Major League Soccer (MLS) is the United States' and Canada'snote top-tier professional soccer league. Its predecessor league, the North American Soccer League (NASL) closed its doors 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 men's (or women's) 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. Australia's A-League Men is the only other men's soccer league to operate the same way;note both countries' top women's leagues, the National Women's Soccer League in the States and A-League Women in Australia, also use this model.note Also, unlike any of the traditional major leagues of the US and Canada (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL), MLS operates on a "single-entity" model, in which all teamsand even (technically) player contractsare owned by the league itself. The team operators, while they do have much of the same control that team owners do in other major leagues, are actually shareholders in the league. From 2005 to 2008, MLS operated a reserve league, with each franchise fielding its reserve side in that circuit. That league was relaunched in 2011, but by 2013 its schedule been integrated with that of the third-tier league then known as USL Pro (later the United Soccer League and now the second-level USL Championship), and by 2015 the Reserve League was folded and all MLS teams were required to place a reserve side in the USLC or affiliate with an independently-owned side in that league. However, this requirement had never been strictly enforced, and by 2019 a few MLS teams had started fielding reserve sides in USL League One, a new third-level league run by the same body that runs the USLC. MLS announced in 2020 that it would relaunch the Reserve League in 2021, but COVID-19 put that plan on hold. MLS has since tweaked this plan, announcing a new developmental league, unveiled as MLS Next Pro, that launched in 2022 as a third-level league (the same level as USL League One). Next Pro started with 21 teams, 20 of which are directly owned MLS reserve sides and the other independently owned. By the 2023 season, Next Pro will include reserve sides for all MLS teams except CF Montréal.
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 the northernmost 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).note
Prior to 2003, MLS had tried to Americanize the game of soccer, applying certain rules and formats that were more similar to other American sports, in an attempt to appeal to American sports fans; such as a countdown game clock, and pausing the clock during stoppages rather than add stoppage time at the end of halves. Team names prior to 2000 tended to resemble American sports teams, such as Kansas City Wizards, New York/New Jersey MetroStars, Miami Fusion, and Montreal Impact. Many such teams that still exist have renamed to names resembling European naming, often using "FC" in the name, although teams in cities with a soccer heritage pre-dating MLS have kept traditional names, such as Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers, and some are hybrids, such as Seattle Sounders FC. Another Americanization included avoiding all tied games (draws) by going straight to a penalty kicks after regulation, and counting victory in such a tiebreaker as less points than a proper win. These moves failed to draw in new soccer fans and alienated existing American soccer fans and were abandoned between 2000-2003, including an intervening period of [sudden death] tiebreakers, and the period since this time is known as "the post-shootout era", often used to distinguish club records from that period versus club records after, as tiebreakers affected W-L-D tallies.
MLS also relies on an American-style playoff format to determine its championship.note It currently has 28 teams, 25 in the U.S. and three in Canada. Charlotte FC is the league's newest club, having debuted in 2022. Future expansion side St. Louis City SC will join the league in 2023, bringing the league's total membership to 29 clubs; Sacramento Republic FC was planned to be MLS' 30th club, but its lead investor pulled out, leaving Sacramento's bid in limbo. League Commissioner Don Garber has indicated that the league may eventually expand to 32 clubs.
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, give MLS team investor-operators greater revenue control, 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. In the early years of MLS-specific stadiums, they were often built in the suburbs or in the outskirts of the city proper; however, the trend has since shifted to building them closer to the city center, particularly in markets where the NFL and/or MLB is absent. The teams who currently do not play in a MLS-specific stadium are Atlanta United FC, Charlotte FC, Chicago Fire FC, the New England Revolution, NYCFC, the Seattle Sounders, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, New England, Seattle and Vancouver share a stadium with an NFL or CFL team.note NYCFC plays in an MLB ballpark; they and New England are actively seeking their own stadiums. St. Louis City SC plans to have a soccer-specific stadium in place by the time they debut in 2023.note
Unlike most soccer leagues, MLS does not employ a either single table, double round-robin format (common in European leagues) or a split season round-robin format (common in Latin American leagues) for its regular season; instead, the league is split into Eastern and Western Conferences using an unbalanced schedule. Unlike the other major North American leagues, MLS currently does not further divide its two conferences into divisions. For the current 2022 MLS season, teams are playing a 34-match schedule; each team plays its conference opponents home and away while the remaining 8 matches are played against teams in the opposite conference. Prior to the 2020 MLS season, teams were guaranteed to play each league opponent at least 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 trophynote , and gains the top overall seed in the playoffs. Since 2015, the North American Independent Supporters Council, who maintain the Supporters' Shield, award the Anthony Precourt Memorial Wooden Spoon to the club who finishes dead last in the overall league table; the trophy was named in (dis)honor of Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt in 2017, who had attempted to move the Columbus Crew to Austin while he owned that club.
Since the 2019 season, the top 7 teams in each conference qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. Rather than the two-legged ties used during the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals in years past, all playoff matches are single-elimination, with extra time and penalty kicks used for matches tied after full time. The conference champion receives a bye in the Conference Quarterfinals while the remaining higher seeds host the lower seeds (2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5). The MLS Cup playoffs use a fixed bracket similar to the NBA and Major League Baseballnote rather than reseeding teams as the NFL currently does and MLS did in years past, meaning the top seed hosts the winner of the 4/5 match and the winners of the 2/7 and 3/6 matches face each other in the semifinals. From the league's inception until the 2011 season, the MLS Cup championship was hosted at a predetermined neutral site, similar to the Super Bowl; however, since 2012, the championship match is hosted by the higher seeded team in the Supporters' Shield table.
In continental club competition, three to five MLS clubs participate in the CONCACAFnote Champions Leaguenote . The United States is given four direct berths in the tournament while Canada is given one direct berth.note Three of the United States' CCL berths are allocated through MLS, which are currently awarded to the MLS Cup champion and the two regular season conference champions. The fourth United States CCL berth is awarded to the winner of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cupnote , which is also contested by lower division professional and amateur teams sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federationnote ; however, except for one year, MLS has dominated the US Open Cup since the league's 1996 launch. 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 table which has otherwise failed to qualify. For the single Canadian direct CCL berth, the three Canadian MLS teams play in the Canadian Championship against other professional and semi-pro Canadian teams.note Starting in 2017, teams must start at least three Canadian players during the Canadian Championship. The competition expanded in 2018 to include the winners of the semi-pro League1 Ontario and Première Ligue de soccer du Québec. It expanded further for 2019, with all teams of the newly launched Canadian Premier League also competing for the Canadian Championship. Up until 2022, no MLS club, American or Canadian, was able to win the Champions League, which has been dominated by Liga MX clubs; however, Real Salt Lake, Montreal Impact (now CF Montréal), Toronto FC, and LAFC have reached the Champions League finals in 2011, 2015, 2018, and 2020, respectively, and DC United and LA Galaxy have won the Champions League's predecessor tournament, the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, in 1998 and 2000, respectively. In 2022, however, Seattle Sounders managed to finally accomplish the feat, winning 5-2 on aggregate against Liga MX club Pumas to become the first MLS side to win the title.
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) a major 2015 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; 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; and Zlatan Ibrahimović, who came from Man United to the Galaxy about a month into the 2018 season and ended the season as a finalist for league MVP, being a speculated target of several big European sides before signing what was reported to be the richest MLS contract at that time to stay in LA.
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.
The effects of COVID-19 in 2021 weren't limited to conference scheduling. The season start was delayed to April 16, the latest ever. Due to Canadian border restrictions, all three of the country's teams played "home" games in US stadiums until Canada reopened the border to its MLS teams in August. Also, only one team, Austin FC, operated its stadium at full capacity throughout the season, and only nine other teams fully opened their stadiums before the end of the season.*
Eastern Conference teams
- Atlanta United FC
First Season: 2017Current Head Coach: Gonzalo PinedaCurrent Captain: Brad GuzanStadium: Mercedes-Benz StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: American Family InsuranceTrophies Won: 2018 MLS Cup, 2019 US Open Cup, 2019 Campeones Cup2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 11th. Overall: 23rd. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Atlanta United 2 (directly owned)
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 leagues attendance champion, drawing over 48,000 per home game in its inaugural season and well over 50K in both following seasons.
- CF Montréal
First Season: 2012noteCurrent Head Coach: Wilfried NancyCurrent Captain: Samuel PietteStadium: Stade SaputonoteShirt Sponsor: Bank of MontrealTrophies Won: 2013, 2014, 2019 & 2021 Canadian Championship2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 2nd. Overall: 3rd. Playoffs: Conference semifinalsNext Pro Affiliate: None currently; no plans announced
Originally founded as the Montreal Impact, they are 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; CF Montréal's regular home ground, Stade Saputo, is located just north of Olympic Stadium. CF Montréal became the first Canadian team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2015, losing 5-3 on aggregate to Mexican club América. In 2021, the club rebranded as Club de Foot Montréal. Initially coached by former D.C. United + Chicago Fire player Jesse Marsch (who would later go on to have success coaching in European soccer at RB Leipzig and Leeds United), their other managers have included two French ex-Arsenal players in Remi Garde and Thierry Henry. Upon Henry's resignation in 2021, he was succeeded by his assistant, Wilfried Nancy. Played the first part of the 2021 season at Inter Miami's DRV PNK Stadium, with some matches moved to other venues due to conflicts with the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
- Charlotte FC
First Season: 2022Current Head Coach: Christian LattanzioCurrent Captain: Christian FuchsStadium: Bank of America StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: Ally FinancialTrophies Won: none2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 9th. Overall: 19th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Yes, as yet unnamed; launches in 2023
Announced in December 2019, the club is fronted by billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper, owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. Although Charlotte FC was the most recent team announced, it began play in 2022, ahead of St. Louis City SC. Rather than build an MLS-specific stadium, Bank of America Stadium was renovated to make it soccer-friendly; however, included among the included renovations was replacing the stadium's natural grass surface with synthetic turf, similar to other MLS clubs that share a stadium with an NFL or CFL team. Previous efforts to bring MLS to the Carolinas include a bid by Marcus G. Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports, as well as a rival bid by the Raleigh-based lower division club North Carolina FC, both in 2016. Notably, CLTFC set a new single-game MLS attendance record in its home debut.
- Chicago Fire FC
First Season: 1998Current Head Coach: Ezra HendricksonCurrent Captain: Rafael CzichosStadium: Soldier Field noteShirt Sponsor: MotorolaTrophies Won: 1998 MLS Cup, 2003 Supporters Shield, 1998, 2000, 2003 & 2006 US Open Cup2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 12th. Overall: 24th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Chicago Fire FC II
One of the first teams established after MLS' launch along with the now-defunct Miami Fusion FC, the Fire won both the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup in their inaugural season in 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 last club of German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteigernote , who retired at the end of the 2019 season. 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. In 2019, the club announced its intentions to abandon its MLS-specific stadium in suburban Bridgeview in favor of returning to the larger Soldier Field, at least temporarily, starting in the 2020 season. Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri, formerly of Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool, joined after the 202122 season, becoming the league's highest-paid player.
- Columbus Crew
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: VacantCurrent Captain: Jonathan MensahStadium: Lower.com FieldnoteShirt Sponsor: Nationwide*Trophies Won: 2008 & 2020 MLS Cup, 2004, 2008 & 2009 Supporters Shield, 2002 US Open Cup, 2021 Campeones Cup2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 8th. Overall: 16th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Columbus Crew 2
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 and 2020, as well as three Supporters' Shields. The team is credited with building the first MLS-specific stadium, with other teams following suit. In October 2017, then-team operator Anthony Precourt announced his intention to move the club to Austin, Texas in 2019 if he didn't get a new stadium built in downtown Columbus. This potential move 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 The city of Columbus and state of Ohio also filed suit, citing a state law that had been passed in the wake of the even more controversial relocation of the Cleveland Browns. The Crew's situation resonated with the Browns ownership, and they entered into talks with MLS and Precourt to buy the Crew. Just before the end of 2018, a settlement was reached: Columbus and the state of Ohio dropped their suit; the Browns owners bought the Crew and kept the team in Columbus, pledging over $200 million for a new Crew stadium in downtown Columbus (eventually known as Lower.com Field); and Precourt got a new MLS team for Austin, with a stadium deal in that city having been inked while the negotiations with the Browns were nearing their end. 2020 was planned to be the final season for Historic Crew Stadium (Mapfre Stadium from 20152020), with the stadium site being redeveloped as the Crew's new training ground and home of their Next Pro and academy sides; however, the Crew played their first three home matches of the 2021 season in their old ground before the new one opened. Early in the 2021 season, the current owners announced they would rebrand the team as "Columbus SC"... and got fan reaction similar to that received by the six English Premier League teams that announced they would leave the UEFA Champions League for a proposed European Super League. In other words, "extremely negative" doesn't begin to describe fan sentiment. The "Columbus SC" branding lasted only a week (about 5 days longer than the proposed ESL did), with the owners returning to the original "Columbus Crew", without the "SC", although the crest intended for the rebrand, which is shaped like Ohio's state flag, was retained with minor tweaks.
- D.C. United
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Wayne RooneyCurrent Captain: Steve BirnbaumStadium: Audi FieldnoteShirt Sponsor: LeidosTrophies Won: 1996, 1997, 1999 & 2004 MLS Cup, 1997, 1999, 2006 & 2007 Supporters Shield, 1996, 2008 & 2013 US Open Cup2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 14th. Overall: 28th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Loudoun United FC (directly owned)
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. After playing in RFK Stadium from their 1996 inception until 2017, the club opened the new Audi Field in the District during the 2018 season.note Longtime Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney was captain for two seasons until returning to England after the 2019 season to become a player and assistant coach at Derby County, before returning as their head coach in 2022 (after departing Derby following their descent into financial chaos). United is one of several MLS sides that have partnerships with separately owned sides in the top US women's level, the National Women's Soccer League. The Washington Spirit practice at United's HQ complex in Northern Virginia, and split home games between Audi Field and the stadium that hosts United's reserve side.
- FC Cincinnati
First Season: 2019Current Head Coach: Pat NoonanCurrent Captain: Luciano AcostaStadium: TQL StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: Mercy HealthTrophies Won: None2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 5th. Overall: 8th. Playoffs: Conference semifinalsNext Pro Affiliate: FC Cincinnati 2
FC Cincinnati was announced as the next member of MLS in May 2018, becoming the seventh team to be promoted to MLS from a lower-level league. Founded in 2015 and playing its first season in the United Soccer League (now known as the USL Championship) in 2016, FCC is backed by a group led by local billionaire Carl Lindner III. During its time in the USL, FCC was the best-supported U.S. soccer team outside of MLS, consistently drawing crowds at Nippert Stadium, home to University of Cincinnati (American) football, that would place the team safely in the top half of MLS (and, in fact, fourth in 2018). It had been the early favorite to snag one of the franchises awarded in the 2018 phase, but initially lost out to Nashville due largely to problems finding an appropriate site for a new stadium. Shortly before the MLS announcement, FCC reached a deal with the city of Cincinnati for a new stadium in the West End, near downtown and the rapidly gentrifying Over-the-Rhine, that opened in May 2021. Although FCC's entry was announced after Miami and Nashville, it joined MLS in 2019, largely because its then-current home could easily accommodate crowds larger than the new stadium can hold.note While Cincy's media market is smaller than that of any previously existing MLS team, the market of 2021 MLS entry Austin FC is smaller still. Even though the team propped up the MLS table in its first season, the fans turned out in droves, placing FCC third in average attendance behind the attendance giants of Atlanta United and the Seattle Sounders. For FCC's first three MLS seasons, the club finished dead last in the overall table; however, the club finally made the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time in their fourth season.
- Inter Miami CF
First Season: 2020Current Head Coach: Phil NevilleCurrent Captain: GregoreStadium: DRV PNK StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: XBTOTrophies Won: None2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 6th. Overall: 12th. Playoffs: First roundNext Pro Affiliate: Inter Miami CF IInote
After several years in limbo due to stadium issues, the Miami franchise was finally made official in January 2018 and in September of the same year, the club's name was unveiled: Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami.note 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 then planned 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 their 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. In July 2018, Beckham unveiled alternate plans for a stadium as part of a larger mixed-use development, dubbed Miami Freedom Park, on the site of the city-owned Melreese Country Club, near Miami International Airport. The Melreese site was approved by Miami-Dade voters in a November 2018 referendum and was approved by the Miami-Dade council in April 2022, with the Freedom Park stadium projected to open in 2025. In late January 2019, Inter Miami announced plans to redevelop the Lockhart Stadium site to serve as their permanent training ground; the development also includes a new 18,000-seat stadium which will host Inter Miami's future USL/Next Pro reserve side (later unveiled as Fort Lauderdale CF, and since renamed Inter Miami CF II) while also serving as an interim home for the first team until the Freedom Park Stadium opens. The club received unanimous approval from the Fort Lauderdale city council to redevelop the Lockhart Stadium site in April 2019 and demolished the old Lockhart Stadium a month later; the replacement became known as Inter Miami CF Stadium and is now DRV PNK Stadium. Inter Miami II started play in League One in 2020. The main team is currently managed by Beckham's former Manchester United and England teammate Phil Neville, and their squad includes former England international defender Kieran Gibbs, current US international defender DeAndre Yedlin, and until his retirement at the end of the 2022 season, former Argentine international forward Gonzalo Higuaín.
- New England Revolution
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Bruce ArenaCurrent Captain: Carles GilStadium: Gillette StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: UnitedHealthTrophies Won: 2007 US Open Cup, 2021 Supporters Shield2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 10th. Overall: 20th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Revolution II
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, and didn't win the Shield until 2021 (and with it, claimed the MLS points record at 73 and tied with the NY Red Bulls for most wins in the post-shootout era)... despite being runners-up five times in the Cup, and second overall once. Their only other trophies have been from the Open Cup or international competitions. Sister team of the Patriots and play in Gillette Stadium. In November 2021, the Revs redesigned their crest for the first time, retiring the "crayon flag" logo the club had used since the league's inception, becoming the last among MLS's charter clubs to change their logo. During that offseason, they signed US international Jozy Altidore.
- New York City FC
First Season: 2015Current Head Coach: Nick Cushing (interim)Current Captain: Sean JohnsonStadium: Yankee Stadiumnote MoreShirt Sponsor: Etihad AirwaysTrophies Won: 2021 MLS Cup2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 3rd. Overall: 5th. Playoffs: Conference finalsNext Pro Affiliate: New York City FC II
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 is hosting their games, making NYCFC the second club (after D.C.) to share its stadium with a Major League Baseball clubnote . Had a number of high-profile players in their early years in former England midfielder Frank Lampard and World Cup winners Andrea Pirlo and David Villa, and a high-profile former manager in Patrick Vieira, but all are now gone. That turned out to be a non-issue by 2021, however, as a roster primarily made of young guns, spearheaded by Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos and veteran keeper Sean Johnson, finally secured some silverware by winning the MLS Cup on penalty kicks. In late July 2022, it was reported that NYC mayor Eric Adams planned to approve a new stadium to be built near Citi Field.
- New York Red Bulls
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Gerhard StruberCurrent Captain: Aaron LongStadium: Red Bull ArenanoteShirt Sponsor: Not applicable; team operator Red Bull places its logo on the shirtsTrophies Won: 2013, 2015 & 2018 Supporters Shield2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 4th. Overall: 6th. Playoffs: First roundNext Pro Affiliate: New York Red Bulls II (directly owned). Also fields a second reserve side, the directly owned New York Red Bulls U-23 (USL League Two).
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. Three-time Supporters' Shield winners (2013, 2015, 2018). They were the last club of Thierry Henry, who retired as a player after the 2014 season but returned to MLS in 2019 as the head coach in Montreal, stepping down from that role after the 2020 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. They also have one of the most developed soccer academies in US soccer, as well as one of the best USL Championship team (New York Red Bulls II). The Red Bulls' 2018 Supporters Shield win set the MLS record for most points attained in a single season (71) as well as the most wins in the post-shootout era (22). They still hold the wins record (now shared with the Revs), but the points record fell the next season to LAFC. Another side that has a de facto partnership with an NWSL side, with NJ/NY Gotham FC also making Red Bull Arena its home.
