Useful Notes / Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the United States' and Canada's top-tier professional soccer league. Its predecessor league, the North American Soccer League (NASL) went out of business in 1984. MLS was founded in 1993 as a condition FIFA imposed on the US Soccer Federation in exchange for allowing the United States to host the 1994 World Cup. MLS operates more like the other North American professional sports leagues. Unlike almost every other Association Football league in the world, it currently does not have a relegation/promotion system. Each of the teams in the league are franchises granted by the league, as opposed to being completely individual entities like their European counterparts. The A-League in Australia is the only other soccer league to operate the same way. The second-level United Soccer League serves as Major League Soccer's minor league, with each MLS team either owning their own reserve team or affiliating with an independently-owned team.

Another difference between MLS and its European counterparts is that the season runs from spring-to-fall. This has been criticized by its European counterparts and FIFA on the grounds it conflicts with the FIFA calendar and major summer tournaments, especially the World Cup. So far, the main reason MLS have opposed a fall-to-spring schedule is because of winter weather in Canada and some parts of the US. Plus, from a marketing standpoint, a spring-to-fall schedule means MLS only has to compete against Major League Baseball and NASCAR in the US and the CFL in Canada for viewership during the summer. A FIFA-compatible fall-to-spring calendar would mean MLS would be in competition against both several other American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA college football) and soccer leagues from abroad. Most of the other countries with soccer leagues whose seasons fall within a single calendar year are either in the Southern Hemisphere, where such a league would play a fall-to-spring calendar (e.g. Brazil), or far up north (e.g. Sweden).

MLS also relies on an American-style playoff format to determine its championship.note  It currently has 23 teams, 20 in the U.S. and three in Canada. Miami and Nashville are currently planned as the league's 24th and 25th teams, with a 26th team expected to be announced in early 2018. MLS commissioner Don Garber stated that the league will expand to 28 teams at a later date.

In all but a few cases, teams play at 18,000 to 30,000-seat soccer-specific stadiums which are less expensive to construct and maintain, can also be used to host other events such as concerts and high school and college football games, and look much better packed with fans than in the early years of the league, when the majority of teams played in NFL and large NCAA stadiums which are downright cavernous for soccer. The teams who currently do not play in a MLS-specific stadium are Atlanta, Minnesota, New England, NYCFC, Seattle, and Vancouver. Atlanta, New England, Seattle and Vancouver share an NFL or CFL stadium, Minnesota played in a college football stadium in 2017 and will do so again in 2018, and NYCFC plays in an MLB ballpark. Both D.C. and Minnesota are constructing their own soccer-specific stadiums, with D.C. set to open theirs during the 2018 season and Minnesota in 2019, while New England and NYCFC are seeking their own stadiums.

Unlike most soccer leagues, MLS does not employ a single table, double round-robin format for its regular season; instead, the league is divided into Eastern and Western Conferences using an unbalanced schedule. In the current format, teams play 34 games, playing their conference opponents at least twice and teams in the opposite conference once. The standings are determined by the standard FIFA point system, with a win equal to 3 points, a draw with 1 point, and none for a loss. At the end of the regular season, the team with most points wins the Supporters' Shield trophy, and gains the top overall seed in the playoffs.

The top 6 teams in each conference qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. The top two teams in each conference receives a bye into the Conference Semifinals. The First Round in each conference consists of two one-game knockout matches, with the 4th seed hosting the 5th seed and the 3rd seed hosting the 6th seed, with extra time and penalty kicks if necessary. The winners of the knockout matches advance to the Conference Semifinals, and teams are reseeded with the lower remaining seed playing against the 1st seed and the higher remaining seed playing against the 2nd seed. The Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals are two games each, with the team garnering higher aggregate goals advancing to the next round. In the case of a tie at the end of the second leg, the away goals rule is applied first (a feature added for the 2014 season). In other words, the team that scored more goals away from home will advance. If the teams are tied on both total goals and away goals, extra time is played. If the teams are still tied, penalty kicks are used; the away goals rule is not applied for goals scored during extra time. The winners of the Conference Finals advance to the MLS Cup, a single match that is hosted by the team which finished higher in the Supporters' Shield standings. Again, in case of a tie at full time, extra time is used, with penalty kicks if necessary. From the league's inception until the 2011 season, the MLS Cup championship was held in a predetermined site, similar to the Super Bowl.

