Major League Soccer
|Other club(s) from||Canada|
|Founded||December 17, 1993|
|Number of teams||19|
|Levels on pyramid||1 (USA), 1 (CAN)|
|Domestic cup(s)||U.S. Open Cup
|International cup(s)||CONCACAF Champions League|
|Current MLS Cup||Sporting Kansas City (2nd title)
|Current Supporters' Shield||New York Red Bulls (1st shield)
|Most MLS Cups||D.C. United &
Los Angeles Galaxy (4 titles)
|Most Supporters' Shields||D.C. United &
Los Angeles Galaxy (4 shields)
|TV partners||ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN Deportes,
NBC Sports Group,
UniMás, Univision Deportes,
TSN/TSN2, RDS, TVA
|2014 MLS season|
Major League Soccer (MLS) is a professional soccer league representing the sport's highest level in both the United States and Canada, with headquarters in New York City. MLS constitutes one of the major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada. Sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer), the league is composed of 19 teams—16 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. Seasons run from March to December, with each team playing 34 games in the regular season with the winner awarded the Supporters' Shield. Ten teams compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs, culminating in the championship game, the MLS Cup.
Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The first season took place in 1996 beginning with ten teams. Instead of operating as an association of independently owned teams, MLS is a single entity where each team is owned and controlled by the league's investors. The league's closed membership makes it one of the world's few soccer leagues not using promotion and relegation.
- 1 Competition format
- 2 History
- 3 Organization
- 4 Teams
- 5 Criticisms
- 6 Player records
- 7 MLS commissioners
- 8 MLS awards
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Major League Soccer's regular season runs from March to October with its 19 teams playing 34 games in an unbalanced schedule. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences. 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.
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.
In 1988, in exchange for FIFA awarding the right to host the 1994 World Cup, U.S. Soccer promised to establish a Division 1 professional soccer league. In 1993, the USSF selected Major League Professional Soccer (the precursor to MLS) as the exclusive Division 1 professional soccer league. Major League Soccer was officially formed in February 1995 as a limited liability company. MLS had originally planned to begin play in 1995 with 12 teams. However, MLS announced in November 1994 that it would delay its launch until 1996 and began with ten teams: Columbus Crew, D.C. United, New England Revolution, NY/NJ MetroStars, Tampa Bay Mutiny, Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, Kansas City Wiz, Los Angeles Galaxy, and San Jose Clash. The league had generated some buzz by managing to lure some marquee players from the 1994 World Cup to play in MLS—including U.S. stars such as Alexi Lalas, Tony Meola and Eric Wynalda, and foreign players such as Mexico's Jorge Campos and Colombia's Carlos Valderrama. Before its maiden season and inaugural draft, MLS allocated four marquee players across the initial ten teams.
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. The league added its first two expansion teams in 1998—the Miami Fusion and the Chicago Fire, with the Chicago Fire winning its first title in 1998 to interrupt United's dominance of the championship.
In 1996, the players filed an antitrust lawsuit, Fraser v. Major League Soccer, alleging that MLS's policy of centrally contracting players and limiting player salaries through a salary cap was an illegal conspiracy among team owners. The court ruled that MLS was a single entity and therefore incapable of conspiring with itself, and that the salary cap and other restrictions were a legal method for the League to maintain solvency and competitive parity, and avoid the problems that had plagued the defunct NASL.
After its first season, MLS suffered from a decline in attendance. The league's low attendance was all the more apparent in light of the fact that eight of the original ten teams began playing in stadiums owned or rented by American football teams, most of the venues with capacities of 60,000 or more.
MLS experimented with rules deviations in its early years in an attempt to "Americanize" what some viewed as a foreign sport. Some of these rules changes were borrowed from the original NASL, college soccer and high school soccer. MLS implemented 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). MLS also used 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.
MLS eventually conceded that the rule 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, but was abandoned after 2003 after the sudden-death rules were abolished from the Laws of the Game.
The league's quality was cast into doubt when the U.S. men's national team, which was made up largely of MLS players, was eliminated in the first round of the 1998 World Cup by losing to all opponents in the group stage and finishing 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 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 then-Commissioner Doug Logan in August 1999, with Don Garber, a former National Football League executive, hired as commissioner that same month. Under Garber's auspices, Columbus Crew Stadium was built in 1999, becoming MLS's first soccer-specific stadium. This began a trend among the majority of MLS teams and owners to construct their own venues, abandoning their former stadiums whose main tenants were either professional or college gridiron football teams.
