The team here at The Hype Train have begun a discovery of exploration into the MLS, America's top flight football division. With Major League Soccer becoming a rapidly growing competition across the world, there is no better time than prior to the 2018 season to jump aboard their league. Starting from the bottom, we aim to find out the basics of the beautiful game in America ahead of the start of the season so our MLS Fantasy team isn't fighting it out at the bottom of the table. All aboard.
How much do we know about MLS right now?
About as much as the average football fan that has a social media account. Ashley Cole still plays for LA Galaxy, Bradley Wright-Phillips is a thing here, Toronto are the current champions, there is a draft for college players, fans are colourful and vocal, and teams are constantly being expanded into the league.
Basics of Major League Soccer
What's best to wet the beak of our MLS appetite is to do a very basic question and answer about the division, so let's get straight into it.
When was MLS founded?
The MLS was founded in 1993, which was part of the USA's bid to host the 1994 World Cup.
When was the first season of MLS?
Founded in 1993, the first season didn't commence until 1996, which featured just 10 teams.
How many founding MLS teams still feature today?
There are 8 teams who have competed in every MLS season.
Sporting Kansas City
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
A 9th team, San Jose Earthquakes, were also a founding team but missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons before returning in 2008.
Are there any defunct MLS teams?
Yes, 3 teams.
Tampa Bay Mutiny (1996-2001)
Miami Fusion (1998-2001)
Chivas USA (2005-2014)
How many teams are there currently in MLS?
23 teams, and there is one new team in the MLS this season, Los Angeles FC.
Los Angeles FC
New England Revolution
New York City FC
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
How many countries feature in the MLS?
2 - America and Canada
How many Canadian teams are in the MLS?
3 - Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Montral Impact
When does the MLS season take place?
An entire MLS season takes place in a single calendar year. In the Premier League each season crosses over into two calendar years (2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18), but with the MLS the season history is just listed as 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 etc.
The main season runs from March to October, with play-off games taking place in November and December.
January and February represents the off-season.
What is the league format of the MLS?
Each team plays 34 league games.
There are two conferences, east and west.
They play teams within their own conferences 23 times.
The remaining 11 matches are randomly drawn against teams from the opposing conference.
Youth players in MLS
There is a Draft for college players, and it works in a similar fashion to the NFL draft, in which the bottom ranked clubs get the first pick, and the top teams (if they choose to) get picks at the end of the drafting round.
In general, the MLS encourages homegrown players to develop through the MLS system. The likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard, who have all played in the Premier League came through a program called 'Generation Adidas'.
Who are the MLS record holders?
Landon Donovan scored 145 goals in MLS, a record.
Donovan also has the most assists, with 136.
Goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, has the most clean sheets (137) and the most appearances in MLS (452).
The 'Designated Player' Rule
It's The Beckham Rule - bringing in expensive players to boost the reputation of MLS.
The rule allows each MLS team to sign players that would be considered outside the team's salary cap (either by offering the player higher wages or by paying a transfer fee for the player), allowing MLS teams to compete for star players in the international football scene.
Each club is allowed 3 designed players.
David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Steven Gerrard, and Tim Howard, have all been designated players in the past, and in Howard's case, the present.
Who is running the show?
In England, the Premier League falls under the umbrella of the FA.
In America, MLS falls under the Umbrella of the United States Soccer Federation.
MLS has a 'Commissioner', currently Don Garber, who is pretty much in charge of the League's oversight and development of the league.
Which team has the largest stadium capacity?
Teams in MLS have 'soccer-specific' stadiums or ground-share with other sports teams, usually from the NFL.
17 of the 23 teams have soccer-specific grounds, including LA FC, who are joining the league as of 2018.
Atlanta United have the largest capacity, with 42,500 spectators allowed to visit the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has a 71,000 capacity, for MLS matches.
What trophies can you win in the MLS?
Supporters' Shield - The trophy awarded to the best overall team over the course of their 34 league games.
MLS Cup - The winner from the 12 team post-season tournament.
Are there any challenges to the MLS fixture list?
Due to the games being played over the summer, there is a lot of fixture conflict with international tournaments. If a World Cup is on, and a player goes away, they could miss substantial time for their club.
If they moved their fixtures to winter and aligned with European fixtures the MLS would need a long Xmas break due to the climates in America over that time.
Basically, it snows a lot in Canada and the US. Fixtures would be called off on a regular basis.
The CONCACAF Champions League
Dominated by Mexican teams, the North American Champions League featured 16 teams with 4 teams from MLS each season.
Winners of the Supporters' Shield, MLS Cup, and the U.S. Open Cup (their domestic cup competition) and a best aggregate side qualify. If a team wins all three competitions, or more than one, an aggregate system allocates the other positions.
Only twice have MLS sides won the Champions League - LA Galaxy (2000) and D.C. United (1998).
Which team has won MLS the most?
LA Galaxy have won the MLS Cup 5 times, the most of any team.
LA Galaxy and D.C. United have won the Supporters' Shield 4 time each, a dual record.
How Many teams have won the MLS Cup?
During the 22 seasons of MLS, 12 teams have won the MLS Cup.
La Galaxy (5)
D.C. United (4)
Houston Dynamo (2)
Sporting Kansas City (2)
San Jose Earthquakes (2)
Chicago Fire (1)
Colorado Rapids (1)
Columbus Crew (1)
Real Salt Lake (1)
Seattle Sounders (1)
Portland Timbers (1)
Toronto FC (1)
When does the 2018 MLS season get underway?
Saturday March 3rd 2018
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