In continental club competition, three to five MLS clubs participate in the CONCACAFnote  Champions League. The United States is given four berths in the tournament while Canada is given one berth. Three of the United States berths are allocated through MLS, which are currently awarded to the MLS Cup champion and the two regular season conference championsnote . The fourth United States berth is awarded to the winner of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, which is also contested by lower division professional teams and men's amateur teams sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation.note  If a US-based team earns qualification by more than one method or if a Canadian team holds any MLS-allocated berth, then the affected berth is given to the highest ranked US-based team in the Supporters' Shield standings which has otherwise failed to qualify. For the single Canadian berth, the three Canadian MLS teams play in the Canadian Championship against other professional lower division Canadian teamsnote . Starting in 2017, teams must start at least three Canadian players during the Canadian Championship; also, the competition will expand in 2018 to include the winners of the semi-pro League1 Ontario and Première Ligue de soccer du Québec.

The MLS is generally looked down upon by European fans/fans of European teams, who look at it as the place that over-the-hill European players go to get one final paycheck after they can't cut the mustard in Europe. The lack of relegation/promotion, the Eastern/Western Conference league structurenote , and the use of a postseason playoff rather than the Supporters' Shield to determine the league's champion doesn't help.

However, like the US national team, it is beginning to, slowly, get respect, with European players like Steven Gerrard (talismanic captain of Liverpool FC, second most successful club in English history, considered by his peers to be the best player in his position on the planet in his prime and winner of just about every trophy short of the Premier League itself - and he was one slip away from winning that, too) the most recent acquisition of LA Galaxy, firmly insisting that he hadn't come to just see his career out and wanted to win trophies. On top of that, players that go to play in the MLS are often still in demand in Europe, with AC Milan and Paris St. Germain, two of the biggest clubs in Europe, taking David Beckham on loan in the MLS off-season, Frank Lampard forming a key part of Manchester City's team after New York City FC loaned him back and Landon Donovan having several highly successful stints at Everton FC, a well-regarded English club which was the long term home of US goalkeeper Tim 'Secretary of Defence' Howard, and becoming a fan favourite.

Now, the US is seen as the sleeping giant of football, thanks to increasing awareness of the game thanks to television coverage of English Premier League, which has the advantage of a similar culture/appealing to America's rampant Anglophilia, and a sprinkling of US players, the growing success of the national team (now regarded as a disciplined second tier team that can be a real threat to traditional power houses England, Germany and the Netherlands) a growing Hispanic population which is football mad and as a result, many of the big (and rich) European teams regularly come on tour to the US, some, like Manchester City, forging links with MLS clubs (meaning that in time, we're likely to see talented young players from Europe being blooded in the MLS) while other teams set up academies to pick up talented players.note  In short, for the MLS and Association Football in the United States as a whole, the future looks bright.

Though team names originally followed the American convention of [City/Region] [Nickname], many teams have switched to European-style names (Ex: The Kansas City Wizards are now Sporting Kansas City), or a hybrid of the two (Ex: "Seattle Sounders FC"). Many teams, especially those brought into the league in the last few years, are reincarnations of teams from lower-tier national leagues such as the USL and NASL (Ex: Portland Timbers). Officially, such teams are disbanded and the new team formed with the same management, and staff, but they generally acknowledge continuity with the prior franchise for record-keeping purposes.

