A new MLS season means a boatload of new talent for the league to show off with action getting underway this weekend. While there were some key departures like Ricardo Pepi, Daryl Dike, Kevin Paredes, Tajon Buchanan and Eduard Atuesta, teams have managed to reload and on paper improve, with a mixture of established European stars or ex-European stars and more top-level prospects from South America.
With all of the new Designated Player signings having arrived, here are my top five:
5) Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire
He may not have lived up to the hype at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, but he was so superb at Stoke City that he got a moved to Liverpool out of it. He's played just 11 games since the beginning of the season at Lyon and gets a move to MLS where he can absolutely dominate. His technical ability, how he can strike from anywhere and just his pure vision should help Chicago improve greatly. Expect plenty of awesome moments from the Switzerland international.
4) Alan Velasco, FC Dallas
One of the top young talents from Argentina, Velasco goes to FC Dallas where he figures to combine with Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira in attack. That could be a great front three for the club in their post-Ricardo Pepi days. Velasco is a good young player, though I think the hype around him is excessive, but he could turn out to be a strong investment for a club that knows how to groom young talent. The production may not be there right away, but in the end it should be.
3) Thiago Almada, Atlanta United
The top investment of the summer, this is a move where Atlanta could sell him down the road for double or triple what they paid for him ... if it works out. He's got tons of creativity and quality, and the jump from Vélez Sarsfield is a manageable one. He has the level to be in the Premier League right now and joining Atlanta was a surprise, and he could instantly become one of the best players in the league. Adding him to an already solid squad could lift this team to contender status right away.
2) Douglas Costa, Los Angeles Galaxy
Love this move. The Los Angeles Galaxy still need help in defense, but you can argue that Costa and Chicharito are as talented of an attacking duo as the league has. Sure, he's had his issues (like the spitting incident), but when he is in form, he can be absolutely world class. He's coming off a loan stint at Gremio, but before that he was an impactful winger for both Bayern Munich and Juventus. You are talking about a 31-year-old winger who has played for some of the world's biggest clubs and still has plenty left in the tank. Adding him could pay off big for a Galaxy team looking for a return to the top.
1) Lorenzo Insigne, Toronto FC
Though he won't join until the summer, this is an easy decision. When Toronto signed Sebastian Giovinco, it was like, "Oh, I remember him. Let's see how he does in MLS." For for Insigne, it's, "How in the world did Toronto managed to sign him?" He'll be just 31 this summer, he's a Napoli legend and Euro 2022 champion, and he should instantly be the best player in MLS from the start. Sure, he isn't at the same level as years past, but those were incredible levels, scoring double digit goals in six straight seasons. He's still fantastic and should help get Toronto contending once again.