|Date||R||Hjemme vs Borte||-|
|03/25 20:30||-||Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy||View|
|03/25 23:30||-||Charlotte FC vs New York Red Bulls||View|
|03/25 23:30||-||Columbus Crew vs Atlanta United||View|
|03/25 23:30||-||DC United vs New England Revolution||View|
|03/25 23:30||-||Inter Miami CF vs Chicago Fire||View|
|03/25 23:30||-||Philadelphia Union vs Orlando City SC||View|
|03/26 00:30||-||Austin FC vs Colorado Rapids||View|
|03/26 00:30||-||Houston Dynamo vs New York City FC||View|
|03/26 00:30||-||Sporting Kansas City vs Seattle Sounders||View|
|03/26 00:30||-||Minnesota United FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps||View|
|03/26 00:30||-||Nashville SC vs FC Cincinnati||View|
|03/26 01:30||-||Real Salt Lake vs St. Louis City SC||View|
|Date||R||Hjemme vs Borte||-|
|03/19 02:30||-|| LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps ||1-1|
|03/19 01:30||-|| Colorado Rapids vs Minnesota United ||1-2|
|03/19 00:30||-|| St. Louis City SC vs San Jose Earthquakes ||3-0|
|03/19 00:30||-|| Houston Dynamo vs Austin FC ||2-0|
|03/19 00:30||-|| FC Dallas vs Sporting Kansas City ||2-1|
|03/19 00:30||-|| Chicago Fire vs FC Cincinnati ||3-3|
|03/18 23:30||-|| Toronto FC vs Inter Miami CF ||2-0|
|03/18 23:30||-|| Orlando City SC vs Charlotte FC ||1-2|
|03/18 23:30||-|| New England Revolution vs Nashville SC ||1-0|
|03/18 23:30||-|| CF Montreal vs Philadelphia Union ||3-2|
|03/18 23:30||-|| Atlanta United vs Portland Timbers ||5-1|
|03/18 23:30||-|| New York City FC vs DC United ||3-2|
Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men's professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport's highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams—26 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada—since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan.
Major League Soccer is the most recent in a series of men's premier professional national soccer leagues established in the United States and Canada. The predecessor of MLS was the North American Soccer League (NASL), which existed from 1968 until 1984. MLS was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The inaugural season took place in 1996 with ten teams. MLS experienced financial and operational struggles in its first few years, losing millions of dollars and folding two teams in 2002. Since then, developments such as the proliferation of soccer-specific stadiums around the league, implementation of the Designated Player Rule allowing teams to sign star players such as David Beckham, and national TV contracts have made MLS profitable. With an average attendance of over 20,000 per game, MLS has the fourth-highest average attendance of any major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada after the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and Canadian Football League (CFL), and was the seventh-highest attended professional soccer league worldwide by 2013.
The MLS regular season typically starts in late February or early March and runs through mid-October, with each team playing 34 games; the team with the best record is awarded the Supporters' Shield. Fourteen teams compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs in late October and November, culminating in the league's championship game, the MLS Cup.
Instead of operating as an association of independently owned clubs, MLS is a single entity in which each team is owned by the league and individually operated by the league's investors. The league has a fixed membership like most sports leagues in the United States and Canada, which makes it one of the few soccer leagues that does not use a promotion and relegation process.
LA Galaxy have the most MLS Cups, with five. They are also tied with D.C. United for most Supporters' Shields, with four each. Los Angeles FC are the defending champions, as they defeated Philadelphia Union 3–0 on penalties in MLS Cup 2022 on November 5, 2022, to mark the end of the 2022 season.