Eastern Conference teams

  • Atlanta United FC
    First Season: 2017
    Current Head Coach: Gerardo Martino
    Current Captain: Michael Parkhurst
    Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: None
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 4th. Overall: 4th. Playoffs: Knockout Round
    One of two new clubs for 2017. Arthur Blank, founder of The Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, owns the team. Between 2008 and 2014, Atlanta was the largest media market without a MLS club, and it was also the last top 10 media market to enter the league. Due to construction delays with Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the team played its home matches at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium during the first half of its debut season. Notably ended the Seattle Sounders’ reign as the league’s attendance champion, drawing over 48,000 per home game in its inaugural season.
  • Chicago Fire
    First Season: 1998
    Current Head Coach: Veljko Paunović
    Current Captain: Dax McCarty
    Stadium: Toyota Parknote 
    Trophies Won: 1998 MLS Cup, 2003 Supporters Shield, 1998, 2000, 2003 & 2006 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 3rd. Overall: 3rd. Playoffs: Knockout Round
    One of the more successful teams, they won the MLS Cup in their first season, 1998. They've fallen on hard times recently but have started to undergo a renaissance. They're also known for being the first club for Carlos Bocanegra, the former United States national team captain, and as the current club of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Named for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871; in fact, the official announcement of the team's entry into MLS was made on the anniversary of said event.
  • Columbus Crew SC
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter
    Current Captain: Wil Trapp
    Stadium: Mapfre Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2008 MLS Cup, 2004, 2008 & 2009 Supporters Shield, 2002 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 5th. Overall: 5th. Playoffs: Conference Finals
    One of the ten charter clubs, the Crew are notable for celebrating the working-class side of their fanbase. Won the MLS Cup in 2008, as well as three Supporters' Shields. The team is credited with building the first MLS-specific stadium, with other teams soon following suit. In October 2017, team owner Anthony Precourt announced his intention to move the club to Austin, Texas in 2019 if he doesn't get a new stadium built in downtown Columbus. This potential move has not only angered Crew supporters (with some rival supporter groups showing their disapproval as well), but it also threw a monkey wrench into San Antonio's expansion efforts.note 
  • D.C. United
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Ben Olsen
    Current Captain: Steve Birnbaum
    Stadium: Audi Fieldnote 
    Trophies Won: 1996, 1997, 1999 & 2004 MLS Cup, 1997, 1999, 2006 & 2007 Supporters Shield, 1996, 2008 & 2013 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 11th. Overall: 21st. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    Second to the LA Galaxy in overall honors, with 4 MLS Cups and 4 Supporters' Shields. One of the founding members of MLS, the name "United" was adapted from English club names (like Manchester United and Leeds United) and is a reflection of Washington D.C.'s status as the capital of the United States. For most of the early years of MLS, D.C. United had the only European-style name. From 2005 to 2008, D.C. United shared its home ground with a Major League Baseball team when the Nationals played at RFK Stadium, meaning they played on turf laid over dirt in some places for part of the year. Will open the new Audi Field in the District during the 2018 season.note 
  • Montreal Impact
    First Season: 2012
    Current Head Coach: Rémi Garde
    Current Captain: Ignacio Platti
    Stadium: Stade Saputonote 
    Trophies Won: 2013 & 2014 Canadian Championship
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 9th. Overall: 17th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    The third Canadian team to join the league (after Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps in that order), they replaced a second-division (USL/USSF/NASL) club of the same name in 2012. Some high-profile matches are played at the larger Olympic Stadium; the Impact's regular home ground, Stade Saputo, is located just north of Olympic Stadium. The Impact became the first Canadian team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2015, losing 5-3 on aggregate to Mexican club América.
  • New England Revolution
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Brad Friedel
    Current Captain: Claude Dielna
    Stadium: Gillette Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2007 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 7th. Overall: 15th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    Perhaps the least successful among the ten charter franchises, not counting the Tampa Bay Mutiny, who folded after the 2001 season. The Revs have not won the Cup, nor have they won the shield... despite being runners-up five times in the Cup, and second overall once. Their only trophies have been from the Open Cup or international competitions. Sister team of the Patriots and play in Gillette Stadium.
