The 2019 Major League Soccer (MLS) season was just started on March 2, and the excitement is already there in the very first week. The Philadelphia Union hosted the Toronto FC in the inaugural match where a brace from the Michael Bradley and a Nick Deleon goal contributed to the 3 – 1 victory for the visitors while Marco Fabian scored the only goal of the hosts.
Being the top flight soccer league in the United States, the MLS became a reality in 1993 as part of the nation’s preparation to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Teams from both United States and Canada are part of the league, a contributing factor to make the MLS one of the speedily growing leagues in the world. The MLS developed into a great extent where it has already attracted top players from across the globe such as David Beckham, Kaka, Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wayne Rooney, etc., to name a few.
Even though the MLS was founded in 1993, the first season was played only in 1996 as various issues contributed to delay the inaugural season. There were 10 teams in the first MLS season competing for the championship. Two new franchises were added in 1998 to make the number of participating teams to 12 but got back to 10 teams after the 2001 season due to the elimination of two franchises.
The MLS had a fantastic journey over the 25 years of its existence, and the participation of 23 teams in the 2018 season is a clear view of how far the league has developed from its initial struggles. A new franchise, FC Cincinnati was added to the league as part of the MLS expansion policy, to make the number of competing teams to 24 in the 2019 season. Now, both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference has 12 teams each; 21 from the United States and 3 from Canada.
MLS managed to double the number of member teams in a short period to be reckoned as one of the quickly growing soccer leagues in the world. If they are able to keep the pace and draw attention from the big names in the industry, they can surely fight for the supremacy among the top European leagues such as English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 in a decade or so. The responsible body is already ahead in their planning with the MLS expansion as they are working to bring in more teams and have 30 teams when the 2025 MLS season begins, surely a step forward.
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The league is following a quite different format compared to the leading European soccer leagues. The MLS follows the format similar to other professional sports leagues in the United States such as NFL (American Football), MLB (Baseball) and NBA (Basketball). The teams will participate being part of two conferences; Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Every team has to face teams from their same conference twice; home and away, while they have to play teams from the other conference once in a regular season.
The awarding of Supporters’ Shield to the highest point getter after the conclusion of MLS regular season is keeping the enthusiasm and fighting till the end. In addition, the Shield winners will have the chance to play all of their playoff games at home. Indisputably, the MLS playoffs are playing a great role in making the league more exciting and successful.
The MLS is a friendly option for all participating teams with a ‘No Relegation’ policy, a great factor to support their expansion and growing success.
What Stats Tell Us?
Definitely, the participation and support from the part of the soccer lovers are essential to the development of any leagues. In that, the MLS has managed to drag people to the stadiums and enjoy the games week in, week out.
The stats from reliable sources show that the MLS ranks 6th for average participation among the popular soccer leagues in the world. It invites the attention of 22000 people/ match on an average to stay just behind other popular leagues such as La Liga, Premier Ligue, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1. It’s a massive achievement for a league having only a two and a half decade experience.
With a number of famous players, improved competition level, and growing supporters, the MLS is on a journey to be the leaders.