Major League Soccer

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Major League Soccer
Full name Major League Soccer
abbreviation MLS
Association USSF
First edition 1994
hierarchy 1st League
Teams 26th
master Seattle Sounders (2nd title)
Record champions LA Galaxy  (5 tracks)
Record player AmericansAmericans Nick Rimando (514)
Record scorer AmericansAmericans Chris Wondolowski (159)
Current season 2020
Qualification for CONCACAF Champions League
Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

The Major League Soccer , shortly MLS , is the top division in the US and Canadian football . The MLS is an independent organization, but is recognized by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The league is assigned to the North and Central American continental association CONCACAF , for whose competitions the teams can qualify.

In the 2020 season, 26 teams will take part, 23 of them from the USA and three from Canada. A season lasts from March to December and starts with the regular season , in which each team plays 34 games. The most successful team wins the MLS Supporters' Shield . The 14 best teams in the league then play the so-called MLS Cup Playoffs . In the knockout system, it is determined who will ultimately win the championship title and thus the MLS Cup . Due to the franchise system, no promotions or relegations are possible.



In 1999 the first pure soccer stadium (soccer-specific stadium) of an MLS franchise was built, the Columbus Crew Stadium .
DC United home game against Chicago Fire (March 2009)

There have been previous attempts to establish a professional league in North America. The best-known forerunner of the MLS was the North American Soccer League (NASL, 1968-1984), in which soccer legends such as Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer were under contract.

1988 had to United States Soccer Federation of FIFA commitments to establish a professional and national soccer league. This was one of the conditions for the contract to host the soccer World Cup in 1994 . On December 17, 1993, the USSF established the Major League Professional Soccer (the predecessor of the MLS) as the highest professional league in the United States. Major League Soccer was founded in February 1995 as an independent organization. Originally, it was planned to start the league from 1995 with twelve teams. However, in November 1994 the MLS announced that it would postpone the start of the season to 1996 and limit it to the following ten teams: Columbus Crew , DC United , New York / New Jersey MetroStars , New England Revolution , Tampa Bay Mutiny , Colorado Rapids , Dallas Burn , Kansas City Wiz , LA Galaxy and San Jose Clash .

To make the start of the league attractive for spectators and investors, several well-known players such as B. the then US internationals Alexi Lalas , Tony Meola and Eric Wynalda signed . Internationally, players like the Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos and the Colombian international Carlos Valderrama attracted attention. Before the first season started, the MLS distributed four of these well-known players to each team.

The first few years of the league were dominated by DC United, who were coached by the later US national coach Bruce Arena . They won the MLS Cup three times in the first four seasons. In 1998 two more teams (expansion teams) came to the MLS. Miami Fusion and Chicago Fire took part in the game operation, with Chicago winning the MLS Cup in its first season.

After the first season, interest in the MLS declined sharply. On the one hand, it was because the game was not played in soccer stadiums, but often in football stadiums that had a capacity of over 60,000 spectators. So no great mood could arise. In the years to come, the set of rules was also repeatedly adapted. Elements from college soccer , high school soccer and the former professional league North American Soccer League have been adopted. For example, in the event of a tie there was always a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner or a point was calculated for a win (not three points, as is common in Europe). The MLS also limited the playing time to exactly 90 minutes, so there was a clock in the stadiums that counted the time backwards. Gradually, these rules were later abolished.

During these years more and more American talents could cause a sensation in the league. For example, DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan made it out of the league and made it to the US national team. Established national players like Brian McBride , Eddie Pope and Clint Mathis were able to keep their national player status through their performances in the league. League football developed playfully. This also resulted in many foreign players leaving the USA again.

After there had been more and more financial problems, the previous Commissioner Doug Logan, the main person in charge of the MLS, was replaced by the NFL manager Don Garber in 1999 . Under his leadership, the first soccer-specific stadium of an MLS franchise, the Columbus Crew Stadium , was built in 1999 . As a result, other MLS teams also implemented their plans for new stadiums. This made the football fields more attractive to the fans.

Overall, Major League Soccer made a loss of $ 350,000,000 in its first eight years. As a result, the leadership was forced to stop many of the short- and medium-term plans to expand the league. Before the 2001 season, all franchise owners agreed to freeze the budget and no longer sign new expensive players. In January 2002, the two teams Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion were withdrawn from the MLS for financial reasons and discontinued their franchise operations.

League resurgence

Red Bull Arena , in 2006 the Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull took over the Metro Stars franchise and renamed it New York Red Bulls .

The 2002 World Cup brought a resurgence to US football and the MLS. The national team surprisingly reached the quarter-finals of the tournament. The final of the MLS Cup 2002 reached a new record with 61,316 spectators at Gillette Stadium . Football regained popularity.

Major League Soccer adopted the rules and standards of the International Football Association Board in 2003 . In 2004, the league attracted international attention with the debut of DC United's 14-year-old Freddy Adu . At the time, he was considered the talent of the century in American football. The league experienced an unprecedented boom until the 2006 World Cup . Some young American players even made the leap to top European clubs through the MLS. Tim Howard moved to Manchester United , which resulted in one of the most expensive transfers in league history.

In 2005, new franchises were added for the first time. Real Salt Lake and CD Chivas USA took part in the league from now on. The Chivas acted as a cooperation club of the Mexican first division club Deportivio Guadalajara . In 2006, the San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston, Texas, because no new stadium could be built in San Jose. From then on the team called itself Houston Dynamo .

In 2006 the Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull took over the Metro Stars franchise and renamed it New York Red Bulls .

2007 to 2014

In 2007, the MLS tried again to fill the league with internationally experienced players. With the introduction of the Designated Player Rule , teams were allowed to sign a certain number of players whose salary is higher than the MLS regulations allow. The first player to be signed in this way was then England international David Beckham . The introduction of another competition, the North American SuperLiga , ensured that the Mexican and US American leagues could compete against each other. During this time, the first Canadian team was recorded with Toronto FC .