  • New York City FC
    First Season: 2015
    Current Head Coach: Patrick Vieira
    Current Captain: David Villa
    Stadium: Yankee Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: None
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 2nd. Overall: 2nd. Playoffs: Conference Semi-Finals
    One of the two 2015 expansion teams, and the second team based in the New York metropolitan area. Unlike the Red Bulls or the NFL's Jets and Giants, they're trying to play in the Big Apple itself; until a stadium is built, Yankee Stadium in The Bronx will host their games, becoming the second club (after D.C.) to share its ground with a Major League Baseball club. (This is not by coincidence—the New York Yankees own a 20% stake in the team, with Manchester City owning the rest.) Home of David Villa and Andrea Pirlo.
  • New York Red Bulls
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Jesse Marsch
    Current Captain: Luis Robles
    Stadium: Red Bull Arenanote 
    Trophies Won: 2013 & 2015 Supporters Shield
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 6th. Overall: 9th. Playoffs: Conference Semi-Finals
    Originally the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (later just the MetroStars, with no region identifier), they are the only MLS team to have their sponsor, who also owns the club, included in the team name. Two-time Supporters' Shield winners (2013 and 2015). They were the last club of Thierry Henry, who retired after the 2014 season. Also notable for having a severe case of Every Year They Fizzle Out (like cans of Red Bull) when they're in good years, especially as of late. Typically, the Red Bulls will field one of the most skilled and talented squads in the league, but fail to make the cup.
  • Orlando City SC
    First Season: 2015
    Current Head Coach: Jason Kreis
    Current Captain: Jonathan Spector
    Stadium: Orlando City Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: None
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 10th. Overall: 18th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    A 2015 expansion team, they are the first club based in Florida and the Southeastern US since the contraction of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion FC after the 2001 season. Their ascent comes at the tail end of a whirlwind grassroots rise as a third-division minor league team. The final club of Brazilian Ballon d'Or winner (Ricardo) Kaká, who retired after the 2017 season. Also one of four MLS clubs with a Distaff Counterpart in the National Women's Soccer League; they operate the Orlando Pride, which joined the NWSL in 2016.note 
  • Philadelphia Union
    First Season: 2010
    Current Head Coach: Jim Curtin
    Current Captain: Alejandro Bedoya
    Stadium: Talen Energy Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: None
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 8th. Overall: 16th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    An expansion team started in 2010 and is based in the riverside suburb of Chester with a stadium having a beautiful view of the nearby Commodore Barry Bridge. A lot of their culture is related to Benjamin Franklin and The American Revolution — they have 13 stars on the crest, their name is a reference to the union of the Thirteen Colonies, they put a snake on the crest to reference Franklin's famous "Join or Die" political cartoon, their oldest and biggest supporters group is called the Sons of Ben... you get the idea. Prior to the Union's establishment in 2008, Philadelphia was the largest media market without a MLS franchise, holding this distinction for nearly a decade.
  • Toronto FC
    First Season: 2007
    Current Head Coach: Greg Vanney
    Current Captain: Michael Bradley
    Stadium: BMO Fieldnote 
    Trophies Won: 2017 MLS Cup; 2017 Supporters Shield; 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 & 2017 Canadian Championship
    2017 Position: Eastern Conference: 1st. Overall: 1st. Playoffs: Winners
    The first Canadian team to join MLS, having started play in 2007. Though their MLS career started out rather undistinguished (until 2016, they had never finished higher than 11th in the league), they have been more successful in the Canadian Championship (contested by Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC since 2008, and also by Ottawa Fury [formerly NASL, now USL] since 2014 and the now-defunct FC Edmonton [NASL] from 2011–2017), winning four years in a row from 2009-2012. Rather unlucky in the league in recent years, as they are known for purchasing great new players and performing well in the regular season, but missing the playoffs by one or two spots; however, they overcame this in the 2016 playoffs to become the first Canadian team to reach the MLS Cup game, beating national rivals Montreal in the Eastern Conference final. The next year, TFC became the first Canadian team to claim the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup. In addition, because they also won the Canadian Championship, it means that TFC became the first Canadian and MLS team to achieve a treble. Home of American internationals Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and Italian international Sebastian Giovinco.

Western Conference teams

  • Colorado Rapids
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Anthony Hudson
    Current Captain: Tim Howard
    Stadium: Dick’s Sporting Goods Parknote 
    Trophies Won: 2010 MLS Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 10th. Overall: 20th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    One of the ten charter franchises of the MLS, they are not exactly a decorated club, though they do have one MLS Cup to their name. Also notable for being the last team to put advertisements on their kit, finally doing so during the 2014 season. They are owned by Stan Kroenke, owner of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and majority shareholder of English Premier League club Arsenal; his wife Ann (a daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton) owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche.note  Current club of the aforementioned Tim Howard.
  • FC Dallas
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Óscar Pareja
    Current Captain: Matt Hedges
    Stadium: Toyota Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2016 Supporters Shield, 1997 & 2016 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 7th. Overall: 13th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    Formerly the Dallas Burn, they are another one of the 10 charter clubs of MLS. They changed their name upon transferring to a soccer-specific ground, Pizza Hut Park (now Toyota Stadium), in 2005. The team is owned by Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt; his father Lamar Hunt was one of MLS' key investors, and the Hunt family also previously owned Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew SC. Won their first Supporters' Shield in 2016.
  • Houston Dynamo
    First Season: 2006
    Current Head Coach: Wilmer Cabrera
    Current Captain: DaMarcus Beasley
    Stadium: BBVA Compass Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2006 & 2007 MLS Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 4th. Overall: 10th. Playoffs: Conference Finals
    An expansion team in 2006note . Originally named "Houston 1836" to reflect the year Houston was founded and to have a European-style name along the lines of Schalke 04. However, the name displeased the Hispanic community in Houston, who related 1836 with the war for Texas independence. "Dynamo" comes from Houston's energy industry and many former Soviet Union-era clubs such as Dynamo Moscow. They immediately won two MLS Cups. Another MLS team with a Distaff Counterpart, namely the Houston Dash.
  • LA Galaxy
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Sigi Schmid
    Current Captain: Ashley Cole
    Stadium: StubHub Centernote 
    Trophies Won: 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 & 2014 MLS Cup, 1998, 2002, 2010 & 2011 Supporters Shield, 2001 & 2005 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 11th. Overall: 22nd. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    Five time MLS Cup champions, their most recent Cup broke a tie with D.C. United for most decorated team. Made big news in 2007 by signing David Beckham. Current team of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Giovani dos Santos (and his brother Jonathan) and Ashley Cole, and also home to Landon Donovan for most of his MLS career (2005–2014, plus a short comeback in 2016).
  • Los Angeles FC
    First Season: 2018
    Current Head Coach: Bob Bradley
    Current Captain: Laurent Ciman
    Stadium: Banc of California Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: None
    This club replaced Chivas USA as the Los Angeles market's second team. Unlike the Galaxy, LAFC plays in the Los Angeles city limits. The ownership group is led by Harry Nguyen and includes names like Vincent Tan, Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, and Will Ferrell. The team's stadium, Banc of California Stadium, is adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the site formerly occupied by the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
  • Minnesota United
    First Season: 2017
    Current Head Coach: Adrian Heath
    Current Captain: Francisco Calvo
    Stadium: TCF Bank Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: None
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 9th. Overall: 19th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    The second of the two expansion teams for 2017. Minnesota United became the sixth MLS club to be promoted from a lower-division league. The club's ownership group includes former NASL franchise owner Bill McGuire, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, and Twins owner Jim Pohlad. Minnesota United originally planned to build their new stadium near the Twins' home of Target Field; however, the team is now building the stadium in St. Paul after plans in Minneapolis stalled. For their first two seasons, the team will play their home matches at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium while the St. Paul stadium, to be known as Allianz Field, is being built.
  • Portland Timbers
    First Season: 2011
    Current Head Coach: Giovanni Savarese
    Current Captain: Liam Ridgewell
    Stadium: Providence Parknote 
    Trophies Won: 2015 MLS Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 1st. Overall: 6th. Playoffs: Conference Semi-Finals
