All you need to know about MLS’ Western Conference in 2022

Major League Soccer’s (MLS) season kicks off in five days! If you’re new to following America’s top division soccer league or have been following since 1996, here’s all you’ll need to know about MLS’ Western Conference ahead of 2022.

MLS revisits 2021 season dates
Mandatory Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

2022 Western Conference Preview

There are 14 teams in the western conference in 2022. Nashville SC, who was a successful team in the east last year moves west to balance the conference. Who has gotten stronger heading into the 2022 season and who hasn’t? Could we see any surprises? This in-depth preview looks at all 14 teams in MLS’ western conference to see how they have prepared for the 2022 season.

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 12th
  • El Parcero Philly – 14th
  • Justin – 13th
  • Zach – 12th
  • Steve – 12th

Austin went into their first season in MLS and struggled a bit. They finished second-to-last in the western conference. Their expansion season was not a success and led to them getting rid of 10 players from last year’s team, and bringing in some MLS veterans to try to push themselves forward in year two.

The Doop by the River gang sees these reinforcements as more of the same for Austin. Two of us have them finishing in 12th like last year, and two of us see them finishing even lower in 13th. They’ll need to punch above their weight to get in playoff contention.

D – Zan KolmanicF – Kekuta Manneh
F – Ethan FinlayF – Aaron Schoenfeld
F – Maxi UrrutiGK – Brady Scott
D – Kipp KellerD – Aedan Stanley
M – Jhojan ValenciaD – Matt Besler
D – Ruben GabrielsenM – Sebastian Berhalter
GK – Damian LasM – Manny Perez
M – Felipe MartinsF – McKinze Gaines
M – Tomas Pochettino
M – Ulises Segura

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 2nd
  • El Parcero Philly – 3rd
  • Justin – 7th
  • Zach – 4th
  • Steve – 3rd

The Colorado Rapids shocked everyone in 2021 finishing first in the west. They edged out Seattle and Sporting Kansas City but failed to do anything in the playoffs. Ahead of the 2022 season, they made some moves letting go of star midfielder Kellyn Acosta but bringing in Bryan Acosta. The team is almost the same looking one as last season, can they stay at the top?

All of us at Doop by the River see Colorado regressing a bit. Three of us have them top four, and one of us see them as the last team in the playoffs for the west. Will Colorado continue to progress or fall a bit like we think they will?

D – Aboubacar KeitaD – Steven Beitashour
M – Max AlvesD – Drew Moor
D – Steven BeitashourD – Kortne Ford
D – Drew MoorD – Jeremy Kelly
M – Bryan AcostaM – Nicolás Mezquida
M – Nicolás MezquidaM – Younes Namli
GK – Andre Rawls
M – Will Vint
F – Dominique Badji
M – Kellyn Acosta
D – Auston Trusty (Summer 2022)

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 13th
  • El Parcero Philly – 13th
  • Justin – 11th
  • Zach – 14th
  • Steve – 14th

FC Dallas was a team that struggled in 2021. They finished far from the playoff picture, but developed star striker Ricardo Pepi. He’s gone now, but Dallas looks to be reinvesting in their first team to get better results and be competitive. Could they actually do better and make the playoffs in 2022?

Dallas brought in Paul Arriola and Alan Velasco, but is that enough to get them up the standings? Our Doop by the River crew doesn’t think so. We all have them either at the same spot or further down the standings in 2022.

D – NanuGK – Phelipe Megiolaro
F – Dom DwyerD – Bressan
F – Isaiah ParkerD – Caiser Gomes
GK – Maarten PaesM – Bryan Acosta
F – Paul ArriolaM – Freddy Vargas
D – Lucas BartlettGK – Kyle Zobeck
F – Alan VelascoF – Ricardo Pepi
D – Marco FarfanD – John Nelson
F – Tsiki NtsabelengD – Justin Che
D – Ryan Hollingshead

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 11th
  • El Parcero Philly – 12th
  • Justin – 12th
  • Zach – 13th
  • Steve – 9th

Houston has been a team in limbo for the past few seasons. Their rebrand off the pitch looks nice, but they have not been good at all on the field. In 2022, they are looking to trim their fat and move up the western conference standings.

