It has been an exciting 2021 season in MLS, with some great plays, goals, and storylines to keep any fan at the edge of their seats. The New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders have been the flag bearers throughout the regular season, being two of the league’s most consistent teams. While both Los Angeles clubs have disappointed and Atlanta United have seen their expensive roster play below the playoff line for much of the season.

Dark horses like NYCFC and Colorado Rapids have emerged with statement wins and individual performances to keep an eye on come the playoffs that may shock many. One of the biggest questions now going down the stretch run in MLS is who the candidates for the Landon Donovan award at season’s end are.

These top 5 candidates have all made a case to be considered for the top individual prize in all of MLS. What we have considered is contributions from goals, assists, leadership and team standing. Here are the top 5 candidates to win the MLS regular season MVP award.

Raúl Ruidíaz

Seattle’s Raúl Ruidíaz is having one of the best individual seasons for a player in a long time, consider the scenario, Jordan Morris and Nicolás Lodeiro out injured for much of the season someone has to step up, and the Peruvian has. Ruidíaz leads the league in goals, 14, but besides clutch goals, it has been leadership that makes him one of the biggest reasons the Sounders are atop of the west without two key players. Ruidíaz did what a DP is supposed to do… step up.

Valentín Castellanos

NYCFC is a dark horse, winning games against big time opponents, the latest against New England where Valentín Castellanos scored two goals and is having a career year. It’s a team effort for NYCFC but Castellanos has stood out considerably and is coming into his own. Taty will be key come playoff time and has shown he can be a star in MLS, it also marked a year where Castellanos was called into the Argentine U23 squads.

Carles Gil

One of the best midfielders in MLS, Carles Gil is the leagues assist leader and by a mile, his 15 assists are only second by 5 players who are on 8. Gil is the string puller for the Revs two power forwards Bou and Buksa. Once again Bruce Arena has a magic triangle with Gil playing the role of Marco Etcheverry to perfection.

Dániel Sallói

Out of nowhere Dániel Sallói is on an MVP season, already an All-Star and a league leader in goals and assists the Hungarian striker has been pivotal for Sporting KC. He may not be the biggest name on the list, but Sallói has done it all this season for Sporting KC and is on a career year.

Hany Mukhtar

Someone needs to take credit for Nashville SC’s unexpected third place 2021 MLS season. German Hany Mukhtar is tied at second as the leagues assist leader and has 8 goals this season. Mukhtar pulls the strings for a team that has only lost 2 games the whole season and when in doubt Nashville SC gets draws, in a league where earning points is key, Nashville are sitting pretty with an MVP caliber player, and a stingy defense.