2024 MLS season preview | The GIST

    The GIST: The 29th MLS season kicks off tonight — the league’s earliest-ever start as its popularity reaches new heights, largely thanks to a certain GOAT in South Beach. Vamos.

    The details: The regular season will run from now through October. All 29 teams in the two conferences (Eastern and Western) will play 34 regular-season games (17 at home and 17 on the road), with most matches played on Saturdays and some on Wednesdays. The fun culminates on December 7th, when the 2024 MLS Cup champ will be crowned.

    • Naturally, eight-time Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi — who made the stunning move to MLS last year — will feature in tonight’s 8 p.m. ET season kickoff, a home showdown for his Inter Miami CF side against Real Salt Lake. Now that’s starting things off on the right foot.
    • Ahead of his first full season in MLS, the Messi Effect has already increased season ticket sales league-wide, helping to up the game’s popularity across North America before the U.S., Mexico, and Canada jointly host the 2026 World Cup.

    The teams to watch: Newly stacked with some of Messi’s favorite former teammates from La Liga’s FC Barcelona, the pressure will be on Miami to win it all this year. But the pink squad has a long way to go after failing to even qualify for the postseason in 2023.

    • Otherwise, keep tabs on the Midwest teams. The Columbus Crew will try to become the first back-to-back champs since the LA Galaxy did it in 2012, while reigning Supporters Shield holders, FC Cincinnati, will return with league MVP, midfielder Luciano Acosta.
    • St. Louis CITY SC will also be hungry to make a splash after amping up their defense following last year’s finish atop the Western Conference in their inaugural season. Not too shabby.

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