Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer
Countries  United States (16 teams)
 Canada (2 teams)
Confederation CONCACAF
Founded December 13, 1993
Conferences Eastern Conference
Western Conference
Number of teams 18
Levels on pyramid 1 (US), 1 (CA)
Relegation to None
Domestic cup(s) U.S. Open Cup
Canadian Championship
International cup(s) CONCACAF Champions League
Current MLS Cup Colorado Rapids (1st title)
Current Supporters' Shield Los Angeles Galaxy (4th shield)
Most MLS Cups D.C. United (4 titles)
Most Supporters' Shields D.C. United &
Los Angeles Galaxy (4 shields)
TV partners ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes,
TeleFutura, Univision,
TSN, TSN2, GolTV Canada
2011 MLS season

Major League Soccer (MLS) is a professional soccer league based in the United States and sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer). The league comprises 18 teams, of which 16 are in the U.S. and 2 in Canada. MLS represents the top tier of the American and Canadian soccer pyramids.

Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup.[1] Unique for a major sports league, MLS operates under a single-entity structure, where each team is owned by the league and operated by its investors.[2] The first season took place in 1996 beginning with 10 teams. Seasons presently run from March to November, with each team playing 34 games in the regular season. Ten teams compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs culminating in the championship game, MLS Cup.


Competition format

Major League Soccer's regular season runs from March to October with its 18 teams playing 34 games in a double round-robin system in which each team both hosts and visits every other team once.[3] Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conference. Midway through the season, teams break for the annual All-Star Game, a friendly game between the league's finest players and a major club from a different league. At the end of the regular season, the team with the highest point total is awarded the Supporters' Shield. The regular season is followed by the 10-team MLS Cup Playoffs ending with the MLS Cup championship final.[4]

MLS has three automatic berths in the CONCACAF Champions League for its American clubs with an additional spot available via the U.S. Open Cup; Canadian clubs can qualify for a single berth via the Canadian Championship. For the 2011–12 CONCACAF Champions League, the qualifying clubs are MLS Cup 2010 champion Colorado Rapids, Supporters' Shield winner Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas, and 2010 U.S. Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC. Toronto FC also qualified as winner of the 2011 Canadian Championship.



In 1996, Major League Soccer's original ten teams, the Columbus Crew, D.C. United, the New England Revolution, the NY/NJ MetroStars, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, the Colorado Rapids, the Dallas Burn, the Kansas City Wiz, the Los Angeles Galaxy and the San Jose Clash, began play. The early years of the league gave rise to the Bruce Arena-led dynasty of D.C. United, winning the MLS Cup in three of the league's first four seasons. It took the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998 to end United's stranglehold on the championship. Also joining the league in 1998 were the Miami Fusion.

MLS Major Trophy Winners
Season MLS Cup Supporters' Shield
1996 D.C. United Tampa Bay Mutiny
1997 D.C. United D.C. United
1998 Chicago Fire Los Angeles Galaxy
1999 D.C. United D.C. United
2000 Kansas City Wizards Kansas City Wizards
2001 San Jose Earthquakes Miami Fusion
2002 Los Angeles Galaxy Los Angeles Galaxy
2003 San Jose Earthquakes Chicago Fire
2004 D.C. United Columbus Crew
2005 Los Angeles Galaxy San Jose Earthquakes
2006 Houston Dynamo D.C. United
2007 Houston Dynamo D.C. United
2008 Columbus Crew Columbus Crew
2009 Real Salt Lake Columbus Crew
2010 Colorado Rapids Los Angeles Galaxy
2011 TBD Los Angeles Galaxy

After its first season, MLS suffered from a decline in attendance. The league's quality was cast into doubt when the U.S. men's national team, made up largely of MLS players, was eliminated in the first round of the 1998 World Cup and finished in last place.

The league began to market itself on the talents of American players, both experienced veterans and fresh talents. Breakout stars like DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan began making names for themselves in MLS before breaking into and starring for the U.S. national team, while established players such as Brian McBride, Eddie Pope, and Clint Mathis continued to prove their value to both their MLS clubs and the U.S. national team.

The league's ongoing financial problems led to the departure of Commissioner Doug Logan after the end of the 1998 season. Don Garber, a former National Football League executive, was hired as commissioner and became instrumental in stabilizing the league's future. Construction of soccer-specific stadiums, largely funded by owners such as Lamar Hunt and Phil Anschutz, became a point of emphasis to bring fiscal health and ensure the league's survival. Hunt's Columbus Crew Stadium, built in 1999, is often cited as a league model.

On the field, the early wave of international players who had joined MLS at its inception drifted into retirement or moved on to clubs elsewhere in the world. The run-up to the 2002 World Cup saw a gradual shift in the league's philosophy toward the development of American talent, a move that would eventually lead to success for U.S. soccer.