Major League Soccer is the most recent of a series of men's premier professional national soccer leagues established in the United States and Canada. The predecessor of MLS was the North American Soccer League (NASL), which existed from 1968 until 1984. The United States did not have a truly national top-flight league with FIFA-sanctioning until the creation of the NASL. The first league to have U.S. and Canadian professional clubs, the NASL struggled until the mid-1970s when the New York Cosmos, the league's most prominent team, signed a number of the world's best players including Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer. Pelé's arrival attracted other well-known international stars to the league including Johan Cruyff, Gerd Müller, Eusébio, Bobby Moore, and George Best. Despite dramatic increases in attendance (with some matches drawing over 70,000 fans such as Soccer Bowl '78, the highest attendance to date for any club soccer championship in the United States) over-expansion, the economic recession of the early 1980s, and disputes with the players union ultimately led to the collapse of the NASL following the 1984 season, leaving the United States without a top-level soccer league until MLS.
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, U.S. Soccer 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.
Tab Ramos was the first player signed by MLS, on January 3, 1995, and was assigned to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. MLS began play in 1996 with ten teams. The first game was held on April 6, 1996, as the San Jose Clash defeated D.C. United before 31,000 fans at Spartan Stadium in San Jose in a game broadcast on ESPN. 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. D.C. United won 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; the Chicago Fire won its first title in its inaugural season.
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 played in large American football stadiums. One aspect that had alienated fans was that MLS experimented with rules deviations in its early years in an attempt to "Americanize" the sport. The league implemented the use of shootouts to resolve tie games. MLS also used a countdown clock and halves ended when the clock reached 0:00. The league realized that the rule changes had alienated some traditional soccer fans while failing to draw new American sports fans, and the shootout and countdown clock were eliminated after the 1999 season. The league's quality was cast into doubt when the U.S. men's national team, which was made up largely of MLS players, finished in last place at the 1998 World Cup.
Major League Soccer lost an estimated $250 million during its first five years, and more than $350 million between its founding and 2004. The league's financial problems led to Commissioner Doug Logan being replaced by Don Garber, a former NFL executive, in August 1999. Following decreased attendance and increased losses by late 2001, league officials planned to fold but were able to secure new financing from owners Lamar Hunt, Philip Anschutz, and the Kraft family to take on more teams. MLS announced in January 2002 that it had decided to contract the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion, leaving the league with ten teams.
Despite the financial problems, though, MLS did have some accomplishments that would set the stage for the league's resurgence. Columbus Crew Stadium, now known as Historic Crew Stadium, was built in 1999, becoming MLS's first soccer-specific stadium. This began a trend among MLS teams to construct their own venues instead of leasing American football stadiums, where they would not be able to generate revenue from other events. In 2000, the league won an antitrust lawsuit, Fraser v. Major League Soccer, that the players had filed in 1996. The court ruled that MLS's policy of centrally contracting players and limiting player salaries through a salary cap and other restrictions were a legal method for the league to maintain solvency and competitive parity since MLS was a single entity and therefore incapable of conspiring with itself.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup, in which the United States unexpectedly made the quarterfinals, coincided with a resurgence in American soccer and MLS. MLS Cup 2002 drew 61,316 spectators to Gillette Stadium, the largest attendance in an MLS Cup final until 2018. MLS limited teams to three substitutions per game in 2003, and adopted International Football Association Board (IFAB) rules in 2005.
MLS underwent a transition in the years leading up to the 2006 World Cup. After marketing itself on the talents of American players, the league lost some of its homegrown stars to prominent European leagues. For example, Tim Howard was transferred to Manchester United for $4 million in one of the most lucrative contract deals in league history. Many more American players did make an impact in MLS. In 2005, Jason Kreis became the first player to score 100 career MLS goals.
The league's financial stabilization plan included teams moving out of large American football stadiums and into soccer-specific stadiums. From 2003 to 2008, the league oversaw 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 teams were now in soccer-specific stadiums.
It was also in this era that MLS expanded for the first time since 1998. Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA began play in 2005, with Chivas USA becoming the second club in Los Angeles. 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 formed in 2007.
