansion team. Vancouver is better than they have been in recent years, but they’re not there yet. RSL and Houston might be the two worst teams in the league.

2021 MLS Trophies Predictions 

Supporters’ Shield: LAFC

MLS Cup: Portland over Columbus

I like to make my MLS Cup pick a little out of the ordinary. This isn’t far from the realm of possibility (and it’s a rerun of the 2015 Cup, actually). The Crew make it back, but Portland is a team that can gel at the right time, as we saw last year in the MLS is Back tournament. Timbers take it.

On to the games!


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