Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer
MLS crest logo RGB gradient.svg
FoundedDecember 17, 1993; 25 years ago (1993-12-17)[1]
First season1996
CountryUnited States
Other club(s) fromCanada
ConfederationCONCACAF
(North American Football Union)
ConferencesEastern Conference
Western Conference
Number of teams24
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)U.S. Open Cup
Canadian Championship
International cup(s)CONCACAF Champions League
Campeones Cup
Current MLS CupAtlanta United FC (1st title)
(2018)
Current Supporters' ShieldNew York Red Bulls (3rd shield)
(2018)
Most MLS CupsLA Galaxy (5 titles)
Most Supporters' ShieldsD.C. United
LA Galaxy
(4 shields each)
Most appearancesNick Rimando (485)
Top goalscorerLandon Donovan (145 goals)
TV partners
2019 Major League Soccer season

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.[2][3] The league comprises 24 teams—21 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada and constitutes one of the major professional sports leagues in both countries.[4][5] The 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. Fourteen teams compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs through October and November, culminating in the championship game, the MLS Cup.[8] MLS teams also play in 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 24 teams, soccer-specific stadiums have proliferated around the league, average attendance exceeds that of the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA), the Designated Player Rule 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 geographically divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences, playing 34 games in a partially balanced schedule. For 2019, with 24 teams, each team plays two games (home & away) against teams in its conference and one game against each team from the opposite conference.[18] Midway through the season, teams break for the annual All-Star Game, an exhibition 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 most major soccer leagues around the world, but similar to other leagues in the Americas,[21] the MLS regular season is followed by a postseason knockout tournament. Fourteen teams participate in the MLS Cup Playoffs in October, which concludes with the MLS Cup championship game in early November.[22]

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,[23] causing several players to miss some MLS matches.[24] 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.[25][26][27] 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.[27]

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.[28] 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 not qualified.

Canadian MLS clubs play against lower division Canadian clubs in the Canadian Championship for the one CONCACAF Champions League spot allocated to Canada.[29] No MLS club has won the Champions League since it began its current format in 2008, but MLS teams have reached the final three times: Real Salt Lake in 2011, Montreal Impact in 2015, and Toronto FC in 2018.

Since 2018, the previous year's MLS Cup champion plays in the Campeones Cup, a single game against the Campeón de Campeones from Liga MX, hosted by the MLS team in September.[30] The inaugural edition saw Tigres UANL defeat Toronto FC 3–1 on September 19, 2018, at BMO Field in Toronto.

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