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.
Major League Soccer lost an estimated $250 million during its first five years, and lost more than $350 million between its founding and the year 2004. The league's poor financial condition and declining attendances forced MLS to cut expenses to reduce operating losses. Prior to the 2001 season, MLS owners agreed to freeze team budgets and refrain from signing new expensive players. Also during the winter break between the 2000 and 2001 seasons, reports began circulating that MLS was considering trimming the league from 12 teams back to 10 teams. MLS ultimately announced in January 2002 that it had decided to contract the two Florida franchises, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion. 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, coincided with a resurgence in American soccer and MLS. MLS Cup 2002, held four months after the 2002 World Cup final, set an attendance record with 61,316 spectators at Gillette Stadium witnessing the Los Angeles Galaxy win their first title. This event held the largest crowd attendance in MLS Finals and second-highest attendance in overall domestic American soccer, after the North American Soccer League championship in 1978, which held nearly 75,000 at Giants Stadium.
MLS adopted the IFAB rules and standards in 2003, which included changes such as limiting teams to three substitutions per game. MLS had previously allowed a fourth, goalkeeper-only substitute, but changed the rule after MetroStars coach Bob Bradley used a loophole to insert an outfield player as a fourth substitute.
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.
Part of the League's financial stabilization plan involved moving teams out of large American football stadiums and into soccer-specific stadiums. From 2003 to 2008, the League saw the construction of six additional soccer-specific stadiums, largely funded by owners such as Lamar Hunt and Phil Anschutz, so that by the end of 2008, a majority of MLS teams were now in soccer-specific stadiums.
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.
|Los Angeles Galaxy||4||2012||8||4||2011||18|
|Sporting Kansas City||2||2013||3||1||2000||18|
|San Jose Earthquakes||2||2003||2||2||2012||16|
|Real Salt Lake||1||2009||2||0||—||9|
|New England Revolution||0||—||4||0||—||18|
|New York Red Bulls||0||—||1||1||2013||18|
|C.D. Chivas USA||0||—||0||0||—||9|
|Seattle Sounders FC||0||—||0||0||—||5|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||0||—||0||0||—||3|
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 placed 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. 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.
By 2008, San Jose had returned to the league under new ownership. In 2009, the expansion side Seattle Sounders FC opened to a crowd of 32,523 at Qwest Field. The 2010 season ushered in an expansion franchise in the Philadelphia Union and the opening of the New York Red Bulls' soccer-specific stadium, Red Bull Arena. That same summer saw the opening of Philadelphia's own new stadium, PPL Park and the debut of Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry, 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 the 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. The 2011 season saw Real Salt Lake reach the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League. During the season, the Galaxy signed another major international star in Republic of Ireland captain and all-time leading goalscorer Robbie Keane. The 2011 season drew an average attendance of 17,872, higher than the average attendances of the NBA and NHL, with nearly one third of MLS regular-season matches selling out.
In 2012, the Montreal Impact became the league's 19th franchise and the third located in Canada. The Impact, after playing their first MLS game at Vancouver, made their home debut at Olympic Stadium in front of a crowd of 58,912.
In 2013, MLS introduced New York City FC as the league's 20th team, and Orlando City Soccer Club as the league's 21st team, both to begin playing in 2015. During the 2013 season, U.S. star Clint Dempsey rejoined MLS from Tottenham of the English Premier League, signing with Seattle.
Major League Soccer operates under a single-entity structure in which teams are centrally owned by the league. Each team has an investor-operator that is a shareholder in the league. In order to control costs, the league shares revenues, negotiates player contracts, and holds players contracts instead of players contracting with individual teams. In Fraser v. Major League Soccer, a lawsuit filed in 1996 and decided in 2002, the league won a legal battle with its players in which the court ruled that MLS was a single entity that can lawfully centrally contract for player services. The court 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. Examples include the Anschutz Entertainment Group's sale of the MetroStars to Red Bull, for in "excess of $100 million." Commissioner Garber said that, "the sale was part of a plan to have AEG decrease its holdings in MLS."
Commissioner Garber stated that having multiple clubs owned by a single owner was a necessity in the league's first 10 years, but now that MLS 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 attract additional investors, the league made changes to the operating agreement between the league and its teams to improve team revenues and increase the incentives to be an individual club owner. These changes included granting owners 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.