In 2007, the league expanded beyond the United States' borders into Canada with the Toronto FC expansion team. Major League Soccer took steps to further raise the level of play by adopting the Designated Player Rule, which helped bring international stars into the league. The 2007 season witnessed the MLS debut of David Beckham. Beckham's signing had been seen as a coup for American soccer, and was made possible by the Designated Player Rule. Players such as Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Chicago Fire) and Juan Pablo Ángel (New York Red Bulls), are some of the first Designated Players who 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, highlighted the exchange of top prospects to Europe for experienced veterans to MLS.
By 2008, San Jose had returned to the league under new ownership, and in 2009, the expansion side Seattle Sounders FC began play in MLS. The Sounders set a new average attendance record for the league, with 30,943 spectators per match, and were the first expansion team to qualify for the playoffs since 1998. The 2010 season ushered in an expansion franchise in the Philadelphia Union and their new PPL Park stadium (now known as Subaru Park). The 2010 season also brought the opening of the New York Red Bulls' soccer-specific stadium, Red Bull Arena, and the debut of French striker Thierry Henry.
The 2011 season brought further expansion with the addition of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the second Canadian MLS franchise, and the Portland Timbers. Real Salt Lake reached the finals of the 2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League. During the 2011 season, the Galaxy signed another international star in Republic of Ireland all-time leading goalscorer Robbie Keane. MLS drew an average attendance of 17,872 in 2011, higher than the average attendances of the NBA and NHL. In 2012, the Montreal Impact became the league's 19th franchise and the third in Canada, and made their home debut in front of a crowd of 58,912, while the New York Red Bulls added Australian all-time leading goalscorer Tim Cahill.
With an average attendance of over 20,000 per game, MLS has the third highest average attendance of any sports league in the U.S. after the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), and is the seventh highest attended professional soccer league worldwide as of 2013[update].
In 2013, MLS introduced New York City FC as its 20th team, and Orlando City Soccer Club as its 21st team, both of which would begin playing in 2015.
In 2013, the league implemented its "Core Players" initiative, allowing teams to retain key players using retention funds instead of losing the players to foreign leagues. Among the first high-profile players re-signed in 2013 using retention funds were U.S. national team regulars Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. Beginning in summer of 2013 and continuing in the run up to the 2014 World Cup, MLS began signing U.S. stars based abroad, including Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley from Europe; and DaMarcus Beasley from Mexico's Liga MX. By the 2014 season, fifteen of the nineteen MLS head coaches had previously played in MLS. By 2013, the league's popularity had increased to the point where MLS was as popular as Major League Baseball among 12- to 17-year-olds, as reported by the 2013 Luker on Trends ESPN poll, having jumped in popularity since the 2010 World Cup.
In 2014, the league announced Atlanta United FC as the 22nd team to start playing in 2017. Even though New York City FC and Orlando City were not set to begin play until 2015, each team made headlines during the summer 2014 transfer window by announcing their first Designated Players—Spain's leading scorer David Villa and Chelsea's leading scorer Frank Lampard to New York, and Ballon d'Or winner Kaká to Orlando. The 2014 World Cup featured 21 MLS players on World Cup rosters and a record 11 MLS players playing for foreign teams—including players from traditional powerhouses Brazil (Júlio César) and Spain (David Villa); in the U.S. v. Germany match the U.S. fielded a team with seven MLS starters.
On September 18, 2014, MLS unveiled their new logo as part of a branding initiative. In addition to the new crest logo, MLS teams display versions in their own colors on their jerseys. Chivas USA folded following the 2014 season, while New York City FC and Orlando City SC joined the league in 2015 as the 19th and 20th teams. Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference in 2015 to make two 10-team conferences.
In early 2015, the league announced that two teams—Los Angeles FC and Minnesota United—would join MLS in either 2017 or 2018. The 20th season of MLS saw the arrivals of several players who have starred at the highest levels of European club soccer and in international soccer: Giovanni dos Santos, Kaká, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba, David Villa, and Sebastian Giovinco. MLS confirmed in August 2016 that Minnesota United would begin play in 2017 along with Atlanta United FC.