Houston finished last in the west last season, and the Doop by the River gang sees them getting a bit better, but not vastly better. This team will be outside of playoff contention, but above last place, that is unless they make more high-level signings in 2022.

D – Daniel SteresD – Jose Bizama
GK – Steve ClarkD – Maynor Figueroa
F – Thor UlfarssonD – Erik McCue
F – Sebastián FerreiraGK – Marko Maric
M – Brooklyn RainesGK – Kyle Morton
D – ZecaD – Alejandro Fuenmayor
M – Boniek Garcia
F – Ariel Lassiter
F – Maxi Urruti
F – Mateo Bajamich

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 7th
  • El Parcero Philly – 4th
  • Justin – 6th
  • Zach – 7th
  • Steve – 8th

LAFC is entering its fifth season in MLS. They had been one of the best teams in MLS in their first three years, but last season showed a real regression. The team that was used to being at or near the top four fell to ninth last season. Can they climb back up the table in 2022?

This team is talented and spent this offseason getting MLS veterans to round out their team. Our Doop by the River guys sees this team finishing better than ninth, but see them as a fringe playoff team in 2022. Will they prove us right or very wrong?

D – Franco EscobarGK – Jamal Blackman
F – Isamel Tajouri-ShradiM – Danny Crisostomo
M – Ilie SanchezM – Alvaro Quezada
M – Kellyn AcostaD – Jordan Harvey
GK – Maxime CrepeauD – Raheem Edwards
GK – John McCarthyF – Michee Ngalina
D – Ryan HollingsheadGK – Pablo Sisniega
D – Doneil HenryM – Eduard Atuesta
D – Tristan Blackmon
M – Bryce Duke
D – Marco Farfan

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 8th
  • El Parcero Philly – 7th
  • Justin – 8th
  • Zach – 6th
  • Steve – 7th

LA Galaxy used to be the top team in MLS. In the early 2010’s they had a dynasty that rivaled the best teams in MLS history. Entering the 2020’s they have been an embarrassment. In 2021, they were one draw, or one less loss away from making the playoffs, but failed to get the job done on decision day. Can they get back to their winning ways in 2022?

The Doop by the River gang sees this team in the same position as last year. They will be on the fringes of the playoffs. The addition of Douglas Costa does make them better, but he alone cannot carry this team to the playoffs.

D – Kelvin LeerdamGK – Eric Lopez
M – Raheem EdwardsM – Victor Vázquez
GK – Richard SanchezD – Niko Hämäläinen
M – Victor VázquezGK – Justin vom Steeg
M – Mark DelgadoM – Jonathan dos Santos
F – Douglas CostaF – Kai Koreniuk
F – Augustine Williams
D – Daniel Acosta
D – Oniel Fisher
F – Ethan Zubak
D – Daniel Steres
M – Sebastian Lletget

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 9th
  • El Parcero Philly – 9th
  • Justin – 4th
  • Zach – 10th
  • Steve – 10th

Minnesota United has been a team on the up in the western conference over the last few seasons. However, they have yet to show that they are a good team when it comes to playoff time. Ahead of the 2022 season, Minnesota lost three starters from last season, and their replacements are of a high caliber but are unproven. Will that help them get better or will they fall in 2022?

One of us at Doop by the River sees this team as a better version than the 2021 side, but the rest of us see them falling out of the playoffs in 2022. They could easily be either of these versions, we’ll have a better picture of this team after the first few months of the season.

F – Bongokuhle HlongwaneF – Fanendo Adi
D – Brent KallmanF – Juan Agudelo
F – Abu DanladiD – Noah Billingsley
GK – Eric DickD – Brent Kallman
D – Oniel FisherD – Jukka Raitala
M – Kervin ArriagaGK – Adrian Zendejas
F – Luis AmarillaM – Ethan Finlay
M – Osvaldo Alonso
M – Jan Gregus
M – Thomas Chacon

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 3rd
  • El Parcero Philly – 2nd
  • Justin – 1st
  • Zach – 1st
  • Steve – 1st

Nashville SC is now in the western conference again in 2022. Their first year, they bounced between the west and the east thanks to the pandemic. They stayed in the east in 2021 and finished third making the eastern conference semifinals in the playoffs. Now they are in the west and are looking like a team that could do some damage in that conference. Could their change of conference see them rise in the standings or fall?