By signing David Beckham, the league could in turn achieve a higher national and international popularity. Later on, players like Cuauhtémoc Blanco , Juan Pablo Ángel and Freddie Ljungberg also contributed to it.

In 2008, the San José Earthquakes returned as a new franchise. In 2009, for the first time, a team that had previously played in the lower-tier leagues began playing in the MLS. Seattle Sounders was re-established for this.

In 2010 Philadelphia Union was the 16th team to start playing. For the 2011 season, the league took on two more teams. The application deadline for this was October 15, 2008. Vancouver ( Whitecaps ) and Portland ( Timbers ) were awarded the contract from the seven applicant cities at the beginning . With the Montreal franchise , the third team from Canada was added to the game in 2012. It replaced the previous NASL team at Impact .

Major League Soccer.svg

In 2015 the CD Chivas USA withdrew from the MLS. With New York City FC , a joint venture between Manchester City and the New York Yankees , they came back to 19 teams. Next to the Red Bulls, New York City FC is the second team from the metropolitan area. In the same year, another MLS expansion team was added from Orlando, Florida. Orlando City became the first team out of the state in 14 years. The previous USL pro team stopped playing at the end of 2014.

On April 16, 2014, Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL team Atlanta Falcons , received the license for an MLS franchise in Atlanta from the 2017 season.

The league's goal is to have a league strength of 24 teams by the 2020 season.

2015: start of MLS Next

Developing the MLS teams

On September 8, 2014, the new MLS logo was presented, which has graced the league from the 2015 season. This is one of the measures for the new marketing offensive "MLS Next" of Major League Soccer. This plans to revive the league from the 2015 season onwards. In addition to further expansions, new media partnerships and new stadiums, there were other international footballers to be seen in the MLS. The concept also provided for each team to have their own version of the MLS logo on their jerseys.

On October 27, 2014, it was announced that CD Chivas USA will cease operations. The league started the 2015 season with 20 teams. The teams from Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City were moved to the West Conference. The players of the Chivas squad were partly distributed to the other 20 teams in a "dispersal draft". At the same time it was announced that for the 2017 season a new team from the Los Angeles area will take the place of the Chivas.

On March 25, 2015, a group of investors from Minneapolis , Minnesota won another MLS franchise. This team has been in the league since the 2017 season. In the course of this, the NASL Minnesota United franchise was dissolved and went into the MLS franchise.

On July 8, 2015, the official name of the Atlanta franchise was announced: Atlanta United has been active in the MLS since the 2017 season.

For the 2015 season, many players from the highest European leagues were signed. Including the national players active or former for their country: Kaká , Andrea Pirlo , Frank Lampard , Steven Gerrard , Didier Drogba , David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco . On December 6, 2015, the MLS announced that it would increase the number of active franchises to 28. In April 2016, League Commissioner Don Garber announced that the cities of Cincinnati, Detroit, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio and San Diego were potential candidates. This list was expanded to include the cities of Charlotte, Nashville, Raleigh / Durham and Tampa Bay in December 2016. The plan was to name a 25th and 26th franchise in 2017 and let it play in the league from 2020. In January 2017, the MLS received applications from a total of 12 owner groups from the aforementioned cities, including groups from Indianapolis and Phoenix.

On December 20, 2017, MLS announced that it was expanding its franchise to Nashville . On January 29, 2018, Miami was awarded another franchise. Inter Miami is owned by former soccer player David Beckham and is expected to start operating in the 2020 league.

Another MLS franchise was awarded to FC Cincinnati in May 2018 . The group of owners around the previous soccer club, which plays in the United Soccer League , secured the rights to play in the league from the 2019 season.

On April 19, 2019, MLS boss Don Garber announced that the MLS should grow to 30 teams in the run-up to the 2026 World Cup.

Due to the corona pandemic , the MLS announced the postponement of the entry of three new clubs on July 17, 2020. With Charlotte, St. Louis and Sacramento, three of the four new locations will only start operating in the league a year later. While Charlotte starts for the 2022 season, the St. Louis and Sacramento debuts have been postponed to 2023. The only newcomer who is scheduled to start playing in 2021 is Austin FC.

Name changes

  • 1997: The Kansas City Wiz changed their name to Kansas City Wizards . The change came after a dispute over the trademark "Wiz".
  • 1998: The New York / New Jersey MetroStars deleted the place names and continued to play as MetroStars .
  • 1999: The San José Clash changed their name to San José Earthquakes , under which they competed from the 2000 season. This name change pays homage to the ancient Earthquakes who played in the North American Soccer League between 1974 and 1984 .
  • 2005: The Dallas Burn changed their name to FC Dallas . According to management, the FC stands for "Futból Club".
  • 2006: After the San José Earthquakes moved to Houston, a new name was selected for the team via an internet survey. The winner was the name Houston in 1836 . The year refers to the year the city of Houston was founded, but the choice of name was not without controversy. Many residents of Mexican descent - the largest ethnic group in the city of Houston - boycotted the new team because of the Texas War of Independence in 1836. On March 6, 2006, the name was dropped and it was decided that the team would go under the name Houston Dynamo , with which the electronic industry should be honored.
  • 2006: After being bought by Red Bull , the MetroStars renamed themselves to New York Red Bulls .
  • 2010: After the season, the Kansas City Wizards renamed themselves Sporting Kansas City .
  • 2014: The Columbus Crew renamed itself the Columbus Crew Soccer Club .
  • 2019: After the season ended, the Chicago Fire Soccer Club changed its name to Chicago Fire Football Club .

