With the start of the 2022 Major League Soccer season approaching, a number of clubs will be eager to show off their prize transfer purchases in the hopes of securing a playoff spot and making a run for the MLS Cup.
This past winter, a lot of money was spent on young talent, and a number of significant free transfers were also brought in.
It was a mix of proven foreign talent and bright up-and-comers, with MLS clubs landing a mix of experienced international talent and investing in the next generation of future stars.
As the season begins, here’s a breakdown of the most notable MLS moves thus far.
Most notable MLS transfers in 2022
From: Napoli (Italy)
To: Toronto FC
Transfer Fee: Free transfer
Don’t be fooled by the 30-year-old Italian’s age: This is a player in the prime of his career making the switch to Major League Soccer.
One of the most high-profile acquisitions in MLS history on a monster $8 million contract, according to reports, Insigne’s arrival marks a watershed moment for the league and an enormous snare for Bob Bradley and the Canadian club. The Italian international should become one of the league’s most fearsome frontmen on arrival this coming summer.
- From: D.C. United
- To: FC Dallas
- Transfer Fee: $2 million (general allocation money)
After a successful five-year stint with D.C. United, the USMNT veteran moved west in a record trade between MLS clubs. Last season, Arriola was a major player (when healthy), and a change of environment could help the winger take the next step in his domestic career.
🅿️ug Arriola pic.twitter.com/siVw505iBg
FC Dallas finished 11th in the Western Conference last season, and they spent big this offseason to improve on that standing. Arriola is a key cog in that push back up the table.
- From: Lyon (France)
- To: Chicago Fire
- Transfer Fee: $8 million
While Toronto FC fans will have to wait until midway through the season for their European star to arrive, Chicago supporters will get theirs from the get-go. The former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder made an immediate winter switch from French club Lyon, where he was seen as a bit-part player.
Shaqiri, Shaqiri! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/KhJbEn2pcx
— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) February 9, 2022
Like Insigne, Shaqiri is 30 years old, but he brings more than just experience to MLS. Shaqiri still has plenty left in the tank: While his numbers in France don’t exactly pop off the page (81 percent passing, 10.4 possession losses per 90 minutes on 37.7 touches), in the U.S. top flight with a consistent spot in the squad, he should be a force in midfield.
His flexibility is an added bonus, able to play through the middle as a No. 8 or No. 10, plus the ability to deploy out wide.
- From: Gremio (Brazil)
- To: LA Galaxy
- Transfer Fee: Free transfer
A Brazilian international with previous stops at Juventus and Bayern Munich is always going to stand out in MLS, but the truth is that Costa has plenty to prove on his arrival to the United States.
The 31-year-old has struggled across his last few seasons, with just six goals and nine assists over his last four league seasons in Italy, Germany, and Brazil. With Gremio last season in the Brazilian Serie A, he had more yellow cards than direct goal contributions.
Going further back, he averaged over seven possessions lost over 22 touches in his last Bundesliga campaign, with less than one chance created and less than one successful dribble per appearance. It remains to be seen whether he can revive his career in Los Angeles.
Carlos Salcedo (Tigres to Toronto FC, Undisclosed)
- From: Tigres UANL (Mexico)
- To: Toronto FC
- Transfer Fee: Player swap (Yeferson Soteldo)
On his professional debut with Real Salt Lake back in 2013, Salcedo was 20 years old and had not yet made his senior debut for the Mexican national team. Now, nine years later, he returns to MLS in the prime of his career, with 48 caps for Mexico and club experience in Italy, Germany, and his home nation.
His acquisition has flown somewhat under the radar thanks to the sensational signing of Lorenzo Insigne that made international headlines, but Salcedo’s presence will be a welcome sight for last season’s second-leakiest defense in the entire league.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) January 31, 2022
- From: Velez Sarsfield (Argentina)
- To: Atlanta United
- Transfer Fee: $16 million
“We are talking about a player who is going to be creative and produce goals and assists in the final third…Normally Atlanta United is investing heavily on that type of player, and normally they get it right.”
Those are the words of Atlanta United boss Gonzalo Pineda speaking before Almada’s signing was official. That’s high praise for not just the player but the club’s track record as well.
Almada is a natural left winger who can also play on the right and has great one-on-one capabilities. Atlanta’s attacking prowess it displayed as a new MLS club has faded in recent years, and while Almada is still just 20 years old, he will be expected to produce from the jump this season.
Adapted from Independiente (Argentina)
FC Dallas is a soccer club based in Texas.
$7 million transfer fee
FC Dallas signed a veteran (Arriola), but they also signed a young player.
Velasco, like Almada, is an Argentinian youth international who plays for local club Independiente. Before moving to the United States for the winter, the winger established himself as a regular starter for the team at the end of last season.
His services came at a high cost, with FC Dallas setting a new club record for spending on a player. Velasco will be the club’s next bright young star up front now that Ricardo Pepi has moved to Europe.
🇺🇸 Maior contratação da história do FC Dallas, Alan Velasco (19) finalmente foi anunciado. O argentino custou cerca de € 6.3 milhões para se tornar o segundo jogador mais valioso da MLS. Contrato até 2026. pic.twitter.com/I7WzmFbmxs
— Guia do Futebol 😷 (@OGuiadoFutebol) February 2, 2022
- From: Penarol (Uruguay)
- To: Orlando City
- Transfer Fee: $7.5 million
Orlando SC paid a significant sum for Uruguayan prodigy Torres, who joins from his boyhood club Penarol, continuing the theme of investing in young South American talent. Prior to his departure, he was a Uruguayan sensation, scoring seven goals and aiding nine others in 27 senior games for the club, including four goals and an assist in Copa Sudamericana action.
Torres is so well-liked in Uruguay that he has already earned ten caps for the senior national team, which is in the midst of a transition, seeking to get younger while also vying for a place in the World Cup. He has yet to score for the national team, but he did get an assist in last year’s Copa America and is hoping to win a more regular spot in the squad in the future.
Torres is described as “wonderful” on the ball, but he isn’t particularly strong in front of the net. He’s a visionary who’ll be aiming to create opportunities for teammates to finish. Orlando City has made a significant acquisition.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 17, 2022
- From: Atlas (Mexico)
- To: Chicago Fire
- Transfer Fee: $6 million
While FC Dallas went with a veteran-plus-young-player winter partnership, Chicago followed suit, signing Xherdan Shaqiri and combining him with 20-year-old Torres, who will arrive in May after the Liga MX Clausura concludes.
Torres, an Atlas youth product who debuted professionally at the age of 16, established himself as a regular winger in the Atlas squad and helped the club win its first Apertura title in 70 years.
His numbers aren’t very impressive, but he has played for the Mexican minor national team and provides a youthful presence alongside Shaqiri, who will assist the team create opportunities this season.
Él es Torres.
— Chicago Fire FC (@VamosFire) February 19, 2022
— Patrick McCraney (@patrickmccraney) February 19, 2022