Three members of the Doop by the River see this Nashville team winning the west, while one of them sees them finishing in the top-four. This team is one that is sound defensively and in the midfield thanks to the addition of Sean Davis. Could we be seeing a new team a top the west when the season ends?

F – Ethan ZubakD – Jalil Anibaba
F – Teal BunburyF – Abu Danladi
D – Josh BauerM – David Accam
M – Sean DavisD – Nick Hinds
GK – Bryan MeredithD – Tom Judge
M – Matt LaGrassa
GK – Tor Saunders
F – Jhonder Cadiz
D – Dylan Nealis
D – Alistair Johnston
D – Miguel Nazarit

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 4th
  • El Parcero Philly – 5th
  • Justin – 3rd
  • Zach – 2nd
  • Steve – 5th

Portland made it all the way to MLS Cup in 2021. They hosted the final but fell short on penalties to NYCFC. Their heartbreak could just fuel them in 2022. While the team did lose talisman Diego Valeri, Sebastien Blanco has returned to carry the club’s attacking hopes.

We at Doop by the River see this team as a playoff side in 2022. Each of us sees them finishing in a different place between second and fifth. Could this club that fell short in penalty kicks in front of their home fans get back to the promised land in 2022? The redemption tour starts now!

F – Tega IkobaD – Ismaila Jome
GK – Aljaz IvacicM – Jorge Gonzalez
GK – David BinghamF – Manny Perez
GK – Justin Vom SteegM – Renzo Zambrano
M – David AyalaGK – Steve Clark
D – Josecarlos Van RankinM – Diego Valeri
M – Sebastian BlancoGK – Jeff Attinella
D – Justin RasmussenM – Andy Polo

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 10th
  • El Parcero Philly – 10th
  • Justin – 10th
  • Zach – 9th
  • Steve – 11th

Real Salt Lake has been an interesting team over the past few seasons. In 2021, they went on a run that saw them get into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, and make their way all the way to the western conference final. They were one game short of playing for an MLS Cup, but will they get that far in 2022?

RSL did lose their talisman Albert Rusnak in free agency and don’t have a league-tested replacement for him this year. This could be why all of us at Doop by the River see this team falling below the playoff line in 2022. Could this be true, or will they shock the world again and make the playoffs and go on a run?

M – Jude WellingsF – Milan Iloski
F – Justin MeramF – Douglas Martinez
M – Julio BenitezD – Ashtone Morgan
M – Scott CaldwellM – Justin Portillo
GK – Gavin BeaversD – Noah Powder
D – Jaziel OrozcoF – Jeizon Ramirez
F – Axel KeiF – Tate Schmitt
M – Everton LuizD – Donny Toia
F – Sergio CordovaM – Albert Rusnak
D – Johan Kappelhof

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 14th
  • El Parcero Philly – 11th
  • Justin – 14th
  • Zach – 11th
  • Steve – 11th

San Jose has been on unstable ground for the last few seasons. The earthquakes brought in manager Matias Almeyda to fix this, but his man-marking style of play has never translated to success on the pitch. they finished in 10th last season, and never really threatened to make the playoffs. Ahead of 2022, they have brought in MLS-tested veterans to try to get them over the hump.

We at Doop by the River don’t see that as a determining factor that will bring success. We all have them dropping in the standings in 2022, two of us have them finishing in dead last. Will this be the case, or will we see them come together and shock the west this season?

