MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Although many professional soccer leagues have come and gone, Major League Soccer (MLS) has become the most successful venture in the sport's American history. The league was announced in 1993 in a winning effort to land the 1994 FIFA World Cup and entice a wave of public interest in soccer.
The MLS hosted its first season in 1996 and featured 10 founding teams - Columbus Crew, DC United, New England Revolution, Tampa Bay Mutiny, NY/NJ MetroStars in the Eastern Conference and the Kansas City Wiz, San Jose Clash, Los Angeles Galaxy and Dallas Burn in the Western Conference. DC United would triumph over the LA Galaxy in the first MLS Cup, proving they were one of the most formidable teams in the league's early years.
The MLS soon experimented with a series of rule changes, incorporating a few from the National American Soccer League (NASL) as well as FIFA rules, such as innovations like a countdown clock and shootouts to settle tie games. Over the years, these rules have come to mirror those of international competition, but the MLS prides itself on having a uniquely American feel that is up to par of any other professional soccer league.
While the MLS expanded quickly by adding the Miami Fusion and the Chicago Fire in 1998, it would soon have to cut back down to 10 teams in 2002, and both Miami and Tampa Bay would fold. In the mid-2000s, the MLS would start to regain momentum in the American market and in 2005 both Chivas USA in Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, Utah, were added. Today, the MLS has defied all odds with an aggressive expansion into the Canadian market with teams like Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Montreal. With 19 teams, successful youth development programs and an increased interest in soccer, the outlook looks fantastic for the MLS.
With this expanded field of competition, the MLS brand has never been stronger and has been a pivotal force in bringing professional soccer to the American sports consciousness.