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MLS Fantasy 2020: 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 two years. With Major League Soccer a growing competition across the America's and the rest of the world, there is no better time than prior to the 2020 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 North 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.

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. The 2020 season is the 25th season of the competition.

What is the MLS website?

MLS website:

MLS Fantasy:

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?

26 teams. 13 in each Conference. There are two new clubs joining the league for the 2020 season - Inter Miami are joining the East, with Nashville joining the West.

Eastern Conference (13)

Atlanta United

Chicago Fire

Columbus Crew

FC Cincinnati

D.C. United

Inter Miami FC

Montreal Impact

New England Revolution

New York City FC

New York Red Bulls

Orlando City

Philadelphia Union

Toronto FC

Western Conference (13)

Colorado Rapids

FC Dallas

Houston Dynamo

Los Angeles FC

LA Galaxy

Minnesota United

Nashville SC

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 (2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20), but with the MLS the season history is just listed as 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 etc.

For the first time in MLS history, the league will start in February, whilst the regular season runs to October, with play-off games taking place in late October and November.

December, January and early February represents the off-season for all clubs.

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 one match against 10 of the 13 members of the opposite conference. The 2020 season will also be the first MLS season in which every team does not play every other team at least once.

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?

Chris Wondolowski scored 159 goals in MLS, breaking the record in 2019.

Landon Donovan has the most assists, with 136.

Goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, has the most clean sheets (154) and the most appearances in MLS (514). The shot-stopper who left Real Salt Lake at the end of last season is the only player in MLS history to play 500+ matches in the competition.

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, Tim Howard, Carlos Vela, Pity Martinez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sebasian Giovionco and David Villa have all been designated players in the past, and in Vela'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 26 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.

17 of the 26 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.

Inter Miami will be opening their own stadium in 2020, whilst Nashville will be playing their debut season at Nissan Stadium, home of NFL side Tennessee Titans.

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 - Los Angeles FC

MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders

U.S. Open Cup - Atlanta United

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 or continental tournament 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. Colorado Rapids would struggle to fill a fixture.

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).

5 MLS teams feature this season... Atlanta United, Seattle Sounders, LAFC, New York City FC and Montreal Impact.

Who was the top MLS Fantasy player in 2019?

Carlos Vela (LAFC) scored 34 goals, provided 15 assists and accumulated 85 bonus points, on his way to totalling 363 points. Vela broke the goal-scoring record in a single season with 34 goals in 31 games.

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 24 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)

Seattle Sounders (2)

Atlanta United (1)

Chicago Fire (1)

Colorado Rapids (1)

Columbus Crew (1)

Real Salt Lake (1)

Portland Timbers (1)

Toronto FC (1)

When does the 2020 MLS season get underway?

Saturday 29th February 2020, with the first game seeing D.C. United hosting Colorado Rapids at Allianz Field.

Want to know more about The Hype Train?

The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.

We pride ourselves in providing beautiful graphics, statistics, in-depth analytical reporting and free weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb rankings tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review games, live sport, and professional wrestling.

In 2019, Hype Train Football Club was formed, becoming the first Fantasy Football website to take to the field. HTFC is a socially active team across social and web channels, providing regular match highlights, match reports, comprehensive player statistics and unique player profiles.

The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog' in 2016 by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), and were again shortlisted as a finalist in 2019 in the 'Best Fantasy Football Blog' category.

You can follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, follow Hype Train FC on Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel for exclusive content, or visit our website here at

All aboard.


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