The league now has 20 investor-operators for its 21 clubs. At one time AEG owned six clubs in MLS, and have since sold the Colorado Rapids, the MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), D.C. United and the Chicago Fire to new owners. AEG's remaining teams are the Los Angeles Galaxy and a 50% interest in the Houston Dynamo. The other major owner-investor in MLS, Hunt Sports, once owned three franchises, but now own only FC Dallas, having sold the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards.
Player quality and salaries
The average salary for MLS players is $160,000 as of 2013, lower than the average salaries in the Football League Championship, the second tier of English football ($322,670) or Holland's Eredivisie ($445,000). The median salary for MLS Players is $100,000 as of 2013.
MLS salaries are limited by a salary cap, which MLS has had in place since the league's inception in 1996. The purpose of the salary cap is to prevent the team's owners from unsustainable spending on player salaries, a practice that had doomed the North American Soccer League during the 1980s, and to prevent a competitive imbalance among teams. The salary cap survived a legal challenge by the players in the Fraser v. Major League Soccer lawsuit. For the 2013 season, the salary cap is $2.95 million per team and the maximum salary for any one player is $368,750. The Designated Player Rule allows teams to sign players whose salary does not count against the league's salary cap. The DP rule was instituted in 2007, and David Beckham was the first signing under the DP rule.
The league has developed several additional initiatives to improve quality of players—particularly young players—while still maintaining the salary cap. These initiatives have brought about an increase in the league's ability to compete on the field.
The league has required all of the league's teams to operate youth development programs since 2008.[dead link] The ability to sign up to two of its own home grown players to the senior team each year gives the league's teams an incentive to improve the quality of the league's home grown talent. One of the first examples of success in "home-grown" development was New York's Jozy Altidore, who rose to prominence as a teenager in MLS before his record transfer fee $10 million move to Villarreal in 2008. The various MLS teams' development academies play matches in a developmental league against youth academies from other leagues such as the Division II NASL and Division III USL Pro.
The league operates a Generation Adidas program, which is a joint venture between MLS and U.S. Soccer that encourages early entry of young American players into MLS. The Generation Adidas program has been in place since 1997, and has introduced players such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley into MLS. Players under the Home Grown Player rule are signed to Generation Adidas contracts.
The league operates the MLS Reserve League, which gives playing time to players who are not everyday starters for their MLS teams. The Reserve League has been in place since 2005 (with the exception of the 2009 & 2010 seasons). Beginning in 2013, MLS reached an agreement with the United Soccer Leagues to integrate the MLS Reserve League with the Division III USL Pro competition.
The league's "Core Players" initiative allows teams to re-sign players using retention funds that do not count against the salary cap. Retention funds were implemented in 2013 as a mechanism for teams to retain key players instead of losing them to foreign teams. Among the first high-profile players re-signed in 2013 using retention funds were U.S. national team regulars Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.
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. 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 of twelve stadiums specifically designed for soccer. The development of soccer-specific stadiums owned by the teams has generated a better gameday experience for the fans, and has yielded positive financial results, with teams no longer having to pay to rent out facilities, and teams able to control revenue streams including concessions, parking, naming rights, and hosting non MLS events.
Columbus Crew owner Lamar Hunt started this trend in 1999 by constructing 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. FC Dallas opened Pizza Hut Park, now Toyota Stadium, in 2005. 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 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, in 2011, the Portland Timbers made their MLS debut in a newly renovated Jeld-Wen Field (originally a multi-purpose venue but turned into a soccer-specific facility), and Sporting Kansas City opened in June their new Sporting Park (originally Livestrong Sporting Park). The Houston Dynamo moved into their new BBVA Compass Stadium in May 2012. The Montreal Impact plays most of its home games in the soccer-specific Saputo Stadium, built by the city's former USL/NASL team and expanded to hold over 20,000. Montreal began using the stadium in June 2012 when the expansion project was completed. The Impact continue to use nearby Olympic Stadium for games that require a larger capacity.
The development of additional MLS stadiums is in progress. The San Jose Earthquakes, who currently play at Buck Shaw Stadium, broke ground for a new soccer-specific stadium in October 2012, with construction expected to be completed before the 2015 season. D.C. United plays home games at a former NFL and Major League Baseball venue, RFK Stadium, but in 2013, D.C. United announced the signing of a public-private partnership term sheet to build a 20,000-25,000-seat soccer stadium in Washington, D.C. Two expansion teams that will enter MLS in 2015—Orlando City SC and New York City FC—intend to move into new soccer-specific stadiums, although not in time for the 2015 season.