Despite movement, declining attendances forced MLS to stop the bleeding by contracting the two Florida franchises, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion, just a few years after their establishment. This left the league with 10 teams, the same number as when MLS began. Also, the league reorganized back to the Eastern and Western Conference format after two seasons with the third Central Division.


The 2002 World Cup, in which the United States unexpectedly made the quarterfinals through wins against Portugal and Mexico, triggered a resurgence in American soccer and MLS. The MLS Cup 2002, held four months after the 2002 World Cup final, set an attendance record as a sellout crowd at Gillette Stadium saw the Los Angeles Galaxy win their first title.

MLS drew international attention in 2004 with the debut of 14-year-old Freddy Adu for D.C. United, who entered the league with much fanfare and was heralded as one of the top prospects in American soccer history.

MLS underwent a significant transition in the years leading up to the 2006 World Cup. After marketing itself on the talents of American players, the league saw some of its homegrown stars depart for more prominent leagues in Europe. Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the MetroStars, was sold to Manchester United in one of the most lucrative contract deals in league history. DaMarcus Beasley of the Chicago Fire left for PSV Eindhoven, while Landon Donovan, on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, was recalled to Germany. Donovan's stint in Germany was brief; before the start of the 2005 MLS season he was sold back to MLS to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Many more American players, though they factored little in the U.S. national team picture, did make an impact in MLS. In 2005, Jason Kreis of expansion club Real Salt Lake became the first player to score at least 100 career MLS goals. In 2005, the MLS Reserve Division was created, with each reserve squad playing 12 games, providing valuable playing time to develop non-starters on team rosters.

It was also in this era that MLS expanded for the first time since the contraction of 2001. Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA began play in 2005, with Chivas USA becoming the second club in Los Angeles, sharing The Home Depot Center with the Galaxy. Chivas USA also became the first team in MLS to be directly connected to a foreign club, their sister club of Guadalajara. By 2006 the San Jose Earthquakes owners, players and a few coaches moved to Texas to become the expansion Houston Dynamo, after failing to build a stadium in San Jose. The Dynamo became an expansion team, leaving their history behind for a new San Jose ownership group that would materialize in 2007.

Total MLS Cup Records
Team Titles Last Title Appearances
D.C. United 4 2004 5
Los Angeles Galaxy 2 2005 7*
Houston Dynamo 2 2007 3*
San Jose Earthquakes 2 2003 2
Chicago Fire 1 1998 3
Colorado Rapids 1 2010 2
Sporting Kansas City 1 2000 2
Real Salt Lake 1 2009 1
Columbus Crew 1 2008 1
New England Revolution 0 4
FC Dallas 0 1
New York Red Bulls 0 1
* Will play for title in MLS Cup 2011.


Since 2007, Major League Soccer's leadership has taken steps to further internationalize the league in an effort to raise the level of play. Among the first moves in this regard was the Designated Player Rule, which helped MLS bring international stars into the league, despite the relatively meager MLS salary cap, and the creation of the SuperLiga, which places top MLS clubs against top Mexican clubs in an effort to provide more meaningful competition for both leagues. MLS changed the rules regarding foreign players in the league to allow a total of eight per team.[5] This period also saw expansion reach beyond the United States' borders into Canada, beginning with Toronto FC.

The 2007 season witnessed the MLS debut of David Beckham, whose signing had been seen as a coup for American soccer. Beckham's contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy was made possible by the Designated Player Rule. Players such as Cuauhtémoc Blanco of Club América signed for the Chicago Fire, and Juan Pablo Ángel, who moved from Aston Villa to the New York Red Bulls, are some of the first Designated Players who have made major contributions to their clubs.

The departures of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, coupled with the return of former U.S. national team stars Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride to New York and Chicago, respectively, highlight the exchange of top prospects to Europe for experienced veterans to MLS. Several other well-known foreign players have followed Beckham and Blanco to MLS, including Guillermo Barros Schelotto to Columbus and Freddie Ljungberg to Seattle.[6]

By 2008 San Jose had returned to the league under new ownership. In 2009 expansion side Seattle Sounders FC opened to a crowd of 32,523 at Qwest Field. The 2010 season ushered in the expansion franchise Philadelphia Union and the opening of New York's soccer-specific stadium, Red Bull Arena. That same summer saw the opening of Philadelphia's own new stadium, PPL Park and the debut of New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry,[7] the leading all-time goalscorer of Arsenal F.C. and the French national team.

The start of the 2011 season saw further expansion with the addition of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the second Canadian MLS franchise, and Portland Timbers. The addition of two West Coast teams pushed the Houston Dynamo into the Eastern Conference. The Kansas City Wizards began play under the rebranded moniker of Sporting Kansas City. During the season, the Galaxy signed another major international star in Republic of Ireland captain and all-time leading goalscorer Robbie Keane.[8]

In 2012, the Montreal Impact will become the league's 19th franchise and the 3rd to be located in Canada.


