First Touch

A Brief Overview of MLS

Major League Soccer, popularly known as the MLS, is the pinnacle of men’s football in the United States. It comprises 29 teams – 26 from the United States and three from Canada. The United States Soccer Federation oversees the competition, unlike other football leagues. The League is divided into two conferences – Eastern and Western. The Eastern Conference is made up of 15 teams, and the Western Conference is made up of 14 teams. 

globe logo for mls articleEach team plays 34 games throughout the regular season, in which the team that amasses the most points is awarded the Supporters Shield. The Top nine teams from each conference also participate in a post-season playoff cup in which the top team from each conference face off for the MLS Cup final. You can buy mls final tickets online to watch the best teams from each conference battle it out for the MLS Cup.

History of the MLS

Before the MLS was established, the North American Soccer League (NASL) was the highest tier of football in the United States. It is the first FIFA-sanctioned League in the USA. The NASL operated from 1968 to 1984. The NASL had problems keeping up with finances and had a few other administrative problems until the mid-1970s when New York Cosmos signed a number of football stars like Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer to the league. 

This attracted other football stars to the league in the coming seasons. The NASL eventually collapsed in 1984 following the economic recession in the early 1980s. You may get tickets for sport events 2023 to enjoy competitions in the USA. 

The MLS was established in 1993 as a part of the plans involved in granting the USA the hosting of the 1994 World Cup. It didn’t kick off until the 1996 season. The first player signed was Tab Ramos in 1995 to the New York Red Bulls (formerly known as New Jersey MetroStars). The league kicked off with just ten teams. It started with quite, and some standout players from the World Cup joined the league. 

The League faced some declines after its first season, especially evident in its low attendance. One of the major reasons was the league’s plan to make it more American-like. They implemented some rules like running down the clock to 0:00 instead of the more traditional running it up, giving room for added time. Penalty shootouts were also used for games that ended in a draw. This failed woefully as it pushed away traditional football fans and failed to draw in Americans to watch the league. 

The league was again put under scrutiny after the country’s national team came last at the 1998 World Cup. The MLS lost an estimated $250 million during the first five years of its founding.

The 2002 season was a major breakthrough for American soccer and the MLS as they received funding to expand the league. They also made it to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup. This marked the beginning of a new era as clubs began to build their own stadiums meant specifically for soccer instead of leasing out American Football Arenas.

Competition Format

MLS is the US’s third most attended sports event, with about 20,000 on average attendance. Only the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) record a higher average attendance. As of 2013, it also stands as the seventh-most-attended soccer league in the world! That shows how far they have come since their establishment in 1993.

The MLS combines traditional football league format with indigenous American Sports format. As of 2023, the MLS comprises 29 teams. 15 from the Eastern Conference and 14 from the Western Conference. 

Each team plays 34 games throughout the regular season – two games each (home and away) against other teams in your conference and one game against all the teams except 4 or 5 in the other conference. The team with the most points at the end of the season is awarded the Supporters Shield and is also given home advantage throughout the play-offs. 

Like other major sports in the United States, there’s an All-Star break mid-way in the season in which an All-Star Game featuring the best players in the league is played. The event pits the best players from each conference against each other.

Another indigenous adaptation by the MLS is the post-season playoffs. Eighteen teams participate in the knockout competition, and the eventual winners are awarded the MLS Cup. They are also awarded the title of the league champion. Any U.S. team that wins the event automatically has a place in the CONCACAF Champions LeagueU.S. Soccer On The Rise. LA Galaxy is the most successful team in the competition, with 5 titles.

MLS Awards

After the conclusion of the season, there are a number of awards are given out. Some of them are:

  • MLS Best XI
  • Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year Award
  • MLS Defender of the Year Award
  • MLS Golden Boot.
  • MLS Young Player of the Year Award
  • Landon Donovan MVP Award
  • MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award
  • MLS Referee of the Year Award

Player Records

Some players in the MLS hold some incredible records. Jason Kreis was the first player to hit the 100-goal mark in 2005. He eventually retired with 108 goals to his name. Chris Wondolowski is MLS’ highest goal scorer ever, with 171 goals. He played between 2005-2021, to which the Landon Donovan MVP Award is named, and is second with 145 goals. He also has the highest number of assists in MLS history, with 136. 

Steve Ralston is a close second with 135 assists to his name. Nick Rimando holds the record for the highest number of clean sheets(Shutouts) with 154. He also holds the record for the highest number of games played, with 514!


Thriving through thick and thin, the United States Major League Soccer deserves the name it has made for itself. With continual investment from the overseeing bodies, dedication from the league players and solid support from soccer fans all over the country, it can only get better from here.

Scroll to Top