Several remaining clubs play in stadiums not originally built for MLS and have no current plans to move. The New England Revolution play home games at a National Football League venue, Gillette Stadium. 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 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.
At the outset, MLS signed deals for coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, while Univision, Galavision, and UniMas 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 Soccer and Fox Deportes began airing matches in 2003.
MLS reached an eight-year deal with ESPN in 2006 for the 2007 - 2014 seasons, the first in the league's history 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 featured a live match each week, usually in primetime.
The 2007 season was the first in the league's history in which every regular season match was telecast live. The league 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, which broadcasts out-of-market matches. 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. Univision joined Fox Soccer and HDNet as the U.S. national outlets.
In November 2011, the LA Galaxy reached a 10-year $55 million contract with Time Warner Cable.
In 2011, MLS signed a three-year deal with NBC Sports for the 2012-2014 seasons to nationally televise 40 matches per year, primarily on NBCSN, but also with select matches broadcast on the NBC network. MLS moving from Fox Soccer to the more widely distributed NBC Sports Network proved successful, with MLS 2012 viewership on NBC Sports double the 2011 viewership on Fox Soccer.
With the addition of Toronto FC, coverage of MLS expanded into Canada in 2007; from 2007 to 2010, the CBC and Sportsnet, and later GolTV Canada (after it was acquired by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the team), all broadcast Toronto games 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 networks (in which ESPN owns a 20% interest) announced a six-year deal for national MLS broadcast rights in Canada. TSN and TSN2 broadcast 24 games during the 2011 season and will air a minimum of 30 games per season during the subsequent five seasons, all featuring at least one Canadian team. French-language sister networks RDS and RDS2 have similar broadcast rights. The networks also carry the MLS Cup and select playoff games, the MLS All-Star Game, and additional games not involving Canadian teams. GolTV Canada will also continue to carry selected all-U.S. MLS matchups.
As in the United States, the individual Canadian teams have also negotiated separate broadcast deals for games not aired under the TSN/RDS national contract. Toronto FC regional games are currently split between the TSN and Sportsnet families of networks (their parent companies, Rogers Communications and Bell Canada, jointly own a stake in TFC's parent company). Sportsnet also airs Vancouver Whitecaps FC games (primarily on its Pacific feed and national network Sportsnet One), and TVA Sports airs Montreal Impact games.
MLS and Soccer United Marketing signed an international television broadcast contract in 2008 through 2013 with sports media company MP & Silva, owned by London-based entrepreneur Riccardo Silva. The figure is reportedly an "eight-figure deal" that covers the "rights to all MLS games, tournaments and events." 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. 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.
Profitability and revenues
|Los Angeles Galaxy||Herbalife||$4.4 million|
|Montreal Impact||Bank of Montreal||Undisclosed|
|New England Revolution||UnitedHealthcare||Undisclosed|
|Orlando City SC||Orlando Health||Undisclosed|
|Philadelphia Union||Bimbo||$3 million|
|Portland Timbers||Alaska Airlines||Undisclosed|
|Real Salt Lake||LifeVantage||$3 million|
|Seattle Sounders FC||Xbox||$4 million|
|Sporting Kansas City||Ivy Funds||$2.5 million|
|Toronto FC||Bank of Montreal||C$4 million+|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||Bell Canada||C$4 million+|
|The N.Y. Red Bulls jersey sponsor is Red Bull, which owns the club.|
|Teams without a jersey sponsor:
Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes.
Major League Soccer has demonstrated positive signs of long-term profitability since 2004. The single-entity ownership structure, salary cap, and the marketing umbrella Soccer United Marketing (SUM) have all contributed towards MLS's financial security. As soccer-specific stadiums are built, ownership expands, and television coverage increases, MLS has seen its revenues increase while controlling costs.
Television coverage and revenue have increased since the league's early years. In 2006, MLS reached an 8-year TV deal with ESPN spanning the 2007-2014 seasons, and marked the first time that MLS earned rights fees, reported to be worth $7–8 million annually. In September 2012 the league extended its distribution agreement with London based Media rights agency MP & Silva until 2014 in a deal worth $10 million annually. Total league TV revenues are a little over $40 million annually.
In early 2005, MLS signed a 10-year $150 million sponsorship deal with Adidas. 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 established a floor of $500,000 per shirt sponsorship, with the league receiving a flat fee of $200,000 per deal. As of June 2012, fifteen teams have signed sponsorship deals to have company logos placed on the front of their team jerseys (and another team is directly owned by its shirt sponsor), and the league average from jersey sponsors is about $2.4 million.