Recently "expansion" and "rebranding" have become buzzwords for the league and its fans. The league has renewed its emphasis on improving the quality of play by its teams via initiatives such as the Designated Player Rule and the creation of a league-wide youth development system.[9]


MLS operates under a single-entity structure in which teams are centrally owned by the league.[2] Each team has an owner-operator and the team owners are shareholders in the league. In order to keep costs under control, revenues are shared throughout the league, player contracts are negotiated by the league, and ultimately players are contracted not with individual teams but with the league itself. The league fought a bitter legal battle with its players over its economic system, but this was eventually resolved with the players gaining some improved benefits in return for accepting the single entity structure. A court had also ruled that even absent their collective bargaining agreement, players could opt to play in other leagues if they were unsatisfied.

The league's cost-controlling measures have attracted new ownership that have injected more money into the league, improving it and focusing the league's resources on fewer clubs. Examples include the Anschutz Entertainment Group's sale of the MetroStars to Red Bull, for an "excess of $100 million," according to the New York Times. Commissioner Garber said to the Los Angeles Times that, "the sale was part of a plan to have AEG decrease its holdings in MLS. We're pushing Hunt Sports to do the same thing."

Commissioner Garber has stated that having multiple clubs owned by a single owner was a necessity in the first 10 years of MLS, but now that the league appears to be on the brink of overall profitability and has significant expansion plans, he wants each club to have a distinct owner. In order to help bring this about, the league is now giving more incentive to be an individual club owner, with all owners now having the rights to a certain number of players they develop through their club's academy system each year, sharing the profits of Soccer United Marketing, and being able to sell individual club jersey sponsorships.

At one time AEG owned six clubs in MLS, and have since sold the Colorado Rapids, the MetroStars, D.C. United and the Chicago Fire to new owners. AEG's remaining teams are the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo.[10] The other major owner-investor in MLS has been Hunt Sports, which owns the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas, having sold the Kansas City Wizards to a local ownership group in 2006. The league now has 17 owners for its 19 clubs (including the Montreal team entering in 2012).

Game First

The 2006–2007 MLS offseason has been considered by some to be the most productive in the history of the league,[11] and there were a number of changes made to the league, which have brought about an increase in the league's ability to compete financially as well as on the field. The league announced a youth development initiative,[9] which will require youth development programs for all of the league's teams. The hope is that by being able to sign up to two of its own youth players to the senior team each year that the league's teams will have an incentive to improve the quality of the league's talent in an organic way that will also benefit the league through transfer fees for outgoing players. Perhaps the first example of a success in "home-grown" talent development was New York's Jozy Altidore, who rose to prominence as one of the league's most skilled young strikers before fetching the league's record transfer fee in his $10 million move to Villarreal in 2008. [12]

The league also announced "Game First", a series of initiatives aimed at improving the league in several ways. One of the most immediate changes is that U.S. Soccer hired the first full-time professional referees in league history.[13] Another part of "Game First" was the creation of an official league anthem by Audiobrain - similar to other competitions from around the world. There are two versions of the MLS Anthem, an orchestral version that is performed before every regular season game and an orchestral chorus version that is played before the MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup.


Since 1999, the league has overseen the construction and completion of nine venues specifically designed for soccer. Lamar Hunt broke new ground in this endeavor by financing the construction of MLS's first soccer-specific stadium, Columbus Crew Stadium. The Los Angeles Galaxy followed four years later with the opening of The Home Depot Center in 2003. Chivas USA has shared this venue with the Galaxy since their expansion season in 2005. It also played host to two consecutive MLS Cups, until FC Dallas opened Pizza Hut Park in 2005 and hosted the next two championships. The Chicago Fire began playing their home games in Toyota Park in 2006. 2007 saw the opening of Dick's Sporting Goods Park for the Colorado Rapids and BMO Field for Toronto FC. Near the end of the 2008 season, Rio Tinto Stadium became the home of Real Salt Lake. Red Bull Arena, the new home of the New York Red Bulls, began construction in December 2007 and opened for the start of the 2010 season. The Philadelphia Union opened PPL Park, midway through their inaugural season, in June 2010. The following season, the Portland Timbers made their MLS debut in a newly renovated Jeld-Wen Field (originally a multipurpose venue but turned into a soccer-specific facility), and Sporting Kansas City began the season with a record 10-game road trip to accommodate the June opening of their new Livestrong Sporting Park.

Six remaining clubs play in stadiums not originally built for MLS. The New England Revolution play home games at an NFL venue, Gillette Stadium; and D.C. United play home games at a former NFL venue, RFK Stadium. New England and D.C. are actively seeking to build their own soccer stadiums.[14] The Seattle Sounders FC play in a dual-purpose stadium, designed to be used for both American football and soccer. For Sounders games, CenturyLink Field staff tarps off the upper bowl to provide a more intimate atmosphere. The Houston Dynamo and the San Jose Earthquakes are in the planning stages for their own soccer venues replacing Robertson Stadium and Buck Shaw Stadium. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC made their MLS debut in 2011 at the temporary Empire Field and moved into a refurbished BC Place in October, shortly before the end of the season. Both Empire Field and the renovated BC Place are designed to accommodate Canadian football as well as soccer.