M – Jan GregusD – Luciano Abecasis
M – Will RichmondD – Jacob Akanyirige
F – Ousseni BoudaM – Eric Calvillo
M – Niko TsakirisM – Carlos Fierro
GK – Matt BersanoF – Andy Rios
D – Francisco CalvoF – Thomas Williamson
M – Jamiro MonteiroGK – Matt Bersano
D – Oskar ÅgrenGK – Daniel Vega
F – Chris Wondolowski
D – Oswaldo Alanis

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 1st
  • El Parcero Philly – 1st
  • Justin – 2nd
  • Zach – 3rd
  • Steve – 2nd

Seattle Sounders have been a powerhouse in the western conference for the last ten years. Seattle has never missed the playoffs in MLS, which is going on 13 years now. They are the measuring stick on successful club culture as well as winning on the pitch. Will they continue this trend in 2022?

The Doop by the River Gang sees this team as a top-four team in the west yet again. One of us has them winning the west, while the rest sees them finishing in second or third. This team has gotten even stronger bringing in RSL legend Albert Rusnak to add to their already stacked midfield. This side has the talent but can they win multiple trophies in 2022?

F – Sam AdeniranM – Nicolas Benezet
M – Obed VargasM – Jordy Delem
M – Dylan TevesM – Shandon Hopeau
M – Albert RusnakF – Fredy Montero
M – Kelyn RoweGK – Trey Muse
GK – Stefan ClevelandM – Kelyn Rowe
F – Will BruinF – Will Bruin
F – Fredy MonteroGK – Stefan Cleveland
D – Jackson RagenGK – Spencer Richey
D – Shane O’Neill
D – Brad Smith
M – Ethan Dobbelaere

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 5th
  • El Parcero Philly – 6th
  • Justin – 5th
  • Zach – 5th
  • Steve – 4th

Sporting Kansas City is always one of the more organized teams in MLS. Their head coach Peter Vermes has this team playing like the best team with the ball at their feet year-in and year-out. 2021’s version was in touching distance of winning the west but fell to third late on in the season. For all their prowess, they seem like a team that will take a step back not move forward in 2022.

Their roster build ahead of 2022 shows this as well, as they didn’t improve the squad more than they had last season. That is likely why the Doop by the River gang sees them as a team that will finish either fourth or fifth. The rest of the west got better and Nashville is added to the mix, this could prove to be challenging for SKC.

D – Ben SweatD – Amadou Dia
M – Uri RosellF – Wilson Harris
M – Roger EspinozaD – Luis Martins
D – Graham ZusiD – Roberto Puncec
D – Logan NdenbeM – Ilie Sanchez
D – Kortne FordGK – Brooks Thompson
D – Robert VoloderD – Graham Smith
F – Marinos TzionisM – Roger Espinoza
F – Nikola VujnovicD – Graham Zusi
GK – Kendall McIntosh
D – Jaylin Lindsey
F – Grayson Barber
F – Tyler Freeman

Doop by the River Gang’s 2022 Predictions

  • Tim – 6th
  • El Parcero Philly – 8th
  • Justin – 9th
  • Zach – 8th
  • Steve – 6th

One of the most heartwarming stories of 2021 was the Vancouver Whitecaps. They went on a run that saw them finish sixth in the west seemingly out of nowhere. Their interim head coach Vanni Sartini’s work helped him become the permanent boss of the club. Now heading into 2022, the goal will be to finish in the top four.

This side added some good MLS players but lost their star goalkeeper. They seem to be right where they were last year, which is why we at Doop by the River have them finishing around where they were last year or lower. The west has gotten better, and Vancouver really hasn’t. They’ll be lucky to make the playoffs with how the field has improved.

D – Tristan BlackmonGK – Isaac Boehmer
M – Sebastian BerhalterM – Patrick Metcalfe
GK – Isaac BoehmerD – Jasser Khmiri
F – Tosaint Ricketts
D – Andy Rose
GK – Maxime Crepeau
M – Janio Bikel
F – Theo Bair

Will there be more shakeup in the west in 2022?

The western conference was a traffic jam last season. The top four were separated by six points or closer. Teams five through nine were split by four points or closer. Add in a very good Nashville SC team to this and there could be 10 teams legitimately vying for seven playoff spots in 2022.

Will any team separate themselves from the rest? Will a team from outside the top four last season make the jump up there? Could teams at the bottom of the table surprise us all and move into a playoff spot by the end of 2022? We’ll have to watch to find out!

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Mandatory Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire