Follow TV Tropes

Following

Useful Notes / Major League Soccer

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mls_logo.png

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the United States' and Canada'snote  top-tier professional soccer league, and is the tenth wealthiest sports league in the world.note  The league was initially founded in 1993 on the ashes of the old North American Soccer League (NASL) in order for the United States to host the 1994 World Cup, but has since grown into a large professional soccer league consisting of 29 clubs: 26 in the US, 3 in Canada.

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, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL), MLS operates on a "single-entity" model, in which all teams—and even (technically) player contracts—are 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 later 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. In the 2023 season, Next Pro features reserve sides for all MLS teams except CF Montréal and D.C. United; the latter originally planned to link up with Next Pro, but ended up not doing so for the time being.

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 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 29 teams, 26 in the U.S. and three in Canada. St. Louis City SC is the league's newest club. Sacramento Republic FC was planned to be MLS's 30th club, but its lead investor pulled out, leaving Sacramento's bid in limbo, with San Diego FC being awarded that 30th slot in May 2023 and expected to launch in 2025. 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.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 2024 MLS season, teams play a 34-match schedule; each team plays its conference opponents home and away while the remaining 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, also 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 ex-Columbus Crew/current Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt in 2017, who had attempted to move the Crew to Austin.

Since the 2023 season, nine teams in each conference qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs, with the 8th and 9th place teams playing a single wild-card match, with the winner facing the conference champion in Round One, which is played as a best-of-three series. In Round One, traditional tiebreakers such as aggregate goals and away goals are not used, with tied matches going straight to penalties. The conference semifinals, finals, and MLS Cup match remain single-elimination matches hosted by the higher ranked seed with extra time and penalty kicks if necessary. 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 and the NHL have done in years past. 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.

As of the most recent 2023 MLS season, MLS is guaranteed a minimum of five berths in the CONCACAFnote  Champions Cupnote  (known in the past as the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and Champions League). For the first time, these berths are now open to teams from either the US or Canada. The MLS Cup winner enters in the round of 16, and the Supporters' Shield winner, the regular-season champion in the other conference, and the next two teams in the Supporters' Shield standings enter in the first round. The United States, which had four direct berths in the final competition under the Champions League name in 2023, now has only one direct berth—that given to the winner of the US Open Cup.note  which is also contested by lower division professional and amateur teams sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation.note  The Open Cup winner enters the Champions Cup in the first round. That said, since MLS launched in 1996, only one team outside MLS has won the Open Cup. Canada goes from one berth in the Champions League to three in the Champions Cup—two for its top domestic level, the Canadian Premier League (specifically the teams that top the regular-season table and win the championship playoffs), and one for the winner of the Canadian Championship, the country's equivalent to the US Open Cupnote  that features Canada's MLS sides, all CPL sides, and select teams from lower-level semi-pro and amateur leagues. That's not all. Three berths are awarded by performance in the Leagues Cup, a summer tournament that has expanded in 2023 to involve all MLS and Liga MX (Mexican top flight) sides. The Leagues Cup winner enters in the round of 16, while the runner-up and third-place teams enter in the first round.note  In all cases, if an MLS team earns qualification by more than one method, the affected berth is given to the highest-ranked team in the Supporters' Shield standings that has failed to qualify.

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), and Toronto FC reached the Champions League finals in 2011, 2015, and 2018 respectively; LAFC reached the CL final in both 2020 and 2023; and DC United and LA Galaxy have respectively won the original Champions' Cup in 1998 and 2000. 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; 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; and most recently in 2023, World Cup winner and candidate for all-time greatest Lionel Messi left French side PSG and refused a billion-dollar offer from Saudi Arabia to join Inter Miami in the largest MLS contract of all time note , and promptly won his record 8th Ballon d'Or, given to the player agreed by their peers to be the best in the world.

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.

MLS sought to make an even bigger splash in broadcast when they sold global broadcast rights to Apple in 2022. Beginning in the 2023 season, Apple TV brought virtually all MLS TV production in-house and began carrying MLS Season Pass. Anyone with access to Apple TV—membership to Apple TV+ is not required, but gets a discount; and all team season ticket holders get access for free—can purchase MLS Season Pass by the month ($14.99 US/$19.99 CA) or for the whole season ($99 US/$129 CA). Broadcast rights for select games are owned by Fox Sports in the United States, TSN/RDS in Canada, and Univision Deportes for Spanish language games in the US and Mexico.

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.*

    open/close all folders 

The Clubs of MLS

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mls_map_2024.png
Red is the Western Conference, blue is the Eastern Conference.
Map of MLS clubs in 2025

The teams are listed below. All Next Pro affiliates are directly owned by their associated teams unless noted otherwise.

    Eastern Conference 

Atlanta United FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/atlanta_united.png
First Season: 2017
Current Head Coach: Gonzalo Pineda
Current Captain: Brad Guzan
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: American Family Insurance
Trophies Won: 2018 MLS Cup, 2019 US Open Cup, 2019 Campeones Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 6th. Overall: 10th. Playoffs: Round One
Next Pro Affiliate: Atlanta United 2

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 and well over 50K in both following seasons. Perhaps even more notably, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar saw Argentine midfielder Thiago Almada became the first player ever to win the World Cup while playing in MLS.note 

CF Montréal

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cf_montreal.png
First Season: 2012note 
Current Head Coach: Laurent Courtois
Current Captain: Samuel Piette
Stadium: Stade Saputonote 
Shirt Sponsor: Bank of Montreal
Trophies Won: 2013, 2014, 2019 & 2021 Canadian Championship
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 10th. Overall: 20th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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, who stayed two seasons before moving to Columbus. Played the first part of the 2021 season at Inter Miami's stadium, with some matches moved to other venues due to conflicts with the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Charlotte FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/charlotte_fc.png
First Season: 2022
Current Head Coach: Dean Smithnote 
Current Captain: Ashley Westwood
Stadium: Bank of America Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Ally Financial
Trophies Won: none
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 9th. Overall: 19th. Playoffs: Wildcard round
Next Pro Affiliate: Crown Legacy FC

Announced in December 2019, the club is fronted by billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper, owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. Despite St. Louis City SC being announced earlier, Charlotte FC launched a year ahead of them. Rather than build an MLS-specific stadium, Bank of America Stadium was renovated to make it soccer-friendly; however, included among the 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, CFC set a new single-game MLS attendance record in its home debut (though that record only lasted for one season).

Chicago Fire FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/chicago_fire.png
First Season: 1998
Current Head Coach: Frank Klopas
Current Captain: Rafael Czichos
Stadium: Soldier Field note 
Shirt Sponsor: Carvana
Trophies Won: 1998 MLS Cup, 2003 Supporters' Shield, 1998, 2000, 2003 & 2006 US Open Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 13th. Overall: 24th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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. 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.

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.

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 2021–22 season, becoming the league's highest-paid player before Lionel Messi's 2023 arrival at Inter Miami.

Columbus Crew

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/columbus_crew.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Wilfried Nancy
Current Captain: Darlington Nagbe
Stadium: Lower.com Fieldnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Nationwide*
Trophies Won: 2008, 2020 & 2023 MLS Cup, 2004, 2008 & 2009 Supporters' Shield, 2002 US Open Cup, 2021 Campeones Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 3rd. Overall: 3rd. Playoffs: MLS Cup champions
Next 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, 2020, and 2023, 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 2015–2020), 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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dc_united.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: 'Troy Lesesne
Current Captain: Steve Birnbaum
Stadium: Audi Fieldnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Guidehouse
Trophies Won: 1996, 1997, 1999 & 2004 MLS Cup, 1997, 1999, 2006 & 2007 Supporters' Shield, 1996, 2008 & 2013 US Open Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 14th. Overall: 28th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next Pro Affiliate: None; reserve side Loudoun United FC, formerly directly owned, was sold to outside buyers and remains in the USL Championship

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). After two seasons without a playoff appearance, he left at the end of the 2023 season and returned to England at Birmingham City.

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 before moving all home games to Audi Field in 2023.

FC Cincinnati

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fc_cincinnati.png
First Season: 2019
Current Head Coach: Pat Noonan
Current Captain: Luciano Acosta
Stadium: TQL Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Mercy Health
Trophies Won: 2023 Supporters' Shield
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 1st. Overall: 1st. Playoffs: Conference final
Next 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, and took it one better in 2023 by winning the Supporters' Shield.

Inter Miami CF

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/inter_miami_cf.png
First Season: 2020
Current Head Coach: Gerardo "Tata" Martino
Current Captain: Lionel Messi
Stadium: Chase Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Royal Caribbean
Trophies Won: 2023 Leagues Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 14th. Overall: 27th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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 construction on the Freedom Park stadium starting in 2023 and its opening set for 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, later DRV PNK Stadium, and currently Chase Stadium.

Inter Miami II started play in League One in 2020. After a disastrous start to the 2023 season, Inter fired its head coach, Beckham's former Manchester United and England teammate Phil Neville, and then made perhaps the biggest MLS signing at least since that of Beckham, if not in league history, by picking up Argentine legend Lionel Messi fresh off a World Cup win.note  Inter also moved to provide Messi with even more of a comfort zone by hiring Tata Martino, a former Albiceleste and Barcelona manager, as head coach; signing two of his old Barça teammates, Spanish internationals Jordi Alba (who captains La Roja) and Sergio Busquets; and also picking up two young Argentine talents. US international DeAndre Yedlin is also on the squad. Past stars include former England international defender Kieran Gibbs and Messi's former international teammate Gonzalo Higuaín (both now retired).

Messi's arrival during the Leagues Cup flipped the script on Inter's 2023 season; he proceeded to score 10 goals in his seven Cup games on Inter's way to its first-ever trophy. While the Herons' disastrous start, combined with international duty for several key players, fixture congestion, and an ill-timed injury to Messi, kept them out of the playoffs, things appear to be looking up in South Florida. And that was before Inter signed another former Messi teammate in Luis Suárez.

Nashville SC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/nashville_sc.png
First Season: 2020
Current Head Coach: Gary Smith
Current Captain: Walker Zimmerman
Stadium: Geodis Parknote 
Shirt Sponsor: Renasant Bank
Trophies Won: None
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 7th. Overall: 12th. Playoffs: Round One
Next Pro Affiliate: Huntsville City FC

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. It's one of several teams with an all-star cast of owners – minority investors include Reese Witherspoon (and her second ex-husband), Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry, Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg, and Milwaukee Bucks megastar Giannis Antetokounmpo and three of his four brothers.

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.

Nashville SC's conference alignment has flip-flopped numerous times since their MLS debut; originally placed in the Western Conference at the beginning of the 2020 season, the team moved to the Eastern Conference starting with the MLS is Back tournament, resulting in an unbalanced conference alignment, and stayed there in 2021, moved back to the Western Conference when Charlotte FC debuted in 2022, and NSC moved back to the East when St. Louis City SC debuted in 2023.

NSC also boasts something of a celebrity superfan in the form of Jars of Clay guitarist Stephen Mason, aka Soccer Moses. 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.

New England Revolution

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/new_england_revolution.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Caleb Porter
Current Captain: Carles Gil
Stadium: Gillette Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: UnitedHealth
Trophies Won: 2007 US Open Cup, 2021 Supporters Shield
2022 Position: Eastern Conference: 5th. Overall: 6th. Playoffs: Round One
Next 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.

Share ownership with the NFL's New England Patriots, with whom they also share a 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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/new_york_city_fc.png
First Season: 2015
Current Head Coach: Nick Cushing
Current Captain: Thiago Martins
Stadium: Yankee Stadiumnote More
Shirt Sponsor: Etihad Airways
Trophies Won: 2021 MLS Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 11th. Overall: 22nd. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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 . In late July 2022, it was reported that NYC mayor Eric Adams planned to approve a new stadium to be built near Citi Field.

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.

New York Red Bulls

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/new_york_red_bulls.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Sandro Schwartz
Current Captain: Sean Nealis
Stadium: Red Bull Arenanote 
Shirt Sponsor: Not applicable; team operator Red Bull places its logo on the shirts
Trophies Won: 2013, 2015 & 2018 Supporters' Shield
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 8th. Overall: 17th. Playoffs: Round One
Next Pro Affiliate: New York Red Bulls II. Also fields a second reserve side, New York Red Bulls U-23, in 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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/orlando_city.png
First Season: 2015
Current Head Coach: Óscar Pareja
Current Captain: TBA
Stadium: Inter&Co Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Orlando Health
Trophies Won: 2022 US Open Cup
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 2nd. Overall: 2nd. Playoffs: Conference semifinals
Next 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 four 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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/philadelphia_union.png
First Season: 2010
Current Head Coach: Jim Curtin
Current Captain: Alejandro Bedoya
Stadium: Subaru Parknote 
Shirt Sponsor: Bimbo Bakeries USA
Trophies Won: 2020 Supporters' Shield
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 4th. Overall: 5th. Playoffs: Conference semifinals
Next 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 did host the aforementioned NJ/NY Gotham FC for one home game in both 2021 and 2022.note 

Toronto FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/toronto_fc.png
First Season: 2007
Current Head Coach: John Herdman
Current Captain: TBA
Stadium: BMO Fieldnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Bank of Montrealnote 
Trophies Won: 2017 MLS Cup; 2017 Supporters' Shield; 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 & 2018 Canadian Championship
2023 Position: Eastern Conference: 15th. Overall: 29th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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 MLS team to achieve a domestic treble.

American international Michael Bradley ended his playing career here, playing for his father from 2021–2023. Italy international Lorenzo Insigne joined after the 2021–22 Serie A season. Played the first part of the 2021 season at Orlando City's stadium.

    Western Conference 

Austin FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/austin_fc.png
First Season: 2021
Current Head Coach: Josh Wolff
Current Captain: Sebastián Driussi
Stadium: Q2 Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Yeti
Trophies Won: None
2023 Position: Western Conference: 12th. Overall: 25th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next Pro Affiliate: Austin FC II

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 Browns–Crew 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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/colorado_rapids.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Chris Armas
Current Captain: TBA
Stadium: Dick’s Sporting Goods Parknote 
Shirt Sponsor: UCHealth
Trophies Won: 2010 MLS Cup
2023 Position: Western Conference: 14th. Overall: 28th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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, playing for a USLC team he co-owns before finally retiring in 2021 to become a studio analyst for NBC's Premier League coverage.

Their stadium is located in Commerce City, part of the Denver metro area.

FC Dallas

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fc_dallas.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Nico Estévez
Current Captain: Paul Arriola
Stadium: Toyota Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Children's Health (home), UT Southwestern (away)note 
Trophies Won: 2016 Supporters' Shield, 1997 & 2016 US Open Cup
2023 Position: Western Conference: 7th. Overall: 14th. Playoffs: Round One
Next 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. As of 2024, the only club with separate sponsors for its home and away shirts.

Houston Dynamo FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/houston_dynamo_fc.png
First Season: 2006
Current Head Coach: Ben Olsen
Current Captain: Héctor Herrera
Stadium: Shell Energy Stadiumnote note 
Shirt Sponsor: MD Anderson*
Trophies Won: 2006 & 2007 MLS Cup, 2018 & 2023 US Open Cup
2022 Position: Western Conference: 4th. Overall: 9th. Playoffs: Conference final
Next 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 Los Angeles Clippers superstar James Harden (who bought into the team when he was with the Houston Rockets).

LA Galaxy

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/los_angeles_galaxy.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Greg Vanney
Current Captain: Maya Yoshida
Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Parknote note 
Shirt Sponsor: Herbalife
Trophies Won: 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 & 2014 MLS Cup, 1998, 2002, 2010 & 2011 Supporters' Shield, 2001 & 2005 US Open Cup
2022 Position: Western Conference: 13th. Overall: 26th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next Pro Affiliate: Ventura County FCnote 

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 (all are now gone). As a result of this, and other major signings, possibly the best known MLS team in Europe before Inter Miami signed Messi. Also home to Landon Donovan for most of his MLS career (2005–2014, 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. The Mountain West'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 their old stadium.

While the Galaxy's 2023 season was forgettable, the team did set a new MLS single-game attendance record, taking its home match in its local rivalry with LAFC to the Rose Bowl and drawing over 82,000.

Los Angeles FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/los_angeles_football_club.png
First Season: 2018
Current Head Coach: Steve Cherundolo
Current Captain: Carlos Vela
Stadium: BMO Stadiumnote 
Shirt Sponsor: BMO Banknote 
Trophies Won: 2022 MLS Cup, 2019 & 2022 Supporters' Shield
2023 Position: Western Conference: 3rd. Overall: 8th. Playoffs: MLS Cup finalist
Next Pro Affiliate: Los Angeles FC 2

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 home of BMO 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 many of LAFC's late 2010s/early 2020s expansion contemporaries, who have spent 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.note  LAFC made another run to the Cup final the next year, only to lose out to the Crew.

Yet another side with a de facto NWSL partner, with its stadium also hosting Angel City FC.

Minnesota United

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/minnesota_united_fc.png
First Season: 2017
Current Head Coach: Cameron Knowles (interim)
Current Captain: Wil Trapp
Stadium: Allianz Fieldnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Target
Trophies Won: None
2023 Position: Western Conference: 11th. Overall: 21st. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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.

Portland Timbers

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/portland_timbers_logo.png
First Season: 2011note 
Current Head Coach: Phil Neville
Current Captain: Diego Chará
Stadium: Providence Parknote 
Shirt Sponsor: Nonenote 
Trophies Won: 2015 MLS Cup, 2020 MLS Is Back Tournamentnote 
2022 Position: Western Conference: 10th. Overall: 18th. Playoffs: Did not qualify
Next 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.

The Timbers had been 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 former Thorns head coach Paul Riley and domestic violence allegations against Timbers striker Andy Polo. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson soon sold the Thorns. Similar issues hit the Timbers again shortly after the start of the 2024 season, though not against the team itself. After the CEO of DaBella, a home improvement services company that had started the season as shirt sponsor, was credibly accused of sexual harassment, the Timbers dropped the DaBella sponsorship, going without a sponsor for the rest of the season.

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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/real_salt_lake.png
First Season: 2005
Current Head Coach: Pablo Mastroeni
Current Captain: TBA
Stadium: America First Fieldnote 
Shirt Sponsor: America First Credit Unionnote 
Trophies Won: 2009 MLS Cup
2022 Position: Western Conference: 5th. Overall: 11th. Playoffs: Round One
Next 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 (then) 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 then-principal owner Dell Loy Hansen was found to have had a history of racial comments, with Hansen essentially being forced to sell both RSL and the Royals. As a result, the NWSL side ceased operations, with the team's player-related assets being acquired by a group in… Kansas City. However, the NWSL offered Real's new ownership an option to return to that league, and the new RSL group took them up on it. The Royals (without the "FC") returned in the 2024 season.

San Jose Earthquakes

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/san_jose_earthquakes.png
First Season: 1996note 
Current Head Coach: Luchi Gonzalez
Current Captain: Jackson Yueill
Stadium: PayPal Park note 
Shirt Sponsor: Intermedia*
Trophies Won: 2001 & 2003 MLS Cup, 2005 & 2012 Supporters' Shield
2023 Position: Western Conference: 9th. Overall: 16th. Playoffs: Wildcard round
Next Pro Affiliate: The Town FCnote 

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. The Quakes are another team sharing its stadium with an NWSL side, with expansion team Bay FC having moved in for its first season in 2024.