Teams 2020

Locations of the MLS franchises (red: current, blue: future, yellow: former)

Western Conference

franchise Started Location State / Province
Colorado Rapids (new) .svg Colorado Rapids 1996 Commerce City USA ColoradoColorado Colorado
FC Dallas 1996 Frisco USA TexasTexas Texas
Houston dynamo.svg Houston Dynamo 2006 Houston USA TexasTexas Texas
Los Angeles FC 2018 los Angeles USA CaliforniaCalifornia California
Los angeles galaxy.svg LA Galaxy 1996 Carson USA CaliforniaCalifornia California
Minnesota United 2017 Saint Paul USA MinnesotaMinnesota Minnesota
Nashville SC 2020 Nashville USA TennesseeTennessee Tennessee
Portland Timbers 2011 Portland USA OregonOregon Oregon
Real salt lake.svg Real Salt Lake 2005 Sandy USA UtahUtah Utah
San José Earthquakes.svg San Jose Earthquakes 2008 San Jose USA CaliforniaCalifornia California
Seattle Sounders FC.svg Seattle Sounders 2009 Seattle USA WashingtonWashington Washington
SportingKansasCity.png Sporting Kansas City 1996 Kansas City USA MissouriMissouri Missouri
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Logo.svg Vancouver Whitecaps 2011 Vancouver British Columbia British Columbia , Canada

Eastern Conference

franchise Started Location State / Province
Atlanta United 2017 Atlanta USA GeorgiaGeorgia Georgia
Chicago Fire 1998 Chicago USA IllinoisIllinois Illinois
Columbus crew 1996 Columbus USA OhioOhio Ohio
Dc United.svg DC United 1996 Washington, DC USA-District of ColumbiaDistrict of Columbia District of Columbia
Cincinnati FC 2019 Cincinnati USA OhioOhio Ohio
Inter Miami 2020 Miami USA FloridaFlorida Florida
Montreal Impact (MLS) Logo.svg Montreal Impact 2012 Montreal QuebecQuebec Quebec , Canada
New england revelution.svg New England Revolution 1996 Foxborough USA-MassachusettsMassachusetts Massachusetts
New York City FC.png New York City FC 2015 New York City USA New Yorknew York new York
New York Red Bulls 1996 Harrison USA New JerseyNew Jersey New Jersey
Orlando City 2015 Orlando USA FloridaFlorida Florida
Philadelphia Union Logo.svg Philadelphia Union 2010 Chester USA PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Pennsylvania
Toronto Football Club.svg Toronto FC 2007 Toronto OntarioOntario Ontario , Canada

Future teams

franchise Started Location State / Province
Austin FC 2021 Austin USA TexasTexas Texas
Charlotte FC 2022 Charlotte USA North CarolinaNorth Carolina North Carolina
St. Louis City 2023 St. Louis USA MissouriMissouri Missouri
Sacramento Republic FC.png Sacramento Republic 2023 Sacramento USA CaliforniaCalifornia California

Former teams

franchise Started Exit Location State / Province
Miami Fusion FC.svg Miami Fusion 1998 2001 Fort Lauderdale USA FloridaFlorida Florida
Tampa Bay Mutiny 1996 2001 Tampa USA FloridaFlorida Florida
Club Deportivo Chivas USA.svg CD Chivas USA 2005 2014 Carson USA CaliforniaCalifornia California


The league starts with the regular season . The 24 teams are divided into the Eastern Conference and Western Conference . Each team plays 34 games (17 home games and 17 away games) according to an asymmetrical schedule:

  • There will be a return match against each team in their own conference
  • One game will be played against each team in the other conference (5 or 6 home games)
  • Three games are played against - randomly drawn - teams from their own conference, with one team from the Western Conference playing against a team from the Eastern Conference due to the odd number of participants. At the draw, the home rights are taken into account so that in the end each team has played 17 home games.

At the end of the regular season , the team with the highest points overall receives the MLS Supporters' Shield . There is no system of promotion or relegation.

The top six teams from each conference will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs to determine the MLS Cup winner. The playoffs are played in four rounds. The first three rounds remain within the conference, only in the last round, the MLS Cup final, teams from the two conferences meet.

In the first round, the knockout round , the third against the sixth placed and the fourth against the fifth placed of the respective conference, with only one game each being played between these teams. The winners qualify for the conference semifinals, in which they meet the first and second placed at their own conferences. The two winners of the conference semifinals play the participants in the final of the MLS Cup in both conference finals . Both the conference semifinals and the conference finals have a return leg. If no decision has been made after regular playing time (taking into account the away goals rule ), the second leg is followed by an extra time of 15 minutes twice and, if necessary, a penalty shoot-out .

The final of the MLS Cup will be played without second legs. The team that has achieved the higher number of points in regular time has home rights. If there is a tie in the MLS Cup final after regular time, the winner will first be determined in extra time and, if necessary, in the penalty shoot-out.

Qualification for international competitions

Major League Soccer has four starting places for the CONCACAF Champions League :

  • MLS Cup winner
  • Winner of the two conferences in the regular season
  • US Open Cup winner

The Canadian clubs in the MLS cannot qualify through the league. Therefore, they host the Canadian Championship and determine the Canadian participant in the Champions League (qualification) in this tournament.

Qualification for the US Open Cup

At the US Open Cup , the US MLS teams enter the 4th round.

Rule changes

In the early years, the MLS experimented with some rule changes to "Americanize" the sport. While the clock is counting up in international football, the clock is counting down in MLS. The clock was stopped during interruptions. When the clock read 0:00 minutes, the game was over. Another important change was the introduction of a "shootout" if the game was tied after 90 minutes. The ball was placed on the ground 35 yards from the goal. The player had five seconds to shoot the ball into the goal. The winner got a point, the loser none. These rule changes did not bring the league additional spectators.