The Montreal Impact expansion team will play most of its home games in the soccer-specific Saputo Stadium, built by the city's current NASL team. Although Saputo Stadium will be expanded to over 20,000 capacity for the team's MLS debut, some games could require a larger capacity; nearby Olympic Stadium will be used as a second home field.

Media coverage

At the outset, MLS signed deals for coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, while Univision, Galavision, and TeleFutura broadcast matches in Spanish. The original Univision deal lapsed after a few years, leaving only the ABC/ESPN family of networks as the league's national broadcasters.

Fox Sports World (later renamed "Fox Soccer Channel" in 2005) and Fox Sports en Español (later renamed "Fox Deportes" in 2010) began airing matches in 2003, but lost its contract with MLS starting in 2012 to NBC and NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). The NBC deal will also include a return to network television for the league.[15]

The league's MLS Direct Kick package, which broadcasts out-of-market matches, has been expanded to ensure that every league match is broadcast. Univision and its family of networks resumed MLS broadcasts in 2007 as well, with most matches airing on TeleFutura and Galavision on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

The 2007 season was the first in the league's history in which every regular season match was telecast live, and for which television rights were sold to networks at a profit. Previously, MLS paid networks to broadcast its games. It was also the first time many games were shown on national television. ESPN's coverage now features a live match each week, usually in primetime, and Fox Soccer Channel's MLS Saturday added a pregame and postgame show wrapped around their featured matches. This broadcast has since been renamed Soccer Night in America in 2011 and features newer graphics and game analysis.

Major League Soccer also offers streaming live video of some matches via its website.


With the addition of Toronto FC, coverage of MLS expanded into Canada in 2007; from 2007 to 2010, the CBC and Rogers Sportsnet, and later GolTV Canada (after it was acquired by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the team), all broadcast Toronto matches nationwide, along with the MLS Cup playoffs. GolTV also carried U.S.-produced broadcasts (primarily from ESPN) of selected regular-season games not involving Toronto FC.

In February 2011, the TSN family of channels (in which ESPN owns a 20% interest) announced a six-year deal for national MLS broadcast rights in Canada. TSN or TSN2 will broadcast a minimum of 24 games during the 2011 season and 30 games per season during the subsequent five seasons, all featuring at least one Canadian team. RDS and RIS will have similar French-language broadcast rights. The channels will also carry the MLS Cup and playoff games, the MLS All-Star Game, and additional games not involving Canadian teams.[16] GolTV Canada will also continue to carry selected all-U.S. MLS matchups.[17]

For games not aired by TSN, the individual teams have adopted their own broadcasting contracts, and these team broadcasts are also available across Canada. Toronto FC games are broadcast by GolTV Canada,[18] and Sportsnet became the official broadcast partner of the Whitecaps, with most games airing on its Pacific feed and national channel Sportsnet One.[19] Beginning in 2012, TVA Sports will carry Montreal Impact games not covered under the TSN/RDS contract with MLS.[20]


Sports Business Journal reported on December 23, 2008 that MLS and Soccer United Marketing had signed an international television broadcast contract with sports media company MP & Silva through 2013.[21][22] The figure is reportedly an "eight-figure deal" that covers the "rights to all MLS games, tournaments and events, including MLS regular season, MLS Cup Playoffs, MLS Cup, and the international competitions SuperLiga, InterLiga, and Pan-Pacific Championship"[21] (all three international competitions are now defunct). MP & Silva CEO Carlo Pozzali boasted that high-profile, international players who were lured to MLS by the designated player rule have raised the international awareness and potential for popularity of MLS in international markets.[22]

MP & Silva's package generally does not include ESPN-televised matches. ESPN International purchased the rights to broadcast MLS in Great Britain and Ireland in 2009, and other ESPN networks around the world also broadcast games.[23][24]


Shirt sponsorships
Team Sponsor Annual Value
Chivas USA Corona Undisclosed[25]
D.C. United Volkswagen $3.1 million–$3.7 million[26]
Houston Dynamo Greenstar Recycling $2.54 million[27]
Los Angeles Galaxy Herbalife $4 million–$5 million[26]
Montreal Impact Bank of Montreal Undisclosed[28]
New England Revolution UnitedHealthcare Undisclosed[29]
Philadelphia Union Bimbo $3 million[30]
Portland Timbers Alaska Airlines Undisclosed[31]
Real Salt Lake XanGo $1 million[32]
San Jose Earthquakes Amway Global $2 million–$3 million[33]
Seattle Sounders FC Xbox $4 million[34]
Toronto FC Bank of Montreal C$4 million+[26]
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Bell Canada C$4 million+[35]
The New York Red Bulls jersey sponsor is Red Bull, which owns the club.
Teams without jersey sponsor: Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Kansas City.

