The new Major League Soccer season began this week with Lionel Messi leading Inter Miami to victory on opening night.
The World Cup winner was instrumental in Tata Martino’s side kicking off the 2024 campaign with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
Miami is the big favorite for this year’s MLS Cup after adding Luis Suárez to a squad that already included Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.
But there are plenty of teams planning to ruin the party in South Florida as they embark on the 2024 season.
Here, DailyMail.com offers six more reasons why the return of MLS is so exciting.
The entire MLS will have the task of stopping Messi-Manía as one of the best shots of America
HUGO LLORIS BEGINS JOURNEY WITH LAFC
Arguably the best goalkeeper in the world ever joined LAFC from Tottenham this offseason after a dozen years with the Spurs.
He immediately becomes the most recognized player in Major League Soccer worldwide who does not play for Inter Miami.
Lloris, now 37, only signed a one-year deal with LAFC, but has options to extend it to a second season and beyond.
Lloris’s credentials are few in MLS: he is a World Cup winner, has competed in a Champions League final and has captained the French national team for a decade.
Messi understandably takes center stage when it comes to MLS stars, but Lloris is a tremendously exciting addition in his own right. Lloris and LAFC begin Saturday against the Seattle Sounders.
Hugo Lloris signed with LAFC a few months ago and is arguably the biggest MLS star outside of Miami
WILL THE RED BULLS FINALLY FIND THEIR WINGS?
For an original MLS franchise that has never missed a league season, the Red Bulls’ trophy case is empty.
Three Supporter’s Shields and two MLS Cup appearances have led New York to zero championships since 1996.
Now Sandro Schwarz takes charge of the Red Bull Arena, without having ever trained or played professionally in the United States. And Emil Forsberg arrives in the MLS after his time at RB Leipzig.
Schwarz is a former protégé of outgoing Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp at German side Mainz. They played together before Klopp became the team’s manager and Schwarz made 80 appearances under the man who would lead Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool to success.
“Sandro was my teammate for years,” Klopp told German publication Kicker in 2018.
“After I took over the club until we were promoted back to the Bundesliga, he was a very important player in my team. Sandro was always a fighter, a leader, someone who really lived for Mainz.”
If he can replicate some of his former coach’s success, that would mean good things for the Red Bulls, who begin the season Sunday in Nashville.
German Sandro Schwarz takes over as coach of the New York Red Bulls
PHIL NEVILLE LANDS WITH PORTLAND TIMBERS
Neville was sacked from Inter Miami in June by his former United team-mate-turned-boss David Beckham when the team was bottom of the Eastern Conference. Weeks later, Messi signed for Inter Miami.
Now, the former Manchester United star leads the Portland Timbers with a chance for redemption
Neville could have been coaching a squad full of stars like Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez. Instead, he must bring out the best in Eryk Williamson, Diego Chara and Co.
Neville is a well-known name in football, but has had limited success as a coach.
His time with the Timbers seems like a great opportunity to improve his position. If things don’t go well in Portland, it could be Neville’s last chance as a coach in MLS.
Neville’s season begins Saturday at home against the Colorado Rapids.
Former Inter Miami and England women’s team coach Phil Neville is already in Portland
ARE COLORADO RAPIDS ON THE INCREASE?
Chris Armas has another chance to manage an MLS team, after failed attempts with the Red Bulls and Toronto FC.
After time with Manchester United and Leeds United as a No. 2 in England, Armas now has the chance to make his mark as the main man once again.
Armas had a difficult time in England, with the United team reportedly nicknamed him ‘Ted Lasso’ due to being unconvinced by his methods while coaching the team during Ralf-Rangnick’s ill-fated tenure.
He joined fellow American Jesse Marsch at Leeds last season. Marsch was sacked before the 2022-23 campaign ended and Leeds were subsequently relegated.
Armas arrives in Colorado with the only way seemingly up. Former DailyMail.com club columnist Tim Howard finished last in the Western Conference last season.
However, the team has recharged and appears to be heading in the right direction, with American goalkeeper Zack Steffen and attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic two eye-catching additions now in the squad.
Zack Steffen was one of the last cuts from the United States team for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
STREET. LOUIS CITY SC BEGINS SEASON NO 2
For the first time since the 2016 season, Major League Soccer will not add an expansion team and will instead maintain the current roster of 29 franchises.
That won’t be the case by 2025, when San Diego FC joins the fold.
The league’s newest team, St. Louis, was the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a year ago and will look to replicate that success. They begin against Real Salt Lake, who come into that match off a 2-0 midweek loss to Inter Miami.
St. Louis had a lot of success in Year 1 as the newest team in MLS and looks to achieve more
USA STARS EYE AMERICA’S CUP
There is a huge opportunity for American MLS players to prove themselves during the first half of the season, before Gregg Berhalter selects his team for this summer’s Copa América, which will be held for the second time in the United States.
While players like Christian Pulisic and Matt Turner are guaranteed to be called up, some who play for club soccer in the United States may make their way into the camp.
All of the players who were called up to the USMNT’s January camp play in MLS.
In the coming months, Steffen is expected to re-emerge, DeAndre Yedlin will have one last charge at age 30 with the national team now that he is Messi’s teammate. The same goes for the other end of the age spectrum, with 18-year-old Miami prospect Benjamin Cremaschi.
FC Dallas’ Jesús Ferreira will look to regain his starting striker spot, with Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi also fighting for that spot.
Miami’s Benjamín Cremaschi could be part of the USMNT for this summer’s Copa América