From the 2000 season, the clock ran according to the IFAB standards and the "shootout" was replaced by a ten-minute extension with Golden Goal . Since the 2004 season there has been no extra time in the regular season in the event of a tie. In the 2004 season, the golden goal rule for playoff games was retained; in 2005, the usual extension of 2 × 15 minutes was introduced here.


season master Supporters' Shield
1996 DC United Tampa Bay Mutiny
1997 DC United DC United
1998 Chicago Fire LA Galaxy
1999 DC United DC United
2000 Kansas City Wizards Kansas City Wizards
2001 San Jose Earthquakes Miami Fusion
2002 LA Galaxy LA Galaxy
2003 San Jose Earthquakes Chicago Fire
2004 DC United Columbus crew
2005 LA Galaxy San Jose Earthquakes
2006 Houston Dynamo DC United
2007 Houston Dynamo DC United
2008 Columbus crew Columbus crew
2009 Real Salt Lake Columbus crew
2010 Colorado Rapids LA Galaxy
2011 LA Galaxy LA Galaxy
2012 LA Galaxy San Jose Earthquakes
2013 Sporting Kansas City New York Red Bulls
2014 LA Galaxy Seattle Sounders
2015 Portland Timbers New York Red Bulls
2016 Seattle Sounders FC Dallas
2017 Toronto FC Toronto FC
2018 Atlanta United New York Red Bulls
2019 Seattle Sounders Los Angeles FC

The Major League Soccer champions will be determined after the regular season in the playoffs and their final final, the MLS Cup. The champion has been presented with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy since 2008 . To symbolize the number of MLS Cup victories, the teams receive a championship star for each championship they have won . However, the current title holder will only receive this star in the season after next, as in the following season he initially wears the symbol of the reigning champions, the so-called Scudetto , on his jersey, based on the Italian Serie A. The record title holder is LA Galaxy with five championships.

In order to honor the most consistent team of the season based on the traditional model, the winner of the regular season receives the Supporters' Shield. Although the winner of this title does not receive an official honor, the title is recognized by the MLS and allows the winner to participate in the CONCACAF Champions League . DC United and LA Galaxy hold the record here with four titles each.

Championships by number

  • 5: LA Galaxy
  • 4: DC United
  • 2: Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders
  • 1: Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids, Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, Atlanta United

Supporters Shield

  • 4: DC United, LA Galaxy
  • 3: Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls
  • 2: San Jose Earthquakes
  • 1: Tampa Bay Munity, Sporting Kansas City, Miami Fusion, Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, Chicago Fire, Toronto FC, Los Angeles FC


NY Red Bulls versus LA Galaxy in front of 66,237 spectators at Giants Stadium

When the MLS started playing, most teams played in American football stadiums. The league has set itself the goal of building its own football-specific stadiums for its teams. Moving to football-specific stadiums is seen by many as a necessity. Every team that moved to a football-specific stadium saw increased attendance and improved financial conditions. With its new stadium, LA Galaxy was the first team to make a profit in 2003.

Since Columbus Crew was the first team to move into a football-specific stadium in 1999, most of the teams have followed this example.

team place Stadium name opening Places
Atlanta United Atlanta (Georgia) Mercedes-Benz Stadium 1 2017 71,000
Nashville SC Nashville (Tennessee) Nissan Stadium 1 1999 69,143
New England Revolution Foxborough, Massachusetts - Greater Boston Gillette Stadium 1 2002 68,756
Seattle Sounders Seattle (Washington) CenturyLink Field 1 2002 67,000
Chicago Fire Chicago (Illinois) Soldier Field 1 1924 61,500
Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver, British Columbia BC Place Stadium 1 1983 59,841
New York City FC New York City (New York) Yankee Stadium 1 2009 49,642
Cincinnati FC Cincinnati, Ohio Nippert stage 1 1924 40,000
Toronto FC Toronto (Ontario) BMO Field 2007 30,000
LA Galaxy Carson, California - Greater Los Angeles Dignity Health Sports Park 2003 27,000
Orlando City Orlando (Florida) Exploria Stadium 2017 25,500
Portland Timbers Portland, Oregon Providence Park 1926 25,218
New York Red Bulls Harrison, New Jersey - Greater New York Area Red Bull Arena 2010 25,000
Houston Dynamo Houston (Texas) BBVA Compass Stadium 2012 22,000
Los Angeles FC Los Angeles (California) Banc of California Stadium 2018 22,000
FC Dallas Frisco, Texas - Greater Dallas Area Toyota Stadium 2005 20,500
Montreal Impact Montreal (Quebec) Saputo Stadium 2008 20,341
Columbus crew Columbus (Ohio) Mapfre Stadium 1999 20,145
Real Salt Lake Sandy, Utah - Greater Salt Lake City Rio Tinto Stadium 2008 20.008
DC United Washington, DC Audi Field 2018 20,000
Minnesota United Saint Paul, Minnesota - Greater Minneapolis Allianz Field 2019 19,400
Philadelphia Union Chester, Pennsylvania - Greater Philadelphia Area Talen Energy Stadium 2010 18,500
Sporting Kansas City Kansas City (Kansas) Children's Mercy Park 2011 18,467
Colorado Rapids Commerce City, Colorado - Greater Denver Area Dick's Sporting Goods Park 2007 18,000
Inter Miami Fort Lauderdale (Florida) - Greater Miami Inter Miami Stadium 2020 18,000
San Jose Earthquakes San Jose (California) Earthquakes Stadium 2015 18,000
1 Not a pure football stadium

Finance and Organization

Ø audience numbers
year Reg. Season Playoffs
1996 17.406 17,673
1997 14,603 16,015
1998 14,312 17,885
1999 14,282 16,089
2000 13,756 11,973
2001 14,961 11,805
2002 15,821 13,872
2003 14,898 14,978
2004 15,559 13,972
2005 15,108 14,390
2006 15,504 15,179
2007 16,770 19,771
2008 16,460 16,489
2009 16,040 23,559
2010 16,675 19,535
2011 17,872 22,524
2012 18.807 23,824
2013 18,594 21,979
2014 19,147 23,633
2015 21,558 22,841


Major League Soccer operates under a unitary structure. In contrast to European football leagues, it is not administered by the country's football association, but regulates itself internally. The team owners are shareholders in the MLS and have a say.