- Orlando City SC
First Season: 2015Current Head Coach: Óscar ParejaCurrent Captain: Mauricio PereyraStadium: Exploria StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: Orlando HealthTrophies Won: 2022 US Open Cup2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 7th. Overall: 13th. Playoffs: First roundNext Pro Affiliate: Orlando City B
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 came 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, and currently home to former Brazilian international striker Alexandre Pato. Also one of three MLS clubs with an official Distaff Counterpart in the National Women's Soccer League; they own and operate the Orlando Pride, which joined the NWSL in 2016.note
- Philadelphia Union
First Season: 2010Current Head Coach: Jim CurtinCurrent Captain: Alejandro BedoyaStadium: Subaru ParknoteShirt Sponsor: Bimbo Bakeries USATrophies Won: 2020 Supporters Shield2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 1st. Overall: 2nd. Playoffs: MLS Cup FinalNext Pro Affiliate: Philadelphia Union II
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 an MLS franchise, holding this distinction for nearly a decade. During the league's COVID-19 hiatus in 2020, NBA superstar Kevin Durant became a new minority investor in the team. That season also saw the Union win their first trophy in the form of the Supporters Shield, only to flame out in their first playoff match. The Union had a far more gut-wrenching loss in the 2022 MLS Cup final against Los Angeles FC, scoring what appeared to be the championship-winning goal in stoppage time of extra time, only to see LAFC equalize at the death and win on penalties. While Philly doesn't have an NWSL side, it does host the aforementioned NJ/NY Gotham FC for one home game each season.note
- Toronto FC
First Season: 2007Current Head Coach: Bob BradleyCurrent Captain: Michael BradleyStadium: BMO FieldnoteShirt Sponsor: Bank of MontrealnoteTrophies Won: 2017 MLS Cup; 2017 Supporters Shield; 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 & 2018 Canadian Championship2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 13th. Overall: 27th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Toronto FC II
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 (currently contested by the country's three MLS teams, all Canadian Premier League teams, and two champions of lower-level Canadian leagues), winning four years in a row from 2009-2012. Rather unlucky in the league for many years, as they were 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 domestic treble. Home of American international Michael Bradley (son of the current TFC head coach). Italy international Lorenzo Insigne joined after the 202122 Serie A season. Played the first part of the 2021 season at Orlando City's Exploria Stadium.
Western Conference teams
- Austin FC
First Season: 2021Current Head Coach: Josh WolffCurrent Captain: Alexander RingStadium: Q2 StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: YetiTrophies Won: None2022 Position: Western Conference: 2nd. Overall: 4th. Playoffs: Conference finalsNext Pro Affiliate: Yes, as yet unnamed
Austin, the rapidly-growing state capital of Texas, was initially planned as the future home of Columbus Crew SC, but the Cleveland Browns' interest in the Crew led to a change of plans. In the end, a win-win situation was found for everyone (with the possible exception of those wanting to see an MLS team in San Antonio): the Crew got stable ownership with the promise of a new stadium in their current city, while Anthony Precourt got an MLS team in his desired location. A site for a new stadium in the northern part of the city was confirmed in December 2018, shortly before the BrownsCrew deal was finalized. Precourt has since added several more members to the ownership team, most notably Texas native and Austin resident Matthew McConaughey.
- Colorado Rapids
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Robin FraserCurrent Captain: Jack PriceStadium: Dicks Sporting Goods ParknoteShirt Sponsor: TransamericaTrophies Won: 2010 MLS Cup2022 Position: Western Conference: 10th. Overall: 18th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Colorado Rapids 2
One of the ten charter franchises of the MLS, they are not exactly a decorated club; although they do have one MLS Cup to their name, the Rapids hold the dubious distinction of being the only MLS club (to date) to lose the US Open Cup final to a lower division team. 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, the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and majority shareholder of English Premier League club Arsenal. The last top-level team for longtime USA keeper Tim Howard, who initially retired in 2019 but couldn't stay away from the field, choosing to play for a USLC team he co-owns.
- FC Dallas
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Nico EstévezCurrent Captain: Matt HedgesStadium: Toyota StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: TBATrophies Won: 2016 Supporters Shield, 1997 & 2016 US Open Cup2021 Position: Western Conference: 3rd. Overall: 7th. Playoffs: Conference semifinalsNext Pro Affiliate: North Texas SC
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 the Columbus Crew; the U.S. Open Cup is named in honor of Lamar Hunt for his contributions to MLS and U.S. Soccer. Won their first Supporters' Shield in 2016.
- Houston Dynamo FC
First Season: 2006Current Head Coach: Ben OlsenCurrent Captain: Timothy ParkerStadium: PNC Stadiumnote noteShirt Sponsor: MD Anderson*Trophies Won: 2006 & 2007 MLS Cup, 2018 US Open Cup2022 Position: Western Conference: 13th. Overall: 25th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Houston Dynamo 2
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. Under the management of former US international player Dominic Kinnear, who spent nearly a decade with the club from 2006-2014note , they immediately won two MLS Cups, but then went more than a decade without further silverware until claiming the US Open Cup in 2018. Another MLS team with an official Distaff Counterpart, namely the Houston Dash. The ownership team includes former boxing great and current promoter Oscar De La Hoya and Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden (who bought into the team when he was with the Houston Rockets).