In April 2016, the league's commissioner Don Garber reiterated the intention of the league to expand to 28 teams, with the next round of expansion "likely happening in 2020". In December 2016, he updated the expansion plans stating that the league will look to approve the 25th and 26th teams in 2017 and to start play in 2020. In January 2017, the league received bids from 12 ownership groups.
In July 2017, it was reported that Major League Soccer had rejected an offer by MP & Silva to acquire all television rights to the league following the conclusion of its current contracts with Fox, ESPN, and Univision, where MP & Silva insisted that the deal would be conditional on Major League Soccer adopting a promotion and relegation system. The league stated that it rejected the offer due to the exclusive periods that the current rightsholders have to negotiate extensions to their contracts. Additionally, media noted that Major League Soccer has long-opposed the adoption of promotion and relegation, continuing to utilize the fixed, franchise-based model used in other U.S. sports leagues. Furthermore, MP & Silva founder Riccardo Silva also owned Miami FC of the NASL, which stood to benefit from such a promotion and relegation system.
In October 2017, Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced plans to move the franchise to Austin, Texas by 2019. The announcement spawned a league-wide backlash and legal action against the league by the Ohio state government. On August 15, 2018, the Austin City Council voted to approve an agreement with Precourt to move Crew SC to Austin, and on August 22, 2018, the club's new name, Austin FC, was announced. After negotiations between Precourt and Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, were announced, MLS made it clear that Austin would receive an expansion team only after a deal to sell Columbus to a local buyer had completed. The purchase of Crew SC by Haslam's group was finalized in late December 2018, and on January 15, 2019, Austin FC was officially announced as a 2021 MLS entry.
MLS announced on December 20, 2017, that it would be awarding an expansion franchise to Nashville, Tennessee, to play in a yet-to-be-built 27,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, Nashville Fairgrounds Stadium, and would join MLS in 2020. The management of the Nashville franchise announced in February 2019 that the MLS side would assume the Nashville SC name then in use by the city's USL Championship team.
On January 29, 2018, MLS awarded Miami an expansion team, led by David Beckham. Inter Miami CF started MLS play on March 1, 2020, and plan on opening the proposed 25,000-seat stadium sometime in the near future. An expansion team was awarded to Cincinnati, Ohio on May 29, 2018, to the ownership group of USL's FC Cincinnati. The team, which assumed the existing FC Cincinnati name, started MLS play in 2019 and moved to the new 26,000-seat TQL Stadium in 2021.
In 2013, New York City FC agreed to pay a record $100 million expansion fee for the right to join MLS in 2015. This record was surpassed by the ownership groups of FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC, which each paid $150 million to join MLS (FC Cincinnati in 2019 and Nashville SC in 2020). Despite being announced in January 2018, Inter Miami CF only paid a $25 million expansion fee due to a clause in part-owner David Beckham's original playing contract signed in 2007. The same $150 million was paid as an effective entrance fee by a group that bought Columbus Crew in 2018, which led to that team's previous operator receiving rights to Austin FC, which joined MLS in 2021. MLS has also announced the ownership groups of the 28th and 29th teams would each pay a $200 million entrance fee.
The league planned to expand to 30 teams with the addition of Austin FC in 2021, Charlotte in 2022, and Sacramento and St. Louis in 2023; however, this was reduced to 29 after Sacramento Republic FC's bid was placed on indefinite hold. Commissioner Don Garber has suggested that another round of expansion could lead to 32 teams in MLS.
The league suspended its 2020 season on March 12, 2020, after two weeks, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and other U.S.-based sports leagues did the same. The 2020 season resumed in July with the MLS is Back Tournament, a competition in which 24 out of the 26 teams competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando for a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. In September 2020, the league announced the formation of MLS Next, an academy league for MLS academy teams from the under-13 to under-19 level.
In 2022, the league signed a $2.5 billion deal with Apple Inc. that will make Apple TV the primary broadcaster for all MLS games. The agreement will see both MLS and Leagues Cup games shared across the streaming service.