The 2003 season saw the Los Angeles Galaxy make a profit in their first season at The Home Depot Center, while FC Dallas turned a profit after moving into Pizza Hut Park in 2005. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in 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. However in 2008 there were only three profitable MLS clubs; Los Angeles Galaxy, Toronto FC and FC Dallas. According to the League, in 2009 there were only two profitable MLS clubs, the Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC.
The league has continued to improve upon its fiscal health, however. In November 2013, Forbes magazine published its first valuation of MLS teams since 2008, and revealed that ten of league's nineteen teams earned an operating profit in 2012, while two broke even and seven had a loss. Forbes estimated that the league's collective profit was approximately $34 million. Forbes valued the league's franchises to be worth $103 million on average, almost three times as much as the $37 million average valuation in 2008. The Seattle Sounders FC franchise was named the most valuable at $175 million, a 483% gain over the $30 million league entrance fee it paid in 2009.
MLS currently follows IFAB rules and standards. In 2005, the league adopted a playoff extra time structure that followed new IFAB standards: two full 15-minute periods, followed by a penalty shootout if necessary. The away goals rule is not used in any playoff round.
The 19 MLS clubs are 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.
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 original NASL-era names, and a growing national presence. The league will expand to 21 teams with the addition of New York City FC and Orlando City SC in 2015. The league will expand to twenty-four teams by 2020, according to Garber.
Throughout MLS history, twenty one different clubs have competed in the league with nine having won at least one MLS Cup and eight winning at least one Supporters' Shield. Of the league's seventeen completed seasons, only six have witnessed the same club win both trophies.
Since the 2012 season, teams were aligned as follows:
- Not a soccer-specific stadium / Shared facility
- To be replaced by a soccer-specific stadium
|Team||City||Stadium||Year Founded||Joining League|
|New York City FC||New York, NY||Yankee Stadium 1 2||2013||2015|
|Orlando City SC||Orlando, FL||Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium 1 2||2013||2015|
|Miami Fusion||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Lockhart Stadium||1998 – 2001|
|Tampa Bay Mutiny||Tampa, FL||Raymond James Stadium||1996 – 2001|
- For more information on MLS team names, see the individual team entries.
Originally, in the style of other U.S. sports leagues, teams were given nicknames at their creation. Examples include the Columbus Crew, the San Jose Clash and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Two early exceptions to this trend were D.C. United and Miami Fusion F.C., adopting naming conventions usually seen in European clubs. However, newer teams such as Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC reversed this trend, along with the Dallas Burn (renaming themselves FC Dallas) and the Kansas City Wizards (renaming themselves Sporting Kansas City).
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 its nickname "Chivas", which translates to "Goats". The Mexican club, based in Guadalajara, and Chivas USA share the same ownership. 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. The beverage company Red Bull owns the New York Red Bulls as well as teams in other leagues and sports.
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||12||New York Red Bulls||6||New York Red Bulls|
|Brimstone Cup||FC Dallas||7||Chicago Fire||2||Chicago|
|California Clásico||Los Angeles Galaxy||10||San Jose Earthquakes||5||San Jose|
|Cascadia Cup||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||4||Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders FC
|Heritage Cup||Seattle Sounders FC||3||San Jose Earthquakes||2||Seattle|
|Pioneer Cup||FC Dallas||2||Columbus Crew||2||Columbus|
|SuperClasico||Los Angeles Galaxy||6||Chivas USA||1||Los Angeles|
|Rocky Mountain Cup||Real Salt Lake||6||Colorado Rapids||3||Colorado|
|Texas Derby||Houston Dynamo||5||FC Dallas||3||Dallas|
|Trillium Cup||Columbus Crew||4||Toronto FC||1||Columbus|
* Cascadia Cup titles include those won by USL franchises prior to MLS expansion into the Pacific Northwest.
Major League Soccer has faced criticism from FIFA and some domestic soccer fans for neither abiding by the FIFA calendar, 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. 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. 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." If the league does change its schedule, Garber admitted that a winter break would be needed to avoid playing games in the snow, especially with several teams in colder climates.
Other criticisms include the MLS Cup Playoffs. Some argue that playoffs in general greatly reduce the importance of the regular season; especially when 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."
Statistics below are for all-time regular season leaders. Bold indicates active MLS players.
Player records (active)
Statistics below are for all-time leaders who are still playing. Statistics are for regular season only.
