Major League Soccer (MLS) constitutes the top tier of American professional soccer. The league launched in 1996 and has expanded to 28 teams across the United States and Canada. This in-depth guide will profile every MLS club. We’ll examine their histories, star players, home stadiums, fan cultures, notable facts, and biggest rivalries. Whether you’re a diehard MLS fan or casual soccer observer, this comprehensive team-by-team overview provides deeper insight into the league’s components.
Eastern Conference MLS Teams
The Eastern Conference contains 14 MLS teams grouped geographically.
Atlanta United FC
- One of MLS’s newest teams debuting in 2017 based in Atlanta, Georgia.
- They play at Mercedes Benz Stadium, also home to the NFL’s Falcons.
- Atlanta United drew massive crowds and won MLS Cup in 2018 behind star Josef Martinez.
- Their main rival is fellow southern team Orlando City SC in the “Southern Derby.”
Chicago Fire FC
- Charter MLS member starting play in 1998 based in Chicago, Illinois.
- The Fire have won one MLS Cup and 4 U.S. Open Cups.
- They originally played at Soldier Field but now are at SeatGeek Stadium in suburban Chicago.
- Key rivals are