Major League Soccer
|Other club(s) from||Canada|
|Founded||December 13, 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||Los Angeles Galaxy (4th title)
|Current Supporters' Shield||San Jose Earthquakes (2nd 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
|2013 MLS season|
Major League Soccer (MLS) is a professional soccer league representing the sport's highest level in the United States and Canada, with headquarters in New York City. 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.
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 began play in 1996 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 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 was the Miami Fusion.
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, which was 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 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, 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.
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.
|Los Angeles Galaxy||4||2012||8||18|
|San Jose Earthquakes||2||2003||2||16|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||2000||2||18|
|Real Salt Lake||1||2009||1||9|
|New England Revolution||0||—||4||18|
|New York Red Bulls||0||—||1||18|
|C.D. Chivas USA||0||—||0||9|
|Seattle Sounders FC||0||—||0||5|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||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. 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.
In 2012, the Montreal Impact became the league's 19th franchise and the 3rd to be 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.
MLS operates under a single-entity structure in which teams are centrally owned by the league. Each team has an owner-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. The league won a bitter legal battle with its players over its economic system, which was eventually resolved with the players gaining some improved benefits in return for accepting the single-entity structure. 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, 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 in "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 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 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 (the latter being partially owned by Golden Boy Promotions). 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.
The 2006–2007 MLS offseason has been considered by some to be the most productive in the history of the league, 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, which requires 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.
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 and completion of twelve 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, now StubHub 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 Sporting Park (originally Livestrong Sporting Park). The Houston Dynamo opened the 2012 season with a 7-game road trip before moving into their new BBVA Compass Stadium in May.
Five remaining clubs play in stadiums not originally built for MLS. The New England Revolution play home games at a National Football League venue, Gillette Stadium; and D.C. United play home games at a former NFL and Major League Baseball (MLB) venue, RFK Stadium. New England and D.C. are actively seeking to build their own soccer stadiums. 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 San Jose Earthquakes, who currently play at Buck Shaw Stadium, have received approval for their plans to build a new soccer-specific stadium, and broke ground on October 21, 2012. Construction is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2014 season. 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 is playing most of its home games in the soccer-specific Saputo Stadium, built by the city's former USL/NASL team and now expanded to hold slightly over 20,000. Because the expansion project was not completed until June 2012, the team started its inaugural season at nearby Olympic Stadium, a current Canadian Football League and former MLB venue originally built for the 1976 Summer Olympics. The Impact will continue to use Olympic Stadium for games that require a larger capacity.
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 Soccer" in 2011) 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.
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.
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 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 channels (in which ESPN owns a 20% interest) announced a six-year deal for national MLS broadcast rights in Canada. TSN or 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 channels will 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 channels, as a result of TFC being jointly controlled since 2012 by the two channels' parent companies. Sportsnet also airs Vancouver Whitecaps FC games (primarily on its Pacific feed and national network Sportsnet One), and TVA Sports airs Montreal Impact games.
Sports Business Journal reported on December 23, 2008 that MLS and Soccer United Marketing had signed an international television broadcast contract 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, including MLS regular season, MLS Cup Playoffs, MLS Cup, and the international competitions SuperLiga, InterLiga, and Pan-Pacific Championship" (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.
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.
|D.C. United||Volkswagen||$3.1 million–$3.7 million|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||Herbalife||$4.4 million|
|Montreal Impact||Bank of Montreal||Undisclosed|
|New England Revolution||UnitedHealthcare||Undisclosed|
|Philadelphia Union||Bimbo||$3 million|
|Portland Timbers||Alaska Airlines||Undisclosed|
|Real Salt Lake||XanGo||$1 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 New York Red Bulls jersey sponsor is Red Bull, which owns the club.|
|Teams without jersey sponsor: Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes.|
Major League Soccer lost more than $350 million between its founding and the year 2004, according to a report by BusinessWeek released that year. 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, while FC Dallas turned a profit in similar fashion after moving into Pizza Hut Park in 2005.
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. Online gambling and hard liquor sponsorships are prohibited. 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.
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. 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.
MLS currently follows IFAB rules and standards with few differences. MLS experimented with deviations in its early years. Some of these changes were used in the original 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 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. 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 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.
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 original NASL-era names, and a growing national presence. League executives are currently entertaining expansion offers for a 20th team in the near future.
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.
For the 2013 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||TBD||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||11||New York Red Bulls||5||D.C. United|
|Brimstone Cup||FC Dallas||7||Chicago Fire||2||Chicago|
|California Clásico||Los Angeles Galaxy||10||San Jose Earthquakes||5||San Jose|
|Cascadia Cup||Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
|3||All teams have three wins*||3||Portland|
|Heritage Cup||San Jose Earthquakes||2||Seattle Sounders FC||2||San Jose|
|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||5||Colorado Rapids||2||Salt Lake|
|Texas Derby||Houston Dynamo||4||FC Dallas||3||Dallas|
|Trillium Cup||Columbus Crew||4||Toronto FC||1||Columbus|
* Cascadia Cup titles include competition when the teams were in the USL, including two wins by the Portland Timbers 2009-10 when the Sounders were not part of the competition as they preceded the others into MLS.
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 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.
Other criticisms include the MLS playoff format. Prior to the 2012 MLS season, the postseason was structured in such a way that a team participating in the playoffs could play in the opposite conference than which they are a member. 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 reduce the importance of the regular season; especially since 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."
Bold indicates active MLS players.
All-time regular season leaders
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
- "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: 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 October 28, 2011. "[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.'"
- "MLS Cup 2002". Major League Soccer. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
- 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.
- Associated Press (March 17, 2012). "Fire tie Impact in MLS opener". ESPN.com. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- "Major League Soccer announces New York expansion team: New York City Football Club". Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "Chicago Fire sold to Andell Holdings". Chicago Fire Media Relations. September 6, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
- Martin, Pat (May 4, 2007). "MLS comes out of the gates strong in '07". monstersandcritics.com. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
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