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MLS Fantasy 2019: The Basics of Major League Soccer

The team here at The Hype Train have been reporting on MLS, America's top flight football division, for the past year. With Major League Soccer becoming a rapidly growing competition across the America's, there is no better time than prior to the 2019 season to provide the basics of the league for prospective MLS Fantasy players. Starting from the bottom, we aim to find out the basics of the beautiful game in America ahead of the start of the season with the hope that your 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?

During the 2018 season we provided weekly written articles around captaincy, picking players for our Fantasy team in our Forecast, and reviewing the best players from every round of games. Our knowledge around Designated Players and key players in the league is on point, though the youth system isn't sticking and like with any foreign leagues, some of the names that come through and play on a weekly basis are complete unknown variables.

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.

What is the MLS website?

MLS website:

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.

Colorado Rapids

Columbus Crew

DC United

FC Dallas

Sporting Kansas City

LA Galaxy

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?

24 teams. 12 in each Conference. Cincinnati are the latest expansion side who are joining the league for the 2019 season.

Eastern Conference

Atlanta United

Chicago Fire

Columbus Crew

FC Cincinnati

D.C. United

Montreal Impact

New England Revolution

New York City FC

New York Red Bulls

Orlando City

Philadelphia Union

Toronto FC

Western Conference

Colorado Rapids

FC Dallas

Houston Dynamo

Los Angeles FC

LA Galaxy

Minnesota United

Portland Timbers

Real Salt Lake

San Jose Earthquakes

Seattle Sounders

Sporting Kansas City

Vancouver Whitecaps

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 Montreal 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, 2019 etc.

The main season runs from March to October, with play-off games taking place in October and November.

December, January and February represents the off-season.

What is the league format of the MLS?

Each club will play 34 games, including 17 home games and 17 away games. Teams will face each of their conference opponents twice during the season and non-conference opponents once. The remaining matches against opposing Conference teams are randomly drawn..

An addition to the MLS Cup this year sees 7 teams qualify for the play-offs. The top top in the East and West have a bye to the Conference semi-finals. Teams 2-7 in each Conference then play to fill the remaining 3 positions.

The Conference semi-finals features 8 teams, with the top 4 teams in the East and West competing against inter-conference outfits, with MLS Cup contested between the eventual winners from each Conference.

Does MLS have any other quirks during its season?

Rivalry Week - Held twice a season (typically in June and August). An entire round of fixtures are dedicated to rivals playing one another.

Decision Day - Aka the final day of the season. All final games are played at the same time. New York Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield on Decision Day last season when they beat Orlando 1-0 at home, whilst Atlanta were beaten 4-1 at Toronto.

Youth players in MLS

There is a SuperDraft for college and youth 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 league 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 (144) and the most appearances in MLS (485).

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. Garber negotiates with cities for bids to join the league and is the main spokesperson accountable for league entry and other big picture issues.

What is the kit manufacturer for MLS?

All 24 teams wear Adidas kits due to a long-standing agreement with the league.

Does MLS use VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee)?

Yes, VAR is used in every single game and is a prominent feature in the league.

Is it perfect? No.

Does it aid referees? Greatly.

Does it take forever to come to a decision when used? Every time.

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.

18 of the 24 teams have soccer-specific stadiums.

Atlanta United have the largest capacity, with 72,035 the currently attendance record in the league, set by The Five Stripes during the 2018 season.

What trophies can you win in MLS?

Supporters' Shield - The trophy awarded to the best overall team over the course of 34 league games.

MLS Cup - The winner from the post-season tournament. The top team from the East and West meet, with the hosts being the team to boast more regular season points.

U.S. Open Cup - The top knockout cup competition for American teams. Teams from MLS and the USL Championship compete in the tournament.

Who are the currently trophy holders?

Supporters' Shield - New York Red Bulls

MLS Cup - Atlanta United

U.S. Open Cup - Houston Dynamo

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).

Toronto made the final of the Champions League last season, but lost over 2 legs to Mexican outfit, C.D. Guadalajara.

5 MLS teams feature this season... Atlanta United (MLS Cup), Sporting KC (2017 Open Cup), Houston Dynamo (2018 Open Cup), New York Red Bulls (best record over 2 seasons) and Toronto (Canadian Championship)

Which team has won the most trophies?

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 23 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)

Atlanta United (1)

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 2019 MLS season get underway?

Saturday March 2nd 2019 with Philadelphia Union hosting Toronto.

You can read more of our latest news from in the FPL, Premier League, and around the footballing world on our dedicated MLS 2019 page by clicking here, or by clicking the images below.

Want to know more about The Hype Train?

The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.

As well as providing FPL articles on our website, we are a founding Contributor to the new Fantasy Football Hub, where you can find more unique articles, including weekly Power Rankings, from The Hype Team. You can support us and read exclusive members only content for just £2 per-month by clicking here.

The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.

You can follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, or visit our website here at

All aboard.


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