- LA Galaxy
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Greg VanneyCurrent Captain: Javier "Chicharito" HernándezStadium: Dignity Health Sports Parknote noteShirt Sponsor: HerbalifeTrophies Won: 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 & 2014 MLS Cup, 1998, 2002, 2010 & 2011 Supporters Shield, 2001 & 2005 US Open Cup2022 Position: Western Conference: 4th. Overall: 9th. Playoffs: Conference semifinalsNext Pro Affiliate: LA Galaxy II
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, and later in 2015 by signing Steven Gerrard, 2017 by signing Jonathan dos Santos, 2018 by signing Zlatan Ibrahimović, and 2020 by signing Javier "Chicharito" Hernández (with only Chicharito now playing for the team, currently as captain). As a result of this, and other major signings, possibly the best known MLS team in Europe. Also home to Landon Donovan for most of his MLS career (20052014, plus a short comeback in 2016). Team operator Philip Anschutz was instrumental in Major League Soccer's survival in its early years, having owned not only the LA Galaxy, but he also previously held stakes in the Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls, and San Jose Earthquakes; the MLS Cup trophy is named in Anschutz' honor for his contributions to the league and U.S. Soccer. Their stadium has been the temporary home to two teams in that other type of football. The NFL's Los Angeles Chargers played here from their return to LA in 2017 until the new SoFi Stadium opened in Inglewood in 2020. College football's San Diego State Aztecs, which had played in the Chargers' old stadium, played here in 2020 and 2021 while the new Snapdragon Stadium was built on the site of the old stadium.
- Los Angeles FC
First Season: 2018Current Head Coach: Steve CherundoloCurrent Captain: Carlos VelaStadium: Banc of California StadiumnoteShirt Sponsor: FlexTrophies Won: 2022 MLS Cup, 2019 & 2022 Supporters Shield2022 Position: Western Conference: 1st. Overall: 1st. Playoffs: ChampionsNext Pro Affiliate: Yes, as yet unnamed
A 2018 expansion team which replaced Chivas USA as the Greater Los Angeles market's second team. Unlike the Galaxy, LAFC plays in the Los Angeles city limits. British people, think of Galaxy as Manchester United and LAFC as Manchester City. LAFC's ownership group includes names like Vincent Tannote , 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. LAFC was originally intended to start play in 2017, but stadium delays caused their debut to be put off a year. However, this meant that unlike most of LAFC's expansion contemporaries, who have spent or will spend at least part of their first season in a temporary facility, LAFC played in its new digs from the start. Captained by Mexico international Carlos Vela, who scored an MLS record of 34 goals in 2019, breaking Josef Martínez' record from the previous season. Speaking of records set in 2019, LAFC claimed the crown for points earned in a season with 72, one more than the Red Bulls' record total from the season before; however, the Revs would take the points record two years later. In 2022, LAFC made a number of high-profile signings, including attacker Gareth Bale, formerly of Real Madrid and the all-time leading goal scorer for Wales; European Championship-winning Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, formerly of Juventus; and former Barcelona striker Cristian Tello. Said signings helped them to the 2022 Supporters Shield and MLS Cup, with Bale scoring the goal that sent the MLS Cup final to penalties. Yet another side with a de facto NWSL partner, with its stadium also hosting Angel City FC.
- Minnesota United
First Season: 2017Current Head Coach: Adrian HeathCurrent Captain: Michael BoxallStadium: Allianz FieldnoteShirt Sponsor: TargetTrophies Won: None2022 Position: Western Conference: 6th. Overall: 11th. Playoffs: First roundNext Pro Affiliate: Minnesota United 2
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 instead built the stadium in St. Paul after plans in Minneapolis stalled. MN United spent its first two MLS seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium,note but moved to the new Allianz Field for 2019 and beyond.
- Nashville SC
First Season: 2020Current Head Coach: Gary SmithCurrent Captain: Dax McCartyStadium: Geodis ParknoteShirt Sponsor: Renasant BankTrophies Won: None2022 Position: Western Conference: 5th. Overall: 10th. Playoffs: First roundNext Pro Affiliate: Huntsville City FC (directly owned; launching in 2023)
Officially announced 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 (mainly Cincinnati's stadium site issues), and a well-advanced stadium plan, with a site nailed down at the former state fairgrounds just south of downtown, left Nashville as the clear front-runner. The city launched a USL Championship team, Nashville SC, in 2018, and club and MLS officials announced in February 2019 that the Nashville SC name would carry over to MLS, making it the eighth lower-division club to be promoted to MLS. In late January 2019, club officials announced that Nashville SC would begin play at Nissan Stadium while the venue that eventually became Geodis Park was under construction. After spending the first two months of the 2022 season on the road, the new ground opened in May 2022. During the league's COVID-19 hiatus in 2020, MLS announced that NSC would move from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season and the 2021 season and will move back into the Western Conference with Charlotte FC taking their slot in 2022; however, they may end up moving back East when St. Louis City SC launches in 2023. Also of note is that it's the only MLS team whose Next Pro affiliate plays outside its local market; it decided to place its reserve side in Huntsville, Alabama.
