Top 5 outgoing MLS transfers to watch this winter

Chris Smith
Castellanos scored 22 goals in 2021 to help NYCFC to their first-ever MLS Cup title.
Castellanos scored 22 goals in 2021 to help NYCFC to their first-ever MLS Cup title. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 MLS season is over, and now attention turns to the upcoming winter transfer window.

Of course, most supporters will be excited about incoming players as their respective teams build for a challenge in 2022. But it's almost a given now that some of the best talent in MLS will get big moves in every transfer window.

This January is unlikely to be any different. So, here are our top five most exciting transfer sagas to watch this winter.

5. Cole Bassett

Cole Bassett's stock will have risen substantially after he scored a later winner against Bosnia and Herzegovina in his USMNT debut recently.

In truth, he still has a lot to learn and plenty of refinement to bring to his game. But at 20 years old, time is well on his side.

As reported by 90min, Portuguese giants Benfica were chasing Bassett over the summer and a move very nearly happened. In the end, the midfielder opted to stay with the Colorado Rapids to help their MLS Cup bid.

That interest will not have gone away, though, so watch this space in January.

4. Ezequiel Barco

It's taken a while for Ezequiel Barco to start really fulfilling his potential. A little too long, actually, to the point that Atlanta United will be lucky to break even on their $15m investment from 2018.

But following his return from the Olympics, the little Argentine was on fire, grabbing six goals and six assists in 18 appearances to help pull the Five Stripes over the Playoff line. 11 of those goal contributions came in a nine-game stretch immediately after the Playoffs.

Barco has been linked with the likes of Arsenal and Napoli in the past and Atlanta United sporting director Carlos Bocanegra recently admitted the club are receiving a lot of interest. The Five Stripes desperately need to free up some funds and a DP spot - there's unlikely to be a better time to sell than now.

3. Taty Castellanos

There was a time when Taty Castellanos was considered an immensely talented player, but seriously frustrating in front of goal. Well, a Golden Boot and MLS Cup title later, opinions have changed.

The Argentine striker was instrumental to NYCFC's 2021 success, scoring 22 goals in 35 appearances and providing eight assists. He's good in the air and on the ground, is fast, and great with the ball at his feet.

West Ham are thought to be keeping tabs on the 23-year-old, while even Pep Guardiola has sent praise the way of Castellanos.

"I think he is a guy who will do the next step in Europe," Guardiola said (via "What I saw when the scouting department talked to me, I know he's a quality player and ready to make the next step to Europe and we will see where."

It'll be sad to see such a big player leave MLS, but Castellanos is both ready and deserving of a big move.

2. Daryl Dike

We already knew Daryl Dike was good. Then he went to Barnsley on loan and helped drag them right into the Championship Playoffs.

Injuries initially hampered his return to Orlando City but the United States international, but he quickly recovered to score eight goals in his final 10 appearances of the season, including in the MLS Cup Playoffs again Nashville. Overall, he ended the campaign with 11 goals in just 19 appearances.

Dike can score all manner of goals, is strong, and makes really smart runs to drag defenders out of position. His game needs a little refining, but that'll come with experience. West Brom and Crystal Palace have both been linked recently - he's already proven he can do it in England.

1. Ricardo Pepi

Ricardo Pepi's rise in 2021 has been spectacular. 13 goals in 24 starts for a struggling FC Dallas side and three goals and three assists in his first seven USMNT caps have alerted some of Europe's biggest clubs to his potential, as revealed by 90min.

Pepi himself has revealed a dream of playing for Real Madrid one day. While that may not happen immediately, all hell might break loose in the chase for his signature this winter. Sit back and watch it all unfold.

Others to watch: Adam Buksa, George Bello, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Brian Rodriguez, Raul Ruidiaz, Kai Wagner, Aaron Herrera.