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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/seattle_sounders_fc.png
First Season: 2009note 
Current Head Coach: Brian Schmetzer
Current Captain: Stefan Frei
Stadium: Lumen Fieldnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Providencenote 
Trophies Won: 2022 CONCACAF Champions League, 2016 & 2019 MLS Cup, 2014 Supporters' Shield, 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2014 US Open Cup
2023 Position: Western Conference: 2nd. Overall: 7th. Playoffs: Conference semifinals
Next 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. So far, that season seems to be a blip on the radar, if their 2023 playoff appearance is any indication.

During the 2023–24 offseason, a local group that includes some of the Sounders owners bought the NWSL side then known as OL Reign from the parent company of prominent French club Olympique Lyonnais, shortly thereafter restoring the NWSL team's original name of Seattle Reign FC. This marks the second time the Sounders have had a partial stake in the Reign; they held a minority interest before OL bought the Reign after the 2019 season. The Reign also plays at Lumen Field, having moved there in 2022 after a three-season interlude in Tacoma.

Sporting Kansas City

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/sporting_kansas_city.png
First Season: 1996
Current Head Coach: Peter Vermes
Current Captain: Johnny Russell
Stadium: Children’s Mercy Parknote 
Shirt Sponsor: Compass Minerals
Trophies Won: 2000 & 2013 MLS Cup, 2000 Supporters' Shield, 2004, 2012, 2015 & 2017 US Open Cup
2023 Position: Western Conference: 9th. Overall: 16th. Playoffs: Conference semifinals
Next 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 played there through the 2023 season, with the NWSL team opening its own new stadium in 2024.

St. Louis City SC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/st_louis_city_sc.png
First Season: 2023
Current Head Coach: Bradley Carnell
Current Captain: Roman Bürki
Stadium: CITYPARKnote 
Shirt Sponsor: Purina
Trophies Won: None
2023 Position: Western Conference: 1st. Overall: 4th. Playoffs: Round One
Next 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 almost totally used their own funds; the only new taxes for the stadium are being paid by fans 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. City SC came in with a bang, topping the Western Conference table in its first season, but flamed out in Round One, being swept by its cross-state rivalnote  Sporting KC.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/vancouver_whitecaps_fc.png
First Season: 2011note 
Current Head Coach: Vanni Sartini
Current Captain: Russell Teibert
Stadium: BC Placenote 
Shirt Sponsor: Telus
Trophies Won: 2015, 2022 & 2023 Canadian Championship
2022 Position: Western Conference: 6th. Overall: 13th. Playoffs: Round One
Next 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 (now America First Field).

    Expansion Teams 

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. As of May 2023, one future club has been confirmed for 2025.

San Diego FC

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/san_diego_fc.png
First Season: 2025 (projected)
Stadium: Snapdragon Stadiumnote 

San Diego was awarded the 30th expansion slot in May 2023, and the club unveiled its identity as San Diego FC that October. The ownership group is led by British-Egyptian businessman Mohamed Mansour and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the first Native American nation to have a stake in a US pro soccer franchise. Other investors include current San Diego Padres superstar Manny Machado.

Like St. Louis, San Diego had the displeasure of having its NFL team, the Chargers, move to Los Angeles, which led to several parties submitting bids for MLS expansion to fill the void, including former MLS star Landon Donovan, who was part-owner of the now-defunct USL Championship side San Diego Loyal SC. MLS had been interested in placing a club in San Diego since the league's formation, playing the 1999 MLS All-Star Game at Qualcomm Stadium (aka San Diego Stadium) and even considering placing the now-defunct Chivas USA in the city, but San Diego's lack of a suitable stadium at the time hindered that effort.

The team will play at San Diego State's Snapdragon Stadium, which was built on part of the former site of San Diego Stadium; while the venue is not a true soccer-specific stadium, it was designed to accommodate an MLS franchise. Snapdragon Stadium is also home to NWSL side San Diego Wave FC.

    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, 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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/chivas_usa_logosvg.png
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'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

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/miami_fusion_19972001_logosvg.png
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, lest the entire league folded.

Tampa Bay Mutiny

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tampabaymutiny.png
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 (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.

Rivalries

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.

Here on TV Tropes, these rivalries are listed in the Sports section for the trope The Rival.

Top