If a player is signed by a franchise, he usually signs a contract with the MLS and not with the team. The MLS continues to control the finances of each franchise and sets a salary cap for players. This is to avoid excessive losses for individual teams. The exception here is the Designated Player Rule , where salaries above the maximum set by the MLS can be issued. However, every franchise also has the option to sign players themselves. However, the salary limits of the MLS must also be adhered to.

The Major League Soccer Commissioner has been Don Garber since August 4, 1999 . The organization is based in New York City .


Unlike in many European leagues, the teams in the MLS are so-called franchises. Here, the owner acquires a license from the MLS to be able to provide a team for the league. But he must adhere to the requirements and guidelines of the league. The league currently consists of 18 owners for the 20 franchises. The company Anschutz Entertainment Group is the only one that owns two franchises with LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo . Three franchises are operated by foreign, i.e. not US or Canadian, investors. These are New York Red Bulls , DC United and New York City FC . The league has the right to dissolve any franchise or place it under its own control if the conditions are not met. This last happened in 2014 after the owners of the CD Chivas USA team got into financial difficulties.


Since the founding of the league until 2004 losses of 350 million US dollars had to be accepted. A trend reversal is predicted for the next few years. For some years now, football has been increasingly broadcast on TV. Broadcasters such as ESPN, ABC and the Fox Soccer Channel broadcast games from the MLS, from South America and from the top European leagues (e.g. Bundesliga, Serie A). Eurosport has had the rights for Europe to show all MLS games for some time. The contract runs until 2018. As expected, the MLS is currently receiving TV money for the first time. As a result, the MLS could lose its image as a league for a fringe sport. In addition, the teams were able to increase their income through football-specific stadiums. For the 2006 season, the teams were able to sell 25% more season tickets than in the previous season. This is the highest increase in league history. With the new stadiums, more TV presence and a steadily growing fan base, the MLS 2008 was on its way to profitability.

Spectator table

The average audience for the MLS has grown steadily in recent years. With an average of 21,873 viewers in the 2018 season, they are just behind the European top leagues in Italy, France and Spain and were able to increase again in terms of the total numbers, but a new franchise was also launched. The Bundesliga has the world's highest average with 43,273 spectators per game (average attendance for the current 2018/19 season in December 2018). Atlanta United achieved the highest average of the MLS 2018 with 53,002 per game.

season cut Games total
Major League Soccer 1996 17,398 160 2,783,637
Major League Soccer 1997 14,600 160 2,336,028
Major League Soccer 1998 14,312 192 2,747,921
Major League Soccer 1999 14,282 192 2,742,202
Major League Soccer 2000 13,794 191 2,634,593
Major League Soccer 2001 14,961 158 2,363,869
Major League Soccer 2002 15,821 140 2,214,989
Major League Soccer 2003 14,900 150 2,235,049
Major League Soccer 2004 15,556 150 2,333,397
Major League Soccer 2005 15,014 192 2,882,716
Major League Soccer 2006 15,855 192 3,044,248
Major League Soccer 2007 16,768 195 3,269,690
Major League Soccer 2008 16,459 210 3,456,440
Major League Soccer 2009 16,037 225 3,608,329
Major League Soccer 2010 16,675 240 4,001,970
Major League Soccer 2011 17,869 306 5,467,996
Major League Soccer 2012 18.801 323 6,072,764
Major League Soccer 2013 18.606 323 6,009,758
Major League Soccer 2014 19,095 323 6,167,723
Major League Soccer 2015 21,547 338 7,282,952
Major League Soccer 2016 21,692 340 7,375,280
Major League Soccer 2017 22,113 374 8,270,187
Major League Soccer 2018 21,873 391 8,552,503


Another step in this direction is a contract with the sporting goods manufacturer adidas , which has been the official outfitter of the MLS since the 2005 season. In addition to exclusive advertising rights, adidas provides the official match ball and has been clothing all teams since the 2006 season (in 2005 some teams still had valid contracts with other manufacturers). This contract initially brought in around 15 million US dollars per season for the MLS, and since 2011 it has even been an estimated 25 million US dollars per season after a contract extension until 2018.

In 2006, the league took the next step and allowed shirt sponsors. Real Salt Lake was the first team in the league to sign a contract with one for the 2007 season. Already completely normal in other football leagues around the world, this type of advertising was a novelty for US professional sport.

team Sponsor (jersey)
Atlanta United American Family Insurance
Chicago Fire Motorola
Cincinnati FC Mercy Health
Colorado Rapids Transamerica
Columbus crew Acura
DC United Leidos
FC Dallas AdvoCare
Houston Dynamo MD Anderson
Inter Miami TBA
LA Galaxy Herbalife
Los Angeles FC YouTube TV
Minnesota United Target
Montreal Impact Bank of Montreal
Nashville SC Renasant Bank
New England Revolution United Healthcare
New York City FC Etihad Airways
New York Red Bulls Red Bull
Orlando City Orlando Health
Philadelphia Union Bimbo Bakeries USA
Portland Timbers Alaska Airlines
Real Salt Lake LifeVantage
San Jose Earthquakes Intermedia Cloud Communications
Seattle Sounders Zulily
Sporting Kansas City Ivy Funds
Toronto FC Bank of Montreal
Vancouver Whitecaps Bell Canada

Team squad

A major league soccer team can consist of up to 30 players. All players are entitled to take part in games of the regular season and the playoffs, whereby only a selection of 18 players may be nominated for the squad on the day of the game.

The professional squad may not exceed a certain total limit on player salaries, the so-called salary cap (2011 this was 2.675 million US dollars) and a player may not earn more than 335,000 US dollars. For a player who falls under the Designated Player Rule , whose salary may be above the upper salary limit, only 335,000 US dollars are counted against the total budget. The further payments have no effect on the salary cap. Should this designated player join the team in the middle of the season, only US $ 167,500 will be counted against the salary cap. All players who have signed a Generation adidas contract with the MLS are also not counted against the total budget. They are in the so-called off-budget area.

