Getty Images

Running as an off-cyle league from February to December, Major League Soccer transfers can be out of sync with the rest of the world with major purchases happening during the summer transfer window while major sales happen during the winter transfer window. This is the opposite of how major deals normally work around the world but with the MLS offseason beginning in December, it's the safest time for teams to sell their best players with being able to integrate new additions into their systems during the preseason. 

The nature of the league's setup can lead to teams sometimes needing to wait until the summer to replace their best players after sales but it's something that comes with the territory of MLS running on a schedule that is different from other major European leagues. With that schedule causing major sales to happen after the season, it does mean that some of the bigger moves will happen in the coming weeks as European teams are looking to improve for title charges or offset losses during international tournaments like the Africa Cup of Nations and the AFC Asian Cup making this a good time to look at some MLS players who could be on the move.

Jesus Ferreira, Brandon Vazquez and Miles Robinson are three USMNT players who need moves in January, but this is a chance to look at the rest of the league. More eyes have been on MLS since Lionel Messi moved to Inter Miami which could also lead to more moves than a usual winter window due to increased attention.

Thiago Almada, Atlanta United

Every season brings the question of if this is the one where Thiago Almada finally leaves Atlanta United? The Argentine attacking midfielder is fresh off of winning the MLS Young Player of the Year award and if not for the impressive exploits from Luciano Acosta, Almada would've likely done the award double winning the league MVP too. Racking up 12 goals and 16 assists for the Five Stripes while also being called into the Argentina national team, Almada is one of the main players who could benefit from the Messi effect of a larger spotlight. In early December, Almada expressed his desire to play soccer in Europe and teams will line up for his services. One fit is Napoli. Without Victor Osimhen for part of the new year due to AFCON duties, Almada could help the team offset their attacking losses while also providing another young player who can help the club build. Add in the rich history of Argentine players on Napoli and it's a transfer that makes quite a lot of sense.

Kai Wagner, Philadelphia Union

Now a free agent, there is a chance that Kai Wagner will be leaving the Union after being suspended for their final playoff games of the season due to a slur being directed at New England Revolution forward Bobby Wood. While Wagner has a contract offer from the Union, it doesn't mean that he'll return to the team as he has expressed interest in playing in a top European league for years. Linked with Marseille, Wagner may be able to get that move and play in France. Providing seven goals and 32 assists during his time with the Union while also delivering set plays, Wagner is someone who can help any team that needs a left back with his attacking play. Also creating the 10th most chances in the league with 72, which was the top mark among defenders, there is no doubting Wagner's ability even with his suspension potentially bringing a sour end to his Union career. 

Facundo Torres, Orlando City SC

Highly rated when he came to Orlando from Penarol in Uruguay, Facundo Torres has lived up to those expectations and then some becoming one of the best attacking players on the team. Making it into the Uruguay squad under Marcelo Bielsa things are only looking up for the 23-year-old after scoring 14 goals in the past season. Torres has gotten more aggressive with the ball at his feet for the Lions, forming part of a formidable duo with Ducan Maguire. It would be a big hole to fill if Torres was to leave in January but for young players from South America coming to MLS, turning that into a move to Europe is becoming a well worn path as MLS' stature as a developmental league grows by the season.

Drake Callender, Inter Miami

Still keeping an eye on the Messi effect, one of the biggest reasons for the Herons' success was the form of their goalkeeper, Drake Callender. Able to stop anything in his path, Callender made the third most saves of any keeper in the league with 122 behind Brad Stuver and Roman Burki. Miami's defense left holes everywhere that were exploited to pepper Callender with shots but he was able to stand tall among the pressure. While some of the finer areas of Callender's game like his claiming of crosses and distribution have room for improvement, those are areas that working with a top level goalkeeping coach can iron out. Only 26, Callender has plenty of years ahead of him as goalkeepers can consistently play until their mid 30s, so there is time to improve and become a regular starter in a top five league.

Jalen Neal, Los Angeles Galaxy

For a young player, moving abroad can come with a fair share of risk but for Neal, it could be a risk worth taking. The Galaxy are going through a rebuild and with center back being a position open for the taking with the senior national team, Neal could move even with the risk of impacting his spot at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Only 20 years old, he has shined in spots but needs more top-level experience. While that can come in Major League Soccer, being able to move to a top team while learning behind a strong defensive center back can help him improve on his positioning while setting Neal up for a successful career. It's always better to move to a top European league when you're young if that's possible and it's certainly something that could be on the table for the talented defender if he wants it this winter.