- Portland Timbers
First Season: 2011noteCurrent Head Coach: Giovanni SavareseCurrent Captain: Diego CharaStadium: Providence ParknoteShirt Sponsor: Alaska AirlinesTrophies Won: 2015 MLS Cup, 2020 MLS Is Back Tournamentnote2022 Position: Western Conference: 8th. Overall: 15th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Portland Timbers 2
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, which was a source of controversy in 2021 regarding the owners of both clubs' handling of sexual abuse allegations against the Thorns' former head coach Paul Riley and domestic violence allegations against the Timbers' striker Andy Polo. Providence Park is the only MLS-specific stadium to use synthetic turf rather than natural grassnote , since the stadium has also served as the home of the FCS Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference. The Vikings have now moved their home games to a smaller venue in suburban Hillsboro, but the Timbers have so far stayed with synthetic turf.
- Real Salt Lake
First Season: 2005Current Head Coach: Pablo MastroeniCurrent Captain: Damir KreilachStadium: America First FieldnoteShirt Sponsor: LifeVantageTrophies Won: 2009 MLS Cup2022 Position: Western Conference: 7th. Overall: 14th. Playoffs: First roundNext Pro Affiliate: Real Monarchs
One of the first expansion teams, along with the now-defunct Chivas USA, to be established after the contraction of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion FC in 2001. 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 launched Utah Royals FC in the 2018 season to replace the defunct FC Kansas City in the NWSL. RSL saw major turmoil in 2020 when the principal owner was found to have had a history of racial comments, with said owner essentially being forced to sell out. The NWSL side ceased operations, with the team's player-related assets being acquired by a group in... Kansas City.
- San Jose Earthquakes
First Season: 1996noteCurrent Head Coach: Luchi GonzalezCurrent Captain: Jackson YueillStadium: PayPal Park noteShirt Sponsor: Intermedia*Trophies Won: 2001 & 2003 MLS Cup, 2005 & 2012 Supporters Shield2022 Position: Western Conference: 14th. Overall: 26th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: San Jose Earthquakes II
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, now known as PayPal Park, 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. Chris Wondolowski ended his career here in 2021 as the league's all-time goal scoring leader, passing Landon Donovan in 2019.
- Seattle Sounders FC
First Season: 2009noteCurrent Head Coach: Brian SchmetzerCurrent Captain: Nicolás LodeiroStadium: Lumen FieldnoteShirt Sponsor: ZulilyTrophies Won: 2022 CONCACAF Champions League, 2016 & 2019 MLS Cup, 2014 Supporters Shield, 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2014 US Open Cup2022 Position: Western Conference: 11th. Overall: 21st. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Tacoma Defiancenote
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 US Open Cup four times (including three in a row), and also claiming the Supporters' Shield in 2014. While local businessman Adrian Hanauer has been the principal owner since 2002, the ownership group includes plenty of star power. Shortly before the team joined MLS, comedian and game show host Drew Carey and Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen (one of the founders of Microsoft) joined the group; Allen's interest passed to his sister after his 2018 death. In 2019, a group of 11 local families purchased the interest of a retiring minority owner; the most notable new members of the group were then-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, his wife Ciara, and hip-hop artist Macklemore, with former Seattle Mariners baseball star Ken Griffey Jr. joining in 2020. The first club of U.S. international defender DeAndre Yedlin, who left in 2015 for a successful spell in the English Premier League at Tottenham and Newcastle, and the final team of Clint Dempsey, captain of the U.S. national team before his retirement after the 2018 season. Before a disastrous 2022 season, the Sounders had the distinction of making the MLS Cup playoffs in all of their MLS seasons. Briefly had a loose connection with the NWSL side OL Reign (formerly Seattle Reign FC and Reign FC), which moved from Seattle to Tacoma after the 2018 season, namely some shared ownership. That ended when the parent company of prominent French club Olympique Lyonnais bought the then-Reign FC in the 201920 offseason, soon renaming that team OL Reign. Though for 2022, OL Reign ended up moving back to Seattle and into Lumen Field.
- Sporting Kansas City
First Season: 1996Current Head Coach: Peter VermesCurrent Captain: Johnny RussellStadium: Childrens Mercy ParknoteShirt Sponsor: TBATrophies Won: 2000 & 2013 MLS Cup, 2000 Supporters Shield, 2004, 2012, 2015 & 2017 US Open Cup2022 Position: Western Conference: 12th. Overall: 22nd. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City II
Formerly the Kansas City Wizards (shortened to the Wiz in their (and the league's) inaugural season), they adopted the "Sporting" name in association with European club names like Sporting Lisbon. 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. The Royals later folded and were effectively replaced by a new Kansas City side, now known as Kansas City Current, that had no common ownership with FCKC. While SKC and the Current have separate ownership, the Current moved into SKC's stadium in 2022 and will stay there until opening a new stadium of its own, likely in 2024.