Each team has the opportunity to have a maximum of eight foreigners in their squad. These eight international slots can also be sold to other teams. Due to this rule, a team can have more than eight foreign players in the squad. The remaining seats must be occupied by domestic players. In the USA , players are considered to be domestic players if they are US citizens, have a green card , or have special state status, e.g. B. have asylum or refugee status. A slightly modified rule applies to the three Canadian teams in Major League Soccer. These can also be max. have eight foreigners in their squad, the rest of the squad must be made up of Canadians or Americans, with each Canadian team must have at least three Canadians under contract.

MLS player selection programs

MLS SuperDraft

Main article: MLS SuperDraft

The MLS SuperDraft takes place every year, usually in January. Here the teams of the MLS players can choose which come from college or elsewhere. The players do not sign a contract with the respective team, but with Major League Soccer. The SuperDraft has been around since the 2000 season. Before that, the college players were selected via the MLS College Draft. The other players got into the league via the MLS Supplemental Draft. Only players from colleges that have been to a college that is affiliated to the National Collegiate Athletic Association can be selected. Canadian players who have attended a university affiliated with the Canadian Interuniversity Sport will not be considered. They only have the chance to be signed directly by the teams or to get into the SuperDraft via another route.

MLS Re-Entry Draft

The MLS Re-Entry Draft has existed since the 2011 season. It takes place annually and offers players the opportunity to play again with an MLS franchise after a contract has ended or has been terminated. All Major League Soccer clubs have the option to release players who are no longer needed. They are then not actually without a club, as they are still employed by the league. Through this draft, other teams have the opportunity to accept these players. This program was introduced primarily so that players who have played in the league for a long time would still have the opportunity to stay there. The draft usually takes place in December after the play-offs.

MLS Expansion Draft

When Major League Soccer creates a new franchise, the so-called Expansion Draft is held before the start of the season. Each previous team can protect a maximum of 11 players from being selected. Players with a generation Adidas contract are automatically protected. The expansion franchise may choose from the rest of the players who have signed a contract with the MLS and take them on. A total of 10 players can change to the new team.

MLS Dispersal Draft

Should a franchise dissolve, the MLS Dispersal Draft will be held. Here the other teams of the MLS have the opportunity to accept players from the franchise to be dissolved. This draft has only taken place twice so far, in 2002 and 2014.

Generation Adidas

Main article: Generation Adidas

Homegrown Player Rule

Main article: Homegrown Player Rule

Designated Player Rule

Some of today's world stars have expressed themselves in various interviews about a possible end of their careers in the MLS. For a long time it was unclear how the salaries for such players were to be financed with the tight salaries of the teams. However, after the 2006 season, the league introduced the Designated Player Rule , which allows any franchise to include a player in the squad who is above the salary cap. Since then there have been some changes to this rule.

The current status is as follows: Each team has two places to sign players using the Designated Player Rule. For each designated player, a salary budget of max. 335,000 US dollars, which is calculated against the salary cap. All payments that go beyond this are borne by the respective franchise itself and do not burden the team's salary budget specified by the MLS. A third seat for a Designated Player is available for a one-time fee of $ 225,000.

The seats for the Designated Player cannot be sold to other teams. No team can sign more than three players under this rule.

The rule made the most spectacular transfer in MLS history possible when David Beckham signed a five-year contract with LA Galaxy from July in January 2007. This is why the rule is often referred to as the Beckham Rule .

Designated Players (selection)

since Playername nation Current team Salary 2017
2012 Federico Higuaín ArgentinaArgentina Columbus crew $ 1,050,000
2013 Osvaldo Alonso CubaCuba Seattle Sounders $ 1,141,667
2013 Diego Valeri ArgentinaArgentina Portland Timbers $ 550,000
2013 Clint Dempsey United StatesUnited States Seattle Sounders $ 4,605,492
2014 Michael Bradley United StatesUnited States Toronto FC $ 6.5 million
2014 David Villa SpainSpain New York City FC $ 5,610,000
2014 Ignacio Piatti ArgentinaArgentina Montreal Impact $ 450,000
2014 Graham Zusi United StatesUnited States Sporting Kansas City $ 757,102
2014 Fanendo Adi NigeriaNigeria Portland Timbers $ 1,736,254
2015 David Accam GhanaGhana Chicago Fire $ 820,938
2015 Jozy Altidore United StatesUnited States Toronto FC $ 4,875,000
2015 Sebastian Giovinco ItalyItaly Toronto FC $ 7,115,556
2015 Giovani dos Santos MexicoMexico LA Galaxy $ 4,100,008
2016 Bradley Wright-Phillips EnglandEngland New York Red Bulls $ 1,635,000
2016 Jura Mowsisjan ArmeniaArmenia Real Salt Lake $ 200,000
2016 Carlos Gruezo EcuadorEcuador FC Dallas $ 686,500
2016 Shkelzen Gashi AlbaniaAlbania Colorado Rapids $ 1,668,750
2016 Kei Kamara Sierra LeoneSierra Leone New England Revolution $ 1,000,000
2016 Róger Espinoza HondurasHonduras Sporting Kansas City $ 800,000
2016 Tim Howard United StatesUnited States Colorado Rapids $ 2,575,000
2016 Nicolás Lodeiro UruguayUruguay Seattle Sounders $ 1,743,429
2016 Alejandro Bedoya United StatesUnited States Philadelphia Union $ 1,166,254
2016 Sacha Klještan United StatesUnited States New York Red Bulls $ 787,500
2017 Miguel Almirón ParaguayParaguay Atlanta United $ n / a
2017 Nemanja Nikolics HungaryHungary Chicago Fire $ n / a
2017 Alberth Elis HondurasHonduras Houston Dynamo $ n / a
2017 Jonathan Mensah GhanaGhana Columbus crew $ n / a
2017 Gerso Fernandes Guinea-BissauGuinea-Bissau Sporting Kansas City $ n / a
2017 Albert Rusnák SlovakiaSlovakia Real Salt Lake $ n / a
2017 Bastian Schweinsteiger GermanyGermany Chicago Fire $ 5,400,000
2018 Wayne Rooney EnglandEngland DC United $ n / a
2019 Zlatan Ibrahimović SwedenSweden LA Galaxy $ 7,200,000


