MLS - Major League Soccer

The United States and Canada share the longest international border. However, there are many more aspects that these two countries share. For instance, their sporting leagues and tournaments are intertwined. American soccer teams, for instance, share a league with Canadian teams. The connection is so much so that it may be cumbersome to put apart Canadian teams from their American counterparts for an outsider.

MLS - national flag day
The U.S. soccer league, Major League Soccer or MLS, was founded in 1993. It currently incorporates 27 teams; 24 from the U.S. and three from Canada. MLS was set up as part of the U.S.'s bid for the successful 1994 FIFA World Cup hosting rights. The inaugural season was played in 1996, featuring ten teams.

The first years came with numerous operational and financial challenges that led to two teams being expelled in 2002, Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Munity. However, aspects such as soccer-specific stadiums, the Designated Player Rule that allows teams to sign up to three players outside the club's wage bracket, and national TV contracts have made the league profitable.

It now enjoys the fourth-highest average attendance for any professional sports league in North America after the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), and Canadian Football League (CFL). By 2013, it already was the seventh-highest attended professional soccer league globally.

Teams

Some of the league's current teams include Atlanta United FC, Austin FC, Charlotte FC, Chicago Fire FC, Colorado Rapids, and Columbus Crew. Other teams are D.C. United, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo FC, Inter Inter Miami CF, LA Galaxy, and Los Angeles FC.

Minnesota United FC, CF Montréal, Nashville SC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake make up the league's roster.

MLS Season Schedule

The league kicks off in late February or early March through October. During the season, each team plays 34 games. Unlike the European and Asian leagues, MLS operates a tiered reward system. The team that completes the season with the best records gets the Supporters' Shield. However, that is not all; the league's top 14 teams qualify to participate in the MLS Cup Playoffs, which happens between October and November. Aside from winning the Supporter's Shield, the team that ends the season with the highest total points also gets the home-field advantage the entire duration of the playoffs.

The playoffs culminate in the championship game or the MLS Cup, which pits the winners of the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference champions.

The competition format is such that the 27 teams geographically divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences play in an unbalanced schedule.

Because of the league's composition of 27 teams, each team plays two games, home and away, against every team in its conference, and one game against all but five teams from the other conference.

League Structure

Unlike other major leagues, MLS adopts a single-entity structure. All teams and their players' contracts are the property of the league. However, every team has an investor or operator, and these entities are shareholders in the league.

Players and Salaries

On average, MLS players earn $373,094, which is low compared to almost all major leagues. The league caps these salaries to prevent club owners from unsubstantiated spending. However, MLS has introduced rules (the Designated Player rule) and incentives that allow teams to bypass the strict cap and enlist players whose salaries exceed the set maximum.

David Beckham

Notable Players

In the nearly three decades that the league has been running, it has attracted the best of American and global soccer talent. Some greats who graced the league include David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Javier Hernandez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey.

League Records

Chris Wondolowski holds the league's all-time top scorer record with 166 goals. Nick Rimando has made the most appearances, having played 514 games.