    Joined the league in 2011, replacing the United Soccer Leagues team of the same name. Has found quite a fanbase, hosted the 2014 All-Star game and won their first MLS Cup in 2015. Still another MLS team with an official Distaff Counterpart, namely Portland Thorns FC. Providence Park is the only MLS-specific stadium to use artificial turf rather than natural grass, since the stadium also serves as the home of the FCS Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference.
  • Real Salt Lake
    First Season: 2005
    Current Head Coach: Mike Petke
    Current Captain: Kyle Beckerman
    Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2009 MLS Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 8th. Overall: 14th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
    Based in Utah, the "Real" in its name is meant to associate themselves with Real Madrid as well as having a European-sounding name. It was not until 2006 when Real Salt Lake and Los Blancos established a mutual partnership, with RSL and Real Madrid meeting twice a year for a friendly (one at home and one away), the training of RSL players at Santiago Bernabeu, and the establishment of a Real Madrid youth academy in Salt Lake City. Replaced Sporting Kansas City as the fourth MLS team with an official Distaff Counterpart in the 2017 offseason; Real will launch Utah Royals FC in the 2018 season to replace the defunct FC Kansas City in the NWSL.
  • San Jose Earthquakes
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Mikael Stahre
    Current Captain: Chris Wondolowski
    Stadium: Avaya Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2001 & 2003 MLS Cup, 2005 & 2012 Supporters Shield
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 6th. Overall: 12th. Playoffs: Knockout Round
    A 2008 expansion team that replaced the original San Jose Earthquakes team that moved to Houston after the 2005 season. Officially a continuation of the original team in terms of history and records, they are the 2001 and 2003 MLS Cup Champions, as well as the 2005 and 2012 MLS Supporters' Shield Champions. They played some of their better-drawing games in Oakland their first few years back due to the stadium issues that were still present. However, a voter referendum for a new stadium in San Jose went their way and they opened their new digs, Avaya Stadium, in 2015. Originally known as the San Jose Clash, the Earthquakes adopted their current name from the original NASL franchise of the same name just after the conclusion of the 1999 season.
  • Seattle Sounders FC
    First Season: 2009
    Current Head Coach: Brian Schmetzer
    Current Captain: Osvaldo Alonso
    Stadium: CenturyLink Fieldnote 
    Trophies Won: 2016 MLS Cup, 2014 Supporters Shield, 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2014 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 2nd. Overall: 7th. Playoffs: Runners-Up
    The first club to be promoted to MLS from a lower-division league, joining MLS in 2009. Has had a good run in the league so far, leading the league in ticket sales each year until Atlanta United came along, winning the U.S. Open Cupnote  four times (including three in a row), and also claiming the Supporters' Shield in 2014. Partially owned by comedian and game-show host Drew Carey and by Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. Current team of Clint Dempsey, captain of the U.S. national team.
  • Sporting Kansas City
    First Season: 1996
    Current Head Coach: Peter Vermes
    Current Captain: Matt Besler
    Stadium: Children’s Mercy Parknote 
    Trophies Won: 2000 & 2013 MLS Cup, 2000 Supporters Shield, 2004, 2012, 2015 & 2017 US Open Cup
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 5th. Overall: 11th. Playoffs: Knockout Round
    Formerly the Kansas City Wizards, they adapted the "Sporting" name in association with European club names. Winners of two MLS Cups (2000 and 2013), plus the Supporters' Shield in 2000 and the US Open Cup in 2004, 2012, 2015 and 2017. Most notable for defeating Manchester United in a friendly on July 25, 2010. Their home stadium is in Kansas City, Kansas, whereas most franchises in the Kansas City area play their home games in Kansas City, Missouri (which is the larger of the two). From 2015 through 2017, the club also had a Distaff Counterpart in FC Kansas City, though that club was separately owned. FCKC folded after the 2017 season and was effectively replaced by the aforementioned Utah Royals.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps FC
    First Season: 2011
    Current Head Coach: Carl Robinson
    Current Captain: Kendall Waston
    Stadium: BC Placenote 
    Trophies Won: 2015 Canadian Championship
    2017 Position: Western Conference: 3rd. Overall: 8th. Playoffs: Conference Semi-Finals
    Began MLS play in 2011, having also played in the USL with Seattle and Portland. The second Canadian team to join the league after Toronto FC. One of the club's owners is now-retired NBA All-Star and South African-born, British Columbia-raised Steve Nash. In 2015, they finally became the third MLS team to win the Canadian Championship after having previously managed the unenviable feat of five consecutive second-place finishes (to Toronto FC from 2009-12 and to Montreal Impact in 2013).