Major League Soccer lost more than $350 million between its founding and the year 2004, according to a report by BusinessWeek released that year.[36] However, there have been positive signs of long-term profitability since 2004. As soccer-specific stadiums are built, ownership expands and television coverage increases, MLS has seen its revenues increase while minimizing costs. The 2003 season saw the Los Angeles Galaxy make a profit in their first season at The Home Depot Center,[36] while FC Dallas turned a profit in similar fashion after moving into Pizza Hut Park in 2005.[37]

Television coverage has consistently expanded throughout the league's history, as MLS brokered a deal with ESPN in 2006 for rights fees and a greater presence across its networks. The 2007 season saw the return of MLS to Univision and its Spanish-language networks. They joined Fox Soccer Channel and HDNet as the U.S. national outlets, and the league has mandated that every league game receive television coverage either nationally or locally in one or both teams' cities for broadcast on its Direct Kick package.

In 2007, MLS teams started selling ad space on the front of jerseys to go along with the league-wide sponsorship partners who had already been advertising on the back of club jerseys, following the practice of international sport, specifically soccer. The league has established a floor of $500,000 per shirt sponsorship, with the league receiving a flat fee of $200,000 per deal.[38] Online gambling and hard liquor sponsorships are prohibited. As of April 2011, twelve of the league's eighteen teams have signed sponsorship deals to have company logos placed on the front of their team jerseys, and a thirteenth is directly owned by its shirt sponsor.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said on May 11, 2006 that he expected the league's clubs to be profitable by 2010 overall. He reported that FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy were already profitable, with several other clubs nearing profitability. A year later, he revealed that the Chicago Fire, the Colorado Rapids, and Toronto FC were on track for profitability by 2008.[37] However in 2008 there were only three profitable MLS clubs; Los Angeles Galaxy, Toronto FC and FC Dallas.[39] According to the League, in 2009 there were only two profitable MLS clubs, Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC.[40]

Rule changes

MLS currently follows IFAB rules and standards with few differences.[41] MLS experimented with deviations in its early years. Some of these changes were used in the NASL and continue to be used in college soccer and many high school associations.

Among them was the use of a countdown clock, rather than a standard progressive clock, with time paused for dead ball situations at a referee's discretion. Halves ended when the clock reached 0:00, rather than at the whistle of the referee as was customary elsewhere.

Also implemented was the use of shootouts to resolve tie games. These best-of-five contests placed a player 35 yards from goal with five seconds to put the ball past the opposing goalkeeper; if needed the shootout progressed into extra frames. A winning team received one standings point (as opposed to three for the regulation win).

While IFAB rules allow teams to substitute three players during games, MLS allowed a fourth, goalkeeper-only substitute. MLS discarded the rule after 2003 and adopted the IFAB standard, prompted in part by a match in which then MetroStars coach and former U.S. national head coach Bob Bradley used a loophole to insert an outfield player as a fourth substitute.

MLS eventually conceded that the rules changes, particularly the shootout, had alienated some traditional soccer fans while failing to draw new American sports fans as hoped. The shootout and countdown clock were eliminated after the 1999 season.

MLS continued to experiment with the settling of tie games in regular season play. In 2000, a 10-minute golden goal period replaced the shootout for tied games. It was abandoned after 2003. The golden-goal overtime remained through 2004 for playoff matches, where it had been used since the league's inception.

In 2005 the league adopted a playoff extra time structure that followed new IFAB standards for such situations: two full 15-minute periods, followed by kicks from the penalty mark if necessary. The away goals rule is not used in any playoff round.


The 18 MLS clubs are equally divided among the Eastern and Western Conference. Each club is allowed up to 30 players on its first team roster. All 30 players are eligible for selection to each 18-player game-day squad during the regular season and playoffs.[42]

Before its maiden season and inaugural draft, MLS allocated four marquee players across the initial ten teams. These inaugural allocations consisted of key U.S. national team and international players such as Eric Wynalda and Hugo Sánchez. By the 1998 season, the league added its first two expansion teams while the 2000 season saw the league reorganize from two conferences into three divisions: the Eastern, Western, and Central Division.

However, following the 2001 season, MLS contracted its two Florida franchises and returned to ten teams in two conferences. The league waited three more seasons before it continued its growth. Since the 2005 season, MLS has expanded by eight new clubs. This period of expansion saw Los Angeles become the first two-team market, the league's push into Canada, a renewed interest in NASL-era names, and a growing national presence. Expansion continues in 2012 when the Montreal Impact join MLS as the 19th team.[43] League executives are currently entertaining expansion offers for a 20th team in the near future.[44]

As of 2010, MLS has seen eighteen different clubs over the years with nine having won at least one MLS Cup, and eight winning at least one Supporters' Shield. Of the league's fifteen seasons, only five have seen the same club win both the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup.

