Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer
MLS logo.svg
FoundedDecember 17, 1993; 24 years ago (1993-12-17)[1]
First season1996
CountryUnited States
Other club(s) fromCanada
(North American Football Union)
ConferencesEastern Conference
Western Conference
Number of teams23
Level on pyramid1 (United States)
1 (Canada)
Domestic cup(s)U.S. Open Cup
Canadian Championship
International cup(s)CONCACAF Champions League
Campeones Cup
Current MLS CupToronto FC (1st title)
Current Supporters' ShieldToronto FC (1st shield)
Most MLS CupsLA Galaxy (5 titles)
Most Supporters' ShieldsD.C. United
LA Galaxy
(4 shields each)
Most appearancesNick Rimando (483)
Top goalscorerLandon Donovan (145 goals)
TV partners
2018 Major League Soccer season

Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men's professional soccer league sanctioned by U.S. Soccer that represents the sport's highest level in both the United States and Canada.[2][3] MLS constitutes one of the major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada.[4][5] The league comprises 23 teams—20 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. The MLS regular season runs from March to October, with each team playing 34 games;[6][7] the team with the best record is awarded the Supporters' Shield. The postseason includes twelve teams competing in the MLS Cup Playoffs through November and December, culminating in the championship game the MLS Cup.[8] MLS teams also play in other domestic competitions against teams from other divisions in the U.S. Open Cup and in the Canadian Championship. MLS teams also compete against continental rivals in the CONCACAF Champions League.[9]

Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup.[10] The first season took place in 1996 with ten teams.[11] MLS experienced financial and operational struggles in its first few years: The league lost millions of dollars, teams played in mostly empty American football stadiums, and two teams folded in 2002.[12] Since then, MLS has expanded to 23 teams, owners built soccer-specific stadiums, average MLS attendance exceeds that of the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA), MLS passed the Designated Player Rule that allows teams to sign star players such as David Beckham, MLS secured national TV contracts, and the league is now profitable.[13]

Instead of operating as an association of independently owned teams, MLS is a single entity in which each team is owned by the league's investors.[14] The investor-operators control their teams as owners control teams in other leagues, and are commonly (but inaccurately) referred to as the team's owners.[15] The league has a fixed membership, like most sports leagues in the United States and Canada, which makes it one of the world's few soccer leagues that does not use promotion and relegation, a practice that is uncommon in the two countries.[16] MLS headquarters is located in New York City.[17]

Competition format

Major League Soccer's regular season runs from March to October. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences, playing 34 games in an unbalanced schedule. For 2018, with 23 teams, each team plays 23 games against teams in its conference and 11 games against teams from the opposite conference.[18][6] For 2019, with 24 teams, the anticipated schedule would be that each team would play each of the teams within its conference twice, for 22 matches, and each of the teams from the other conference once, for 12 additional matches, and 34 total matches. 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.[19] At the end of the regular season, the team with the highest point total is awarded the Supporters' Shield.[20]

Unlike some soccer leagues around the world, but similar to other leagues in the Americas,[21] the MLS regular season is followed by the 12-team MLS Cup Playoffs in November, ending with the MLS Cup championship final in early December.[22] Although some commentators have argued that playoffs reduce the importance of the regular season,[23] Commissioner Don Garber has explained "Our purpose is to have a valuable competition, and that includes having playoffs that are more meaningful."[24]

Major League Soccer's spring-to-fall schedule results in scheduling conflicts with the FIFA calendar and with summertime international tournaments such as the World Cup and the Gold Cup,[25] causing several players to miss some MLS matches.[26] While MLS has looked into changing to a fall-to-spring format, there are no current plans to do so. If the league were to change its schedule, a substantial winter break would still be necessary due to teams being located in harsh winter climates.[27][28][29] It would also have to compete with the popularity and media presence of the National Football League (NFL) in the fall and winter as well as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL), which both run on fall-to-spring schedules.[29]

Other competitions

MLS teams also play in other international and domestic competitions. Every year, five MLS teams — four from the U.S. and one from Canada — play in the CONCACAF Champions League against other clubs from the CONCACAF region (Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean). Two U.S.-based MLS teams qualify based on MLS regular-season results: the winner of the Western conference and the winner of the Eastern conference. The third U.S. team to qualify is the winner of the MLS Cup. A fourth U.S.-based MLS team can qualify via the U.S. Open Cup,[30] where U.S.-based teams compete against lower division U.S. clubs. If a team qualifies through multiple berths, or if any of the MLS berths are taken by a Canada-based MLS team, the berth is reallocated to the best U.S.-based team in the Supporters' Shield table that has otherwise failed to qualify. Canadian MLS clubs play against lower division Canadian clubs in the Canadian Championship for the one Champions League spot allocated to Canada.[31] No MLS club has won the Champions League since it began its current format in 2008, with Mexican clubs dominating the competition, but MLS teams have reached the final three times: Real Salt Lake in 2011, Montreal Impact in 2015, and Toronto FC in 2018. Beginning in 2018, the previous year's MLS Cup champion will play in the Campeones Cup, a single game against the Campeón de Campeones from Liga MX, hosted by the MLS team in September.[32] The first edition will see Toronto FC take on Tigres UANL.

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: MLS
עברית: MLS
қазақша: МЛС
македонски: МЛС
Norfuk / Pitkern: Major League Soccer
norsk nynorsk: Major League Soccer
русский: MLS
Simple English: Major League Soccer
српски / srpski: МЛС
українська: Major League Soccer
Tiếng Việt: Major League Soccer