The MLS Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player Award is one of the most unpredictable awards in soccer. You never know who is going to explode onto the scene or find an incredible run of form to take the trophy home, and this year is no different.
That being said, there are always some players that everyone expects to see near the top of the frontrunners list. From established stars looking to repeat as MVP to newcomers looking to take the league by storm, here are a few of the players that could potentially dethrone last year’s winner Hany Mukhtar and take the top prize.
Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC
Okay, maybe they can’t ALL do the dethroning bit, but there’s a reason he’s at the top of this list. There has only been one multiple MVP winner in Major League Soccer, but absolutely no one would be surprised if Mukhtar takes it home for the second year running. After finishing second to Carles Gil in 2021, the German youth international put up a monstrous 23 goals and 11 assists in 2022 — contributing to almost two-thirds of all of Nashville’s goals — as he strolled to Golden Boot and MVP honours.
Nashville’s offseason has been relatively uneventful, meaning that Mukhtar will have to carry the majority of the offensive production once again. If he can stay healthy and carry over his 2022 form — which should be no surprise given that he’s currently in his prime — there’s no reason he can’t be the first to go back-to-back.
Sebastián Driussi, Austin FC
The second entry on this list is no surprise either. While Sebastián Driussi will be playing in a significantly improved Austin side which could impact his numbers, he’s still shown to be one of the smartest and deadliest players in MLS. Much like Mukhtar, the Argentinian was the key to Austin’s incredible success in their sophomore year, contributing to nearly half their goals.
If he can keep that production, his MVP bid will be strengthened by the fact that Austin could pose a legitimate threat to Los Angeles FC’s Western Conference dominance.
William Agada, Sporting KC
We already spoke about how insanely good William Agada looked during his short time in Kansas when looking at which young players could potentially have a breakout season. However, his talent could make his first full season in MLS the best one since Zlatan Ibrahimovic graced us with his presence.
Ten goal contributions in as many starts, with a team or system you’re not entirely familiar with, is an absurd stat. Now, with a whole offseason and a tactical layout that can be built around his style, Agada could be set to have an absolutely monster season.
Evander, Portland Timbers
Everyone is jumping on the Evander hype train and for good reason, the guy is just so damn deadly every time he steps on the field. He was one of the most creative players in Denmark’s Superliga last season — generating more than four shots per game by himself — and could be just the boost that Portland needed. The Timbers struggled to both create quality chances and finish them on a consistent basis last season and someone with Evander’s profile could be their saving grace.
Daniel Gazdag, Philadelphia Union
It feels like Daniel Gazdag’s remarkable 2022 season was overshadowed by just how freakishly good Philadelphia was as a whole. Even so, Gazdag emerged as the heart of that attacking lineup and has the numbers to prove it. Putting up 22 goals and 10 assists is an incredible return, and with new challenges emerging in the Eastern Conference, Gazdag could be staring down the barrel of an MVP trophy if he can produce another season like that.
Cucho Hernandez, Columbus Crew
Cucho Hernandez’s integration into both MLS and the Columbus Crew was a thing of beauty. He scored a whopping eight goals in his first eight games and seemingly could not miss. He also developed a lethal link with Armenian international Lucas Zelarayán as they helped the Crew go on an incredible run at the end of the season that almost saw them sneak into a playoff spot.
If Zelarayán’s knee holds up, they have proven to be one of the deadliest duos in MLS and Cucho’s elite finishing would absolutely make him a favourite for MVP.
Romell Quioto, CF Montreal
Riqui Puig, LA Galaxy
Lorenzo Inisgne, Toronto FC
Thiago Almada, Atlanta United
Talles Magno, New York City FC