- Doug Logan (1996–99) - He led the league through a record-breaking premier season, averaging over 17,000 fans per match. Sports Business Daily named Logan and the MLS staff Sports Industrialists of the Year for 1996. During Logan's last year at MLS, the league lost $34 million. MLS was reported to have lost $250 million in its first five years under Logan.
- Don Garber (1999–present) - One of his first moves as commissioner was to bring the league more in line with the international standard, eliminating the shootout and letting the referee keep the time on the field. Overtime and a fourth keeper sub were the only surviving non-standard rules, and both would go after the 2003 season. After the 2001 season, two teams, the Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny were contracted, which helped lead to the financial stabilization of the league. Don Garber appears to be following a much longer-term growth strategy than all previous soccer league commissioners of the NASL and MLS have taken. He has emphasized slow, steady growth of the league over many decades rather than attempting to force its way into the headlines (David Beckham deal included) like the NASL did. Before Garber came into the Commissioner's office, the league had only one team in its own stadium, the Columbus Crew, whose Crew Stadium was built by Lamar Hunt in 1999. Due to this, most clubs were losing money. Garber met with league owners Philip Anschutz, Lamar Hunt and Robert Kraft around the turn of the millennium to decide what future actions should be taken to ensure the league's survival. Their decision was to build the sport following the model given by Lamar Hunt's Crew Stadium, and also added a few elements to what might appropriately be called the "Garber League Building Plan." One of the pillars of the strategy rested upon the creation of Soccer United Marketing, a commercial soccer company that would secure rights to many important commercial soccer properties in the United States. This company would then be owned by all the owners of Major League Soccer. In 2003, another portion of the plan began to be implemented. This was the building of soccer-specific stadiums for all the league's teams. In 2003, the "cathedral of American Soccer", the Home Depot Center, was built to house the Los Angeles Galaxy, and both senior national teams. It was the second (behind Crew Stadium) of many soccer-specific stadiums in America, with four more built by the start of the 2007 MLS season. Commercially Garber has also made huge strides over a long period of time. One of the most important of those commercial landmarks for the league was the first-ever TV rights deals that Major League Soccer agreed to with ABC/ESPN, Univision, Fox Soccer Channel, and HDNet. Between them the league took in approximately $20 million each year and was no longer be responsible for producing the games. NBC replaced Fox Soccer starting with the 2012 season. The new NBC agreement brings in a reported $10 million each year to the league. Garber has indicated that increasing TV ratings remains one of MLS' greatest challenges.
The league presents 10 annual awards for outstanding achievements, mostly to players with one award each for a coach and a team.
- Major League Soccer MVP Award
- MLS Best XI
- MLS Coach of the Year Award
- MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award
- MLS Scudetto
- MLS Defender of the Year Award
- MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award
- MLS Golden Boot
- MLS Newcomer of the Year Award
- MLS Rookie of the Year Award
- Simon Borg (December 17, 2010). "MLS celebrates 17th anniversary of formal debut". MLSsoccer.com. Retrieved September 14, 2013.
- "Major League Soccer, L.L.C. Company Information". Hoovers, Inc. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- "About Major League Soccer". MLSnet. September 5, 2008. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved September 5, 2008.
- 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”).
- "Competition Rules and Regulations". Major League Soccer. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- Wahl, Grant (October 31, 2011). "Beckham's Last Stand". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 28, 2011. "'With the playoffs you can end up winning the Supporters' Shield [for best regular-season record] and then go out in the first round.'"
- Drew Zuhosky Daily, Major League Soccer: Still Big, Still Bold, Nearly 20 Years Later, Dec 19, 2012, http://drewzuhoskydaily.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/major-league-soccer-still-big-still-bold-nearly-20-years-later/
- Fraser v. Major League Soccer, 97 F.Supp.2d 130 (D. Mass 2000)
- Chicago Tribune, Mls Boots Commissioner, Turns To Nfl For Successor, August 4, 1999, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-08-04/sports/9908040033_1_nfl-international-sunil-gulati-doug-logan
- Holmes, Stanley (November 22, 2004). "Soccer: Time To Kick It Up A Notch". Businessweek. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- New York Times, For M.L.S., the Sport's Future Is in the Eye of the Beholder, Nov 11, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/11/sports/soccer/11soccer.html
- SoccerTimes.com, MLS fans in several cities wait nervously for contraction decision, Dec 27, 2001, http://www.soccertimes.com/wagman/2001/dec27.htm
- ESPN.com Soccernet, MLS considering weight-loss program, http://espn.go.com/soccer/s/2000/1228/977891.html
- "MLS Cup 2002". Major League Soccer. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
- North American Soccer League Players, Standings, http://www.nasljerseys.com/Stats/Standings.htm
- Davis, Steve (December 26, 2007). "Desire to maintain quality drives foreign player rule". ESPNsoccernet. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- Lalas, Greg (April 17, 2007). "Foreign exchange program". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 22, 2007.