For the 2011 season, teams are aligned as follows:

  1. Not a soccer-specific stadium
  2. To be replaced by a soccer-specific stadium

Team names

For more information on MLS team names, see the individual team entries.

Originally, in the style of other U.S. sports, teams were given nicknames at their creation such as the Columbus Crew, the San Jose Clash or the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Two exceptions to this were D.C. United and Miami Fusion F.C., adopting naming conventions usually seen in European clubs. However, new teams such as Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC continued this trend along with the Dallas Burn renaming themselves FC Dallas and the Kansas City Wizards renaming themselves Sporting Kansas City. Some of the club names have their origins in defunct American professional soccer leagues like the NASL, such as the 1970s-era San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.

C.D. Chivas USA is the only MLS club whose name does not specify a city, state, or region. The club is named for the Mexican team C.D. Guadalajara, who are often known by their nickname "Chivas", which translates to "Goats". The Mexican club, based in Guadalajara, and Chivas USA share the same ownership.[45] Though Real Salt Lake was not originally affiliated with Real Madrid, in 2006 the two clubs signed an agreement to play friendly matches every two years, and to co-sponsor a soccer academy and training facility in Utah.[46] The beverage company Red Bull owns the New York Red Bulls as well as teams in other leagues and sports.

Rivalry cups

Several teams annually compete for secondary rivalry cups that are usually contested by only two teams. Each cup is awarded to the eligible team with the better regular season record. The concept is comparable to minor trophies played for by American college football teams.

Derby Name Most Wins Titles Other Club(s) Titles Recent winner
Atlantic Cup D.C. United 10 New York Red Bulls 5 New York
Brimstone Cup FC Dallas 7 Chicago Fire 1 Dallas
California Clasico Los Angeles Galaxy 9 San Jose Earthquakes 4 Los Angeles
Cascadia Cup Seattle Sounders FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
3 Portland Timbers 2 Seattle
Heritage Cup Seattle Sounders FC 2 San Jose Earthquakes 1 Seattle
Pioneer Cup FC Dallas 2 Columbus Crew 1 Dallas
SuperClasico Los Angeles Galaxy 6 Chivas USA 1 Los Angeles
Rocky Mountain Cup Real Salt Lake 5 Colorado Rapids 2 Salt Lake
Texas Derby Houston Dynamo 4 FC Dallas 2 Houston
Trillium Cup Columbus Crew 3 Toronto FC 1 Toronto


Major League Soccer has faced criticism from FIFA and some domestic soccer fans for neither abiding by the FIFA calendar,[47] nor changing the league schedule to one that begins in August and ends in May. MLS' spring-to-fall format causes scheduling conflicts with the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the FIFA World Cup, and other FIFA-sanctioned international competitions held in June and July.[48] Such conflicts cause many of the league's top players to abandon their MLS teams during those two months so they can compete in these tournaments, and thus makes it harder for the league to recruit more of the world's best players.[49] Commissioner Don Garber previously stated the league was looking into changing to a fall-to-spring format, but has since said no such change will take place "any time soon." Said Garber: "To think about playing in Toronto in January or December, it's hard to imagine we are going to be able to do that."[50][51] If the league does change their schedule, Garber admitted that a winter break would be needed to avoid playing games in the snow, especially with several teams in colder climates.[52]

Other criticisms include the MLS playoff format. The postseason is structured in such a way that a team participating in the playoffs could play in the opposite conference than which they are a member. This format has been criticized as overly complicated and creating competitively uneven playoff brackets.[53] Most notably Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids, who played the regular season in the Western Conference, won the MLS Cup as the Eastern Conference champions in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Further criticism of the playoff system goes beyond this structural point and is made by those arguing playoffs in general greatly reduces the importance of the regular season; especially since over a majority of teams qualify for the postseason. Garber has acknowledged this tension but argues the league cannot "cater to the loudest voices who have this view that our sole purpose is to have a valuable regular season. Our purpose is to have a valuable competition, and that includes having playoffs that are more meaningful. Because we don't have a single table."[54]

Supporters groups

All teams in the league have independent supporters groups

Player statistics

Bold indicates active MLS players.