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
First Season: 2011noteCurrent Head Coach: Vanni SartiniCurrent Captain: Russell TeibertStadium: BC PlacenoteShirt Sponsor: Bell CanadaTrophies Won: 2015 & 2022 Canadian Championship2022 Position: Western Conference: 9th. Overall: 17th. Playoffs: Did not qualifyNext Pro Affiliate: Whitecaps FC 2
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 Basketball Hall of Famer and current NBA coach Steve Nash, born in South Africa but raised in British Columbia's capital of Victoria. 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 the Montreal Impact, now CF Montréal, in 2013). Played the first part of the 2021 season at RSL's Rio Tinto Stadium.
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, as the league itself was on the verge of folding. The league has recovered since then, with no dying teams until 2014.
- CD Chivas USA
First Season: 2005Last Season: 2014Stadium: StubHub CenternoteTrophies 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's top level 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: 1998Last Season: 2001Stadium: Lockhart StadiumnoteTrophies 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, lest the entire league folded.
- Tampa Bay Mutiny
First Season: 1996Last Season: 2001Stadium: Raymond James StadiumnoteTrophies Won: 1996 Supporters Shield
A MLS charter club, the Mutiny started off as one of the hottest teams in MLS, winning the Supporters' Shield (retroactively) 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 Charlotte FC joining in 2022, one announced future expansion team is set to join:
- St. Louis City SC
First Season: 2023 (projected)Current Head Coach: Bradley CarnellStadium: CITYPARKnoteShirt Sponsor: PurinaNext Pro Affiliate: St. Louis City SC 2note
For decades, St. Louis has been one of the hotbeds of U.S. soccer, and the city has long been trying to get MLS' interest. In 2009, one group had all approvals for a new stadium across the Mississippi in Collinsville, Illinois, but MLS wasn't impressed with the group's financial resources. Other attempts were made through the 2010s, which accelerated after the Rams left for Los Angeles in 2016. The city's bid for a team looked to have died in 2017 when city voters turned down a tax package to fund a new stadium. However, IT billionaire Jim Kavanaugh, part of the previous ownership group and also principal owner of Saint Louis FC, the city's USLC side, didn't give up. He recruited several female members of the Taylor family, principal owners of the Enterprise Holdings car rental company, as lead investors in a new ownership group. The group got initial approval for a new stadium in downtown St. Louis, in large part because their stadium plan will almost totally use their own funds; the only new taxes for the stadium will be paid by fans who are attending the team's games. In August 2019, MLS officially announced that St. Louis City SC (in short "City SC") would join the league, with a target date of 2022 for the team's debut (though that would be put off to 2023, mainly due to stadium delays brought on by COVID-19). The combination of COVID-19 and the impending entry of City SC led Kavanaugh to fold Saint Louis FC at the end of the 2020 season, meaning that (1) the city was to be without pro soccer for two years and (2) City SC would have to establish its own reserve side. Both points ended up being addressed with the launch of the Next Pro side City2 in 2022. The ownership group is most notable as the first in MLS in which women hold a majority interest.
- Sacramento Republic FC
First Season: TBDStadium: Railyards Stadiumnote
California's state capital, despite having a very successful USLC side in Sacramento Republic FC, as well as a stadium site nailed down plus over 10,000 MLS season-ticket commitments, failed in the 2018 expansion cycle due to a relative lack of financial resources of the ownership, with several possible major investors backing out. In January 2019, Sacramento's bid got a major boost when billionaire investor Ron Burkle, then co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins,note became the new lead investor of the proposed Sacramento team, which will carry on the Republic name. Burkle also purchased the proposed stadium site, plus adjacent land that he plans to use for an entertainment district. Republic FC was officially announced as a 2022 MLS entry in October 2019, which would have made them the ninth lower-division team promoted to MLS. Like St. Louis, Republic FC also saw its MLS debut moved to 2023. The Republic ownership group was set to eventually get an NWSL team; near the time of the MLS announcement, it had been widely reported that Republic and the NWSL were nearing agreement on a new franchise in that league. In late February 2021, Republic FC lead investor Burkle rescinded his commitment to MLS, putting Sacramento's MLS aspirations into doubt. Burkle, however, remained involved with the NWSL bid, with that group switching its focus to San Diego and getting a team for that city in 2022. While Sacramento and the league are looking for new investors to fill the void left by Burkle, Sacramento could be passed over in favor of another city, most likely San Diego or Las Vegas, given the intense competition for new franchises whenever expansion windows open. Despite Sacramento's MLS bid being in limbo, the club still plans to build the Railyards Stadium, albeit with reduced capacity with the potential to expand to MLS standards later on.
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, El Tráfico between the Galaxy and Los Angeles FC, El Califórnico between the Earthquakes and Los Angeles FC, the Hell Is Real Derby between FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew,note the former Honda SuperClasico between the Galaxy and CD Chivas USA, the Hudson River Derby between New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls, the Canadian Classique between Toronto FC and CF Montréal, the Everglades Cup between Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC, 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, and the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC, whose Heritage Cup competition involves two teams that carry the names of their NASL predecessors).
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 Houston Dynamo FC awards the winner possession of an 18th century cannon. The Other Wiki has plenty of information on recognized MLS rivalries.