Defunct Teams

Three MLS teams have folded, two of which came in the same year, from the same state no less. Due to ownership and stadium troubles, the franchises both closed their doors after the 2001 season. The league has recovered since then, with no dying teams until 2014.

  • CD Chivas USA
    First Season: 2005
    Last Season: 2014
    Stadium: StubHub Centernote 
    Trophies Won: None
    MLS' first attempt at a second team in the Los Angeles market. Before the 2014 season, it was under the same ownership as its then-parent club, the Mexican team Club Deportivo Guadalajara, whose nickname is "Chivas" (Spanish for goats). It was regarded by both Guadalajara and Chivas USA fans as the B-team of CD Guadalajara, making the former the only football club in the world with a reserves team playing in another country in another league. Controversially known in the 2013 season for their push to have a team of all Mexican and Mexican-American heritage just like the Guadalajara Chivas, with two dismissed non-Latino youth coaches filing a discrimination lawsuit. Shortly before the 2014 season, the team was bought by MLS. After two seasons of abysmal numbers,note  the league decided to fold Chivas USA, and instead sold the franchise rights to an investor group led by venture capitalist Henry Nguyen. The replacement, Los Angeles FC, began play in 2018 and did not inherit any of Chivas' records or history, making that franchise effectively dead in MLS' eyes.
  • Miami Fusion FC
    First Season: 1998
    Last Season: 2001
    Stadium: Lockhart Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 2001 Supporters Shield
    The Fusion were one of MLS' first two expansion teams, joining in 1998 alongside the Chicago Fire. They were the first team to pick a hybridized name. They were a decent team overall, making the playoffs in three of their four years of existence and winning the 2001 Supporters' Shield. However, their incredibly low budget, equally low revenue, and lack of support meant that MLS pulled the plug on the franchise before the 2002 season.
  • Tampa Bay Mutiny
    First Season: 1996
    Last Season: 2001
    Stadium: Raymond James Stadiumnote 
    Trophies Won: 1996 Supporters Shield
    A MLS charter club, the Mutiny started off as one of the hottest teams in MLS, winning the Supporters' Shield for the inaugural season with Colombian legend Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama. However, they ended up losing the Eastern Conference final to eventual champions D.C. United. They went into a funk over the next few years as the team traded off its stars and moved into a new stadium. They underwent a strong resurgence in 2000, but failed to make it past the quarter-finals. They followed this up with an atrocious 2001, in which they racked up only 14 points.note  This still stands as the worst season by points in league history, and it was on that note that the Mutiny folded.


New expansion has been a hot topic since 2003, after the storm of the early-2000s downturn passed. Some have gone well, like the Cascadia Cup (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver). Others, not so much (Chivas USA). Some came out of left field (Salt Lake City, Toronto) but turned out okay. With LAFC having entered the league in 2018, two announced future expansion teams are set to join:

  • Miami
    First Season: TBD
    Stadium: Miami MLS Stadium note 
    After several years in limbo due to stadium issues, the Miami franchise was finally made official in January 2018. The club was initially backed by retired English football icon David Beckham, his business partner Simon Fuller (creator of the Idol franchise), and Miami-based Bolivian telecom billionaire Marcelo Claure. In December 2017, the ownership group gained further financial clout with the addition of Miami construction magnates Jorge and José Mas and Japanese telecom billionaire Masayoshi Son (a business partner of Claure). Beckham exercised an option in his original MLS contract to buy an expansion team at a reduced price.note  After three failed stadium proposals, Miami Beckham United currently plans to build their new stadium in the Overtown neighborhood. The Miami-Dade government had previously endorsed FIU'snote  on-campus football stadium as a short-term solution. The league sought to have the Miami team ready in 2018, to launch alongside LAFC; however, with the league's announcement of expansion for 2020 and intense competition for new franchises, Beckham's group could have lost its franchise rights if a stadium was not secured in time. More recently, rumors emerged in spring 2017 that the Beckham group may abandon Miami in favor of Las Vegas; however, in June 2017, the group acquired the last parcel of land necessary to build their stadium, and that October, a local judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt construction. The first season of play has not yet been officially set; the current plan is for play to start at a temporary venue in 2020 and the new stadium to be ready in 2021.
  • Nashville
    First Season: TBD
    Stadium: Nashville Fairgrounds Stadium note 
    Nashville is set to become the league's 24th or 25th team (depending on when Miami joins), with MLS making the official announcement in December 2017. The club is fronted by local billionaire John Ingram, with backing by the Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings who lost out on the Twin Cities expansion bid in 2014, plus the support of several of the city's largest corporations. Nashville was initially seen as the longest shot among the final four candidates for expansion in 2020; while it had drawn large crowds for international matches, it had no professional soccer when it launched its expansion bid. However, a combination of cultural appeal, stumbles by the early expansion frontrunners, and a well-advanced stadium plan, with a site nailed down at the state fairgrounds just south of downtown, left Nashville as the clear front-runner. The city will launch a USL team, Nashville SC, in 2018; the MLS group has publicly supported that team, although it remains to be seen whether Nashville SC will become the new MLS side or stay in the USL as a reserve side for the MLS team.