All-time regular season leaders

Regular Season only
Rank Player G
1 United States Jeff Cunningham 134
2 Bolivia Jaime Moreno 133
3 United States Landon Donovan 115
4 United States Ante Razov 114
5 United States Jason Kreis 108
6 United States Taylor Twellman 101
7 Canada Dwayne De Rosario 93
8 United States Edson Buddle 90
9 Guatemala Carlos Ruiz 88
United States Roy Lassiter 88
Goals Against Average
Regular Season only, 1500+ MINS
Rank Player GAA
1 Jamaica Donovan Ricketts 0.92
2 Puerto Rico Josh Saunders 1.04
3 United States Kasey Keller 1.06
Colombia Faryd Mondragón 1.06
5 United States Brad Friedel 1.11
6 Senegal Bouna Coundoul 1.13
7 Canada Pat Onstad 1.14
8 Denmark Jimmy Nielsen 1.15
9 United States Matt Pickens 1.17
10 United States Dan Kennedy 1.19
Games Played
Regular Season only
Rank Player GP
1 United States Kevin Hartman 386
2 United States Steve Ralston 378
3 United States Jeff Cunningham 364
4 Bolivia Jaime Moreno 340
5 United States Chris Klein 333
6 Jamaica Andy Williams 332
7 United States Jesse Marsch 321
Jamaica Tyrone Marshall 321
9 United States Chris Henderson 317
10 United States Pablo Mastroeni 316
Minutes Played
Regular Season only
Rank Player MINS
1 United States Kevin Hartman 34,560
2 United States Steve Ralston 33,142
3 United States Joe Cannon 27,554
3 United States Jay Heaps 27,363
5 United States Pablo Mastroeni 26,799
6 United States Nick Garcia 26,325
7 United States Chris Klein 26,249
8 United States Chris Henderson 26,240
9 United States Nick Rimando 26,073
10 Bolivia Jaime Moreno 25,792

Last Updated November 4, 2011

All-time playoff leaders

Playoffs only
Rank Player G
1 United States Landon Donovan 17
2 Guatemala Carlos Ruiz 16
3 United States Roy Lassiter 13
4 Bolivia Jaime Moreno 12
5 United States Ante Razov 11
6 United States Brian McBride 10
United States Preki 10
United States Taylor Twellman 10
9 El Salvador Raúl Díaz Arce 8
Trinidad and Tobago Stern John 8
Goals Against Average
Playoffs only, 300+ MINS
Rank Player GAA
1 United States Adin Brown 0.66
2 Jamaica Donovan Ricketts 0.74
3 United States Jon Conway 0.75
4 United States Jon Busch 0.81
5 United States Matt Reis 0.86
6 United States Jeff Cassar 0.89
7 United States Matt Pickens 0.94
8 Mexico Jorge Campos 0.99
9 United States Danny Cepero 1.00
United States Brad Guzan 1.00
Games Played
Playoffs only
Rank Player GP
1 United States Cobi Jones 45
2 United States Kevin Hartman 44
3 United States Diego Gutiérrez 40
4 United States Jeff Agoos 39
5 United States Chris Armas 37
United States Jesse Marsch 37
7 United States C. J. Brown 35
El Salvador Mauricio Cienfuegos 35
United States Ante Razov 35
United States Zach Thornton 35
Minutes Played
Playoffs only
Rank Player MINS
1 United States Kevin Hartman 4,042
2 United States Cobi Jones 3,938
3 United States Jeff Agoos 3,557
4 United States Chris Armas 3,383
5 United States Diego Gutiérrez 3,270
6 United States Jesse Marsch 3,228
7 United States C. J. Brown 3,221
8 United States Zach Thornton 3,193
9 United States Steve Ralston 3,164
10 El Salvador Mauricio Cienfuegos 2,992

As of MLS Cup 2009

MLS commissioners

MLS awards

There are 10 awards given out by the Major League Soccer each year.

  1. Major League Soccer MVP Award
  2. MLS Best XI
  3. MLS Coach of the Year Award
  4. MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award
  5. MLS Scudetto
  6. MLS Defender of the Year Award
  7. MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award
  8. MLS Golden Boot
  9. MLS Newcomer of the Year Award
  10. MLS Rookie of the Year Award