- "New York Red Bulls sign international star Thierry Henry". New York Red Bulls. July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
- "Spurs striker Robbie Keane joins MLS side LA Galaxy". BBC Sport. August 16, 2011. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
- L.A. Times, MLS steadily builds toward goal of profitability, Nov 18, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/18/sports/la-sp-mls-finances-20111119
- "Fire tie Impact in MLS opener". ESPN.com. Associated Press. March 17, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- "Major League Soccer announces New York expansion team: New York City Football Club". Retrieved May 21, 2013.
- "MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER AWARDS EXPANSION TEAM TO ORLANDO". orlandocitysoccer.com. Orlando City Soccer Club. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- New York Times, Red Bull Is New Owner, and Name, of MetroStars, March 10, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/10/sports/soccer/10soccer.html?_r=0
- Los Angeles Times, MLS Looks Way Down the Field, March 29, 2006, http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/29/sports/sp-mls29
- Sports Illustrated, Garber, Horowitz discuss MLS contraction, Jan 9, 2002, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/soccer/us/news/2002/01/09/mls_quotes/
- "Chicago Fire sold to Andell Holdings". Chicago Fire Media Relations. September 6, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- SBNation.com, MLS player salary release illustrates gains of the middle-class, May 16, 2013, http://www.sbnation.com/mls/2013/5/16/4327752/mls-player-salary-release-may-2012
- Soccerlens, Finance in English Football: Wage Disparities Between the Divisions, April 30, 2012, http://soccerlens.com/finance-in-english-football-wage-disparities-between-the-divisions/92692/
- It's all about sports, Dutch football: financial difficulties of clubs should be no surprise, Dec 3, 2009, http://www.jkmconsultancy.nl/2009/11/dutch-football-financial-difficulties-of-clubs-should-be-no-surprise/
- Martin, Pat (May 4, 2007). "MLS comes out of the gates strong in '07". monstersandcritics.com. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- "MLS launches Youth Development Initiative". Major League Soccer Communications. November 10, 2006.
- "MLS launches youth development initiative". espnfc.com. November 10, 2006.
- Bell, Jack (June 5, 2008). "Spanish Soccer Team Strikes Deal for Altidore". United States: NYTimes.com. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- "US U-20 players headline 2006 class". Soccernet.espn.go.com. January 11, 2006. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- "MLS, USL Pro reach deal on restructured Reserve League". www.mlssoccer.com. January 23, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
- MLSsoccer.com, Retention funds explained: MLS reveals list of 14 players like Graham Zusi re-signed under initiative, August 2, 2013, http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2013/08/02/retention-funds-explained-mls-reveals-list-14-players-graham-zusi-re-signed-
- "'Game First' initiatives enhance on-field product". Major League Soccer Communications. April 2, 2007. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- New York Times, M.L.S. Continues to Bolster Growing Brand With New Stadium in Houston, May 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/sports/soccer/mls-keeps-moving-up-as-houston-dynamo-open-stadium.html?_r=0
- Forbes, Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Teams, 20 November 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrissmith/2013/11/20/major-league-soccers-most-valuable-teams/
- Scott Van Voorhis (August 2, 2007). "Revolution's the goal: Somerville talks stadium with Krafts". Boston Herald.
- "MLS, NBC announce three-year broadcast deal". MLSsoccer.com. August 10, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- Philly.com, Analyzing NBC's ratings in its first season of broadcasting Major League Soccer, Nov 29, 2012, http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/thegoalkeeper/Analyzing-NBCs-ratings-in-its-first-season-of-broadcasting-Major-League-Soccer.html
- TSN (February 14, 2011). "TSN Becomes Official Broadcaster of MLS in Canada with Landmark Six-Year Deal". Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- GolTV (Canada). "GolTV Canada Matches for March 11–17, 2011". Retrieved March 11, 2011. (lists carriage of a Los Angeles vs. Seattle MLS game)
- Sportsnet (March 3, 2011). "ROGERS SPORTSNET IS THE NEW HOME FOR VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC". CNW Group. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Delia-Lavictoire, Yvan (July 14, 2011). "Impact sign multimedia deal, name TVA Sports broadcaster". MLSSoccer.com. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- "MLS in 'eight-figure deal' for foreign TV rights". Sports Illustrated (Goal.com). December 23, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
- Mickle, Tripp (December 22, 2008). "MLS sells international TV rights to MP & Silva". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
- "ESPN to show MLS, European soccer in U.K". CNN Sports Illustrated. Associated Press. July 28, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2009.[dead link]
- Parker, Robin (July 28, 2009). "ESPN channel takes shape with international fixtures". Broadcast Now. Retrieved July 28, 2009.
- McCarthy, Jack (January 17, 2012). "Feeling their oats: Fire get jersey sponsorship deal with Quaker". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
- "Miles Away From Ordinary: Corona To Be New Shirt Sponsor For Chivas USA". Sports Business Journal. January 26, 2011. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
- McCarthy, Jack (February 15, 2012). "Crew partner with Barbasol as new jersey sponsor". MLS. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
- "FC Dallas signs multi-year, multi-million dollar jersey deal with AdvoCare". MLS. June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
- "Herbalife Renews Sponsorship With MLS Galaxy For A Record 10 Years, $44M". Sports Business Daily. March 16, 2012. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
- "BMO to become Impact's lead MLS sponsor". Sportsnet. June 14, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
- "UnitedHealthcare, New England Revolution Announce Partnership". Businesswire.com. April 22, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- "Orlando Health soccer deal OK'd". Orlandosentinel.com. November 18, 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- "Union soccer team wins sponsorship from Bimbo bakery". Philly.com. January 11, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian (September 2, 2010). "Timbers announce Alaska Airlines as sponsor for MLS jerseys". Oregonlive.com. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- "Real Salt Lake signs one of top MLS jersey deals". Sports Business Journal. October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- Futterman, Matthew (May 28, 2008). "WSJ. Xbox sponsorship deal with Seattle Sounders FC". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- "Sporting KC sign shirt sponsor deal with Ivy Funds". Sbnation.com. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- "Vancouver Whitecaps secure major shirt sponsorship". Sportspromedia.com. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- Sports Business Daily, ESPN, MLS Reach Eight-Year TV Deal That Includes Rights Fees, August 7, 2006, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2006/08/Issue-216/Sports-Media/ESPN-MLS-Reach-Eight-Year-TV-Deal-That-Includes-Rights-Fees.aspx
- "MLS agrees golden deal with MP & Silva - Sports Broadcast news - Soccer". SportsPro Media. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- "MP & Silva extends MLS deal - Sports Broadcast news - Soccer North America". SportsPro Media. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- Weinbach, John (September 28, 2006). "Major League Soccer to sell ad space on jerseys". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- The Columbus Dispatch, Crew catching up financially to rest of MLS, Sep 13, 2012, http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2012/09/13/scoring-goals.html
- Longman, Jere (July 8, 2007). "Beckham Arrives to Find a Sport Thriving in Its Own Way". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- "Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Teams". Forbes.com. September 9, 2008. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- [dead link]
- "2011 MLS Roster Rules". MLSsoccer.com. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
- Mayers, Joshua (November 20, 2011). "Sounders FC Blog | MLS announces changes to 2012 schedule, playoff format | Seattle Times Newspaper". Seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- "Chivas USA executives". Cdchivasusa.com. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- "Real Madrid will be back in '08". Findarticles.com. September 2, 2006. Retrieved October 11, 2011.[dead link]
- 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.
- "MLS All-Star conflict with CONCACAF Champions League sends the wrong international message". the11.ca. February 1, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- "MLS May Change Its Schedule To Help The US's World Cup Bid". Business Inside. November 22, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- "Playoffs expand to 10 teams, more changes ahead" (Press release). Major League Soccer. November 22, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
- "MLS' Garber: No plans for international calendar". USA Today. February 15, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
- "MLS looks at switching to international schedule". USA Today. November 22, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- "MLS commissioner talks Pacific Northwest rivalry, league's future". CNN. March 11, 2011.
- See Don Garber
- Eligon, John (November 11, 2005). "For M.L.S., the Sport's Future Is in the Eye of the Beholder". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- "How Don Garber helped the MLS Get Its Game On". March 16, 2009
- "Deal with NBC could be just the profile boost the MLS is looking for". August 10, 2011
- "MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks about growth of league with All-Star Game headed to Red Bull Arena". July 24, 2011
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