Several other cities, particularly those with an existing NASL or USL team, are also seriously vying for expansion slots when the league formally opens expansion for 2020. With MLS announcing that Nashville would receive a franchise and that Miami would finally join, the remaining finalists for the 2020 expansion are Cincinnati, Detroit, and Sacramento. Markets up for later consideration are Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa Bay. A brief rundown on the merits of the rest of the finalists:
  • Cincinnati: FC Cincinnati, founded in 2016 and playing in the USL, is by far the best-supported U.S. soccer team outside MLS, with an average attendance that would rank safely in the top half of MLS. FCC currently shares the University of Cincinnati's football stadium, but the bid's backers plan to build a new stadium. The main issues with the bid are market size and stadium situation. Cincinnati is not only the smallest media market among the finalists, it's also smaller than any other current MLS media market (though the Crew's potential future home of Austin has a media market even smaller than Cincy's, and a Crew move would leave a gap in Ohio for FCC to fill). As for the stadium, the club has three potential sites. One in Cincy's upscale Oakley neighborhood has received city approval, but that area is several miles from downtown, and MLS has recently preferred venues closer to the urban core. FCC has proposed a second site in the city's West End, near downtown and the rapidly gentrifying Over-the-Rhine, but the club doesn't control all the land needed. The final site is on the Newport, Kentucky riverfront, which would provide spectacular views of downtown, but while infrastructure financing is in place, no development agreement has been reached.
  • Detroit: The Motor City currently doesn't have a team in either the USL or NASL, but its bid has the backing of NBA owners Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Tom Gores (Detroit Pistons). The Ford family, who owns the NFL's Detroit Lions, joined the Detroit expansion efforts in November 2017. Gilbert and Gores are in discussions with city officials for a site near the city's other major sports venues; however, the Fords subsequently offered to let the prospective club use Ford Field as their home ground. A possible stumbling block is the existence of Detroit City FC, a fan-owned team in the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League, whose fans fear that their (so far successful) attempts to build a soccer fanbase in the city would be destroyed by the MLS bid. City fans have publicly jeered MLS and the bid backers at the team's games.
  • Sacramento: California's capital city, with a top-20 media market (betcha didn't know that!), currently has a USL team in Sacramento Republic FC, which led USL in attendance before the arrival of FC Cincinnati. The Republic ownership group is preparing to build a MLS-standard stadium in downtown Sacramento, and should they enter MLS, they will do so as the Republic. However, the biggest issue with this bid is the relative lack of financial resources within the ownership group. This only got worse after former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a late addition to the group, pulled out once Nashville was announced as an expansion winner.


As in any league, rivalries exist between teams. Many arise on their own, whether based on the teams' shared history (such as the Atlantic Cup between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls, two of the league's founding teams) or geographic proximity (such as the California Clásico between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes), the now-defunct Honda SuperClasico between the Galaxy and CD Chivas USA (to be revived, though maybe with different sponsorship, when LAFC enters the league), the Hudson River Derby between New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls, and the Cascadia Cup between the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC). Others were deliberately created by teams under common ownership (such as the Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup between the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas) or other unconventional premises (Columbus Crew and Toronto FC, whose Trillium Cup competition began with a bet between the two cities' mayors, and is named for the official flower of both Ohio and Ontario).

Many such rivalries are officially recognized by the teams and have been assigned a trophy. While most such contests award the conventional plaque or cup, the Texas Derby between FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo awards the winner possession of an 18th century cannon. The Other Wiki has plenty of information on recognized MLS rivalries.