See also


  1. ^ "About Major League Soccer". MLSnet. September 5, 2008. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  2. ^ a b Fraser v. Major League Soccer, 01 F.3d 1296 (US 1st Cir. March 20, 2002) (“MLS owns all of the teams that play in the league (a total of 12 prior to the start of 2002), as well as all intellectual property rights, tickets, supplied equipment, and broadcast rights. … However, MLS has also relinquished some control over team operations to certain investors. MLS contracts with these investors to operate…the league's teams”).
  3. ^ "MLS moves to 34-game schedule in 2011". 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  4. ^ Wahl, Grant (October 31, 2011). "Beckham's Last Stand: In the fifth and final year of his MLS contract, he's back at the top of his game at last. Now, as the 2011 playoffs begin, he and the Galaxy look to stamp his American experiment a success by winning a championship". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-10-28. "[O]ne big difference between U.S. and European soccer is that the former has playoffs: In MLS the best team can still fall short when it matters most. .... 'With the playoffs you can end up winning the Supporters' Shield [for best regular-season record] and then go out in the first round.'" 
  5. ^ Davis, Steve (December 26, 2007). "Desire to maintain quality drives foreign player rule". ESPNsoccernet. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  6. ^ Lalas, Greg (2007-04-17). "Foreign exchange program". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  7. ^ "New York Red Bulls sign international star Thierry Henry". New York Red Bulls. 14 July 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  8. ^ "Spurs striker Robbie Keane joins MLS side LA Galaxy". BBC Sport. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "MLS launches Youth Development Initiative". Major League Soccer Communications. November 10, 2006. 
  10. ^ "Chicago Fire sold to Andell Holdings". Chicago Fire Media Relations. September 6, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  11. ^ Martin, Pat (May 4, 2007). "MLS comes out of the gates strong in '07". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  12. ^ Bell, Jack (2008-06-05). "Spanish Soccer Team Strikes Deal for Altidore". United States: Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  13. ^ "'Game First' initiatives enhance on-field product". Major League Soccer Communications. April 2, 2007. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  14. ^ Scott Van Voorhis (2007-08-02). "Revolution’s the goal: Somerville talks stadium with Krafts". Boston Herald. 
  15. ^ "MLS, NBC announce three-year broadcast deal". 2011-08-10. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  16. ^ TSN (2011-02-14). "TSN Becomes Official Broadcaster of MLS in Canada with Landmark Six-Year Deal". Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  17. ^ GolTV (Canada). "GolTV Canada Matches for March 11–17, 2011". Retrieved 2011-03-11.  (lists carriage of a Los Angeles vs. Seattle MLS game)
  18. ^ "MLS Game Guide (VAN-TOR)". 2011-03-19. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  19. ^ Sportsnet (2011-03-03). "ROGERS SPORTSNET IS THE NEW HOME FOR VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC". CNW Group. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  20. ^ Delia-Lavictoire, Yvan (2011-07-14). "Impact sign multimedia deal, name TVA Sports broadcaster". Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  21. ^ a b "MLS in 'eight-figure deal' for foreign TV rights". Sports Illustrated ( 23 December 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2008. 
  22. ^ a b Mickle, Tripp (22 December 2008). "MLS sells international TV rights to MP & Silva". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 23 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "ESPN to show MLS, European soccer in U.K.". CNN Sports Illustrated. Associated Press. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2009-07-28. [dead link]
  24. ^ Parker, Robin (2009-07-28). "ESPN channel takes shape with international fixtures". Broadcast Now. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  25. ^ "Miles Away From Ordinary: Corona To Be New Shirt Sponsor For Chivas USA". Sports Business Journal. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  26. ^ a b c "Toronto FC keeps bank’s name on jerseys". Sports Business Journal. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  27. ^ Jose de Jesus Ortiz (2010-12-06). "Dynamo reach $12.7 million jersey sponsorship deal". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  28. ^ "Bank of Montreal to become Impact's lead sponsor in Major League Sponsor". The Canadian Press. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  29. ^ "UnitedHealthcare, New England Revolution Announce Partnership". 2011-04-22. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  30. ^ "Union soccer team wins sponsorship from Bimbo bakery". 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  31. ^ Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian. "Timbers announce Alaska Airlines as sponsor for MLS jerseys". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  32. ^ "MLS Real Salt Lake Renews Jersey Deal With XanGo Through '13". Sports Business Journal. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  33. ^ Klayman, Ben (27 January 2009). "MLS San Jose team in jersey sponsor deal with Amway". Reuters. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  34. ^ Futterman, Matthew (2008-05-28). "WSJ. Xbox sponsorship deal with Seattle Sounders FC". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  35. ^ "Vancouver Whitecaps secure major shirt sponsorship". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  36. ^ a b Holmes, Stanley (November 22, 2004). "Soccer: Time To Kick It Up A Notch". Businessweek. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  37. ^ a b Longman, Jere (July 8, 2007). "Beckham Arrives to Find a Sport Thriving in Its Own Way". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  38. ^ Weinbach, John (September 28, 2006). "Major League Soccer to sell ad space on jerseys". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  39. ^ "Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Teams". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  40. ^ [1][dead link]
  41. ^ "Rules of Competition". MLS. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  42. ^ "2011 MLS Roster Rules". Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  43. ^ Charles Gooch (2010-05-07). "Montreal will join MLS in 2012". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  44. ^ "Garber: Expansion conversation goes beyond NY". 12 March 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  45. ^ "Chivas USA executives". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  46. ^ "Real Madrid will be back in '08". 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  47. ^ Lewis, Michael (June 19, 2010). "FIFA president Blatter says MLS needs to adopt int'l calendar to compete". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  48. ^ "MLS All-Star conflict with CONCACAF Champions League sends the wrong international message". February 1, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  49. ^ "MLS May Change Its Schedule To Help The US's World Cup Bid". Business Inside. November 22, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  50. ^ "Playoffs expand to 10 teams, more changes ahead" (Press release). Major League Soccer. November 22, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  51. ^ "MLS' Garber: No plans for international calendar". USA Today. February 15, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2011. 
  52. ^ "MLS looks at switching to international schedule". USA Today. November 22, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  53. ^ Post Comment (2010-11-03). "Confusing playoff format harms MLS". Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  54. ^ "MLS commissioner talks Pacific Northwest rivalry, league's future". CNN. 2011-03-11. 

External links

Preceded by
Division 1 Soccer League in the United States
Succeeded by
Current League

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