  1. The year of the conclusion of the contract shows when these players received the status of Designated Player.
  2. Normal basic salary without special salaries or bonus payments

Personal records

Most Valuable Player

The MVP Award is given annually to the most outstanding regular season player. 2015 he was transferred to the retirement of Landon Donovan after him Landon Donovan MVP Award named.

season player team
1996 ColombiaColombia Carlos Valderrama Tampa Bay Mutiny
1997 United StatesUnited States Predrag Radosavljević Kansas City Wizards
1998 BoliviaBolivia Marco Etcheverry DC United
1999 United StatesUnited States Jason Circle Dallas Burn
2000 United StatesUnited States Tony Meola Kansas City Wizards
2001 HondurasHonduras Alex Pineda Chacón Miami Fusion
2002 GuatemalaGuatemala Carlos Ruiz LA Galaxy
2003 United StatesUnited States Predrag Radosavljević Kansas City Wizards
2004 HondurasHonduras Amado Guevara MetroStars
2005 United StatesUnited States Taylor Twellman New England Revolution
2006 ArgentinaArgentina Christian Gomez DC United
2007 BrazilBrazil Luciano Emilio DC United
2008 ArgentinaArgentina Guillermo Barros Schelotto Columbus crew
2009 United StatesUnited States Landon Donovan LA Galaxy
2010 ColombiaColombia David Ferreira FC Dallas
2011 CanadaCanada Dwayne De Rosario DC United
2012 United StatesUnited States Chris Wondolowski San Jose Earthquakes
2013 United StatesUnited States Mike Magee Chicago Fire
2014 IrelandIreland Robbie Keane LA Galaxy
2015 ItalyItaly Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC
2016 SpainSpain David Villa New York City FC
2017 ArgentinaArgentina Diego Valeri Portland Timbers
2018 VenezuelaVenezuela Josef Martínez Atlanta United
2019 MexicoMexico Carlos Vela Los Angeles FC

Top scorer

Since the 2005 season, the MLS has awarded the Golden Boot to the top scorer of the regular season . If two players are tied, the number of assists decides. Previously, the scoring champion was honored who was able to collect two points with a goal and one point with an assist.

In the following table the top scorer are listed, with retroactive effect up to the premiere season 1996. The players marked with an asterisk in the following table would have won the Golden Boot if there was a tie, based on today's rules.

season player team Gates
1996 United StatesUnited States Roy Lassiter Tampa Bay Mutiny 27
1997 BoliviaBolivia Jaime Moreno DC United 16
1998 Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago Star john Columbus crew 26th
1999 Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago Star john Columbus crew 18th
United StatesUnited States Jason Circle * Dallas Burn 18th
United StatesUnited States Roy Lassiter DC United 18th
2000 SenegalSenegal Mamadou Diallo Tampa Bay Mutiny 26th
2001 HondurasHonduras Alex Pineda Chacón Miami Fusion 19th
2002 GuatemalaGuatemala Carlos Ruiz LA Galaxy 24
2003 GuatemalaGuatemala Carlos Ruiz * LA Galaxy 15th
United StatesUnited States Taylor Twellman New England Revolution 15th
2004 United StatesUnited States Brian Ching * San Jose Earthquakes 12
United StatesUnited States Eddie Johnson Dallas Burn 12
2005 United StatesUnited States Taylor Twellman New England Revolution 17th
2006 United StatesUnited States Jeff Cunningham Real Salt Lake 16
2007 BrazilBrazil Luciano Emilio DC United 20th
2008 United StatesUnited States Landon Donovan LA Galaxy 20th
2009 United StatesUnited States Jeff Cunningham FC Dallas 17th
2010 United StatesUnited States Chris Wondolowski San Jose Earthquakes 18th
2011 CanadaCanada Dwayne De Rosario Toronto FC /
New York Red Bulls /
DC United
2012 United StatesUnited States Chris Wondolowski San Jose Earthquakes 27
2013 BrazilBrazil Camilo Sanvezzo Vancouver Whitecaps 22nd
2014 EnglandEngland Bradley Wright-Phillips New York Red Bulls 27
2015 ItalyItaly Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC 22nd
2016 EnglandEngland Bradley Wright-Phillips New York Red Bulls 24
2017 HungaryHungary Nemanja Nikolics Chicago Fire 24
2018 VenezuelaVenezuela Josef Martínez Atlanta United 31
2019 MexicoMexico Carlos Vela Los Angeles FC 34

Record goal scorers

Players in bold are still active:

Regular season
rank player Gates
1 United StatesUnited States Chris Wondolowski 159
2 United StatesUnited States Landon Donovan 145
3 United StatesUnited States Jeff Cunningham 134
4th BoliviaBolivia Jaime Moreno 133
5 Sierra LeoneSierra Leone Kei Kamara 126
6th United StatesUnited States Ante Razov 114
7th United StatesUnited States Jason Circle 108
EnglandEngland Bradley Wright-Phillips 108
9 CanadaCanada Dwayne De Rosario 104
10 United StatesUnited States Taylor Twellman 101

Record player

Regular season
rank player Games
1 United StatesUnited States Nick Rimando 514
2 United StatesUnited States Kyle Beckerman 488
3 United StatesUnited States Jeff Larentowicz 418
4th United StatesUnited States Kevin Hartman 416
5 United StatesUnited States Chad Marshall 409
6th United StatesUnited States Brad Davis 392
7th United StatesUnited States Drew Moor 382
8th United StatesUnited States Steve Ralston 378
9 United StatesUnited States Brian Carroll 371
10 United StatesUnited States Bobby Boswell 366

As of the end of the 2019 regular season: September 6, 2019, players in bold are still active

Other competitions

MLS Rivalry Cups

In Major League Soccer, various teams host different trophies within a regular season. The winner is whoever was able to win the direct comparisons in the end. This regulation changes depending on the cup, sometimes playoff games and games in the US Open Cup are also included.

  • Atlantic Cup - DC United and New York Red Bulls (direct comparison in all competitive games)
  • Brimstone Cup - Chicago Fire and FC Dallas (direct comparison in all competitive games)
  • California Clasico - LA Galaxy and San José Earthquakes (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Canadian Classique (also 401 Derby and Two Solitudes Derby) - Montreal Impact and Toronto FC (direct comparison in the regular season and games of the Canadian Championship)
  • Cascadia Cup - Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps (direct-season comparison)
  • El Tráfico - LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Hell Is Real - Cincinnati FC and Columbus Crew (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Heritage Cup - San José Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps (direct comparison of the last two regular season matches)
  • Hudson River Derby - New York City FC and New York Red Bulls (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup - Dallas FC and Columbus Crew (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Rocky Mountain Cup - Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Texas Derby - FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo (direct comparison in the regular season)
  • Trillium Cup - Columbus Crew and Toronto FC (direct comparison in the regular season)

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Barcelona Makes Bid for Team in MLS , October 15, 2008
  2. Portland beats out Ottawa for MLS franchise , March 20, 2009
  3. "Passionate" Montreal named as 19th MLS city , May 9, 2010
  4. Major League Soccer announces New York expansion team: New York City Football Club , May 21, 2013
  5. Major League Soccer to expand to 24 teams by 2020 season, says Commissioner Don Garber , July 21, 2013
  6. a b WELCOME TO MLS NEXT ( English ) MLS. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  7. MLS announces new strategy for Los Angeles market, 2015 conference alignment , October 27, 2014
  8. MLS announces possible plans to expand league to 28 teams, 2016 scheduling updates . December 6, 2015. Accessed December 28, 2015.
  9. 12 Groups Submit MLS Expansion Applications. In: OurSports Central, January 31, 2017, accessed May 18, 2017 .
  10. Cincinnati awarded MLS expansion club, will start play in 2019. In: Major League Soccer, May 29, 2018, accessed August 16, 2018 .
  11. 30 teams as a goal: MLS wants to expand further. Retrieved April 21, 2019 .
  12. Major League Soccer announces it will expand to at least 30 teams. Retrieved April 21, 2019 .
  13. Because of Corona: MLS postpones the entry of three new clubs. July 17, 2020, accessed July 18, 2020 .
  14. Goodbye 1836, hello Houston Dynamo , March 6, 2006
  15. Kansas City rebrands as Sporting KC , November 18, 2010
  16. Simon Borg: Columbus Crew unveil new logo, brand identity with nods to team's heritage, city, supporters . Major League Soccer. October 8, 2014.
  17. ^ Chicago Fire FC unveiled new badge, brand identity "inspired by the story and spirit of Chicagoans". Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  18. ^ Nicholas Rosano: Nashville awarded MLS expansion club . December 20, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  19. a b c d Extension of the MLS is delayed. In: July 21, 2020, accessed July 23, 2020 .
  20. MLS: League 'Conference' system explained . Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  21. a b MLS Competition Guidelines
  22. Qualifying 2011/2012 ( Memento from July 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), as of November 20, 2010
  23. ^ NN: Canada to create new club championship. On: Canada Soccer website; Ottawa, ON, January 31, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2019 (in English).
  24. ^ MLS Is Making Changes , Nov. 18, 1999
  25. Updating the hardware ( Memento of December 4, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), October 29, 2008
  26. Teams & adidas unveil new uniforms and ball ( Memento from January 19, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), January 20, 2006
  27. Leiweke Says Galaxy Are First MLS Team Ever To Make A Profit , November 21, 2003
  28. Official 2012 Major League Soccer Fact & Record Book. (PDF; 1.2 MB), p. 50 , archived from the original on December 24, 2012 ; accessed on January 5, 2013 .
  29. a b c d e f Official 2015 Major League Soccer Fact & Record Book. (PDF; 1.3 MB), p. 54 , accessed on November 17, 2015 (English).
  30. a b MLS Communications Department and Elias Sports Bureau (eds.): Official 2016 MLS Fact & Record Book . New York 2016 ( [PDF]).
  31. Daniel Wojczewski, Michael Weilguny: Soccer in North America: MLS wants to start. In: Spiegel Online . June 12, 2008, accessed February 16, 2014 .
  32. Galaxy MLS 'Most Valuable Franchise At Estimated $ 100M ( September 5, 2011 memento in the Internet Archive ), September 16, 2008
  33. MLS audience figures 2018
  34. Adidas ups MLS bet with $ 200M deal ( February 20, 2011 memento in the Internet Archive ), August 30, 2010
  35. MLS Reaches Sponsorship Agreement With Adidas , October 5, 2004
  36. Toronto FC keeps bank's name on jerseys , June 28, 2010
  37. a b c d 2011 MLS Roster Rules , accessed February 9, 2011
  38. 2017 MLS Player Salaries . In: 2016 MLS Player Salaries . Major League Soccer Players Union. Archived from the original on May 16, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  39. a b MLS Factbook 2012. (PDF; 1.2 MB), p. 118 , archived from the original on December 24, 2012 ; accessed on January 5, 2013 .
  40. a b All-Time Leaders. Accessed July 31, 2019 .