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Five storylines that will define the 2024 Major League Soccer season

The 2024 Major League Soccer season starts on Wednesday with a curtain-raising match between Inter Miami and Real Salt Lake.

Of course, all eyes are on Lionel Messi as he starts his first full season in the league, but Inter Miami provide just one storyline ahead of the new campaign. Here are five that could define the 2024 season in MLS.

Will Lionel Messi and Inter Miami’s season end in glory?

Inter Miami have arguably assembled the most talented roster in MLS history. Messi is the star attraction, but he now has Luis Suarez alongside him after the Uruguayan striker made the move from Gremio in the off-season. Add in Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba and Inter Miami’s core of Barcelona legends looks somewhat formidable.

A chaotic pre-season highlighted the pitfalls Inter Miami must avoid if they are to enjoy a successful 2024 season – namely, they must keep their best players fit and available – but no MLS team has ever attracted so much attention. Messi has won everything else in soccer – can he add an MLS Cup or Supporters’ Shield to his collection? 

Can Wilfried Nancy’s Columbus Crew pull off a Repeat?

The Columbus Crew finished the 2023 season by winning MLS Cup as the most entertaining team in the whole league. Indeed, Wilfried Nancy quickly turned Columbus into a high-energy, attack-minded outfit after arriving from CF Montreal with the Frenchman now considered the best pure coach working in MLS.

Nancy has managed to keep the bulk of his squad together over the off-season, but opposition teams might have a better idea of what to expect from Columbus this year. The fundamental’s of the Crew’s approach will remain the same, though, and that could give them a chance of pulling off an historic Repeat.

Will Toronto FC bounce back from a disastrous 2023 season?

2023 was a season to forget for Toronto FC as they finished bottom of the Eastern Conference. This was despite having one of the biggest budgets in MLS and star players like Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi underwhelming. Bob Bradley paid for this failure with job as he was sacked before the end of the campaign.

Former Canada manager John Herdman is now in place as TFC’s new head coach, but the squad overhaul many predicted at the end of last season hasn’t happened. Insigne and Bernardeschi are still at the club. Herdman needs reinforcements in essentially every position and the 48-year-old has never managed in the club game. Bouncing back from last season won’t be easy.

Can FC Cincinnati build on last year’s Supporters’ Shield success?

FC Cincinnati ran away with the Supporters’ Shield last season. This was an astonishing achievement considering the club’s struggles in their first three seasons as an MLS franchise. Yet Pat Noonan’s team ran out of steam in the playoffs as they were seen off by eventual MLS Cup winners the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference final.

USA international Miles Robinson has arrived at TQL Stadium from Atlanta United to strengthen Cincy at the back. Aaron Boupendza is starting his first full season in MLS after making an instant impact in the second half of last season. But it’s FC Cincinnati’s tactical cohesion that makes them so strong. Can they build on last year’s Shield success by winning MLS Cup?

Will the Colorado Rapids’ ambition translate into results?

The Colorado Rapids finished bottom of the Western Conference in 2023, but a rebuild has taken place at the club over the off-season. Chris Armas has replaced Robin Fraser as head coach while a number of new signings have been made with USA internationals Zack Steffen, Djordje Mihailovic and Sam Vines all joining.

Colorado haven’t exactly been known for their ambition as a franchise under their current ownership in recent years, but there has at least been an effort to overhaul the squad and management team ahead of the 2024 season. This will surely push them up the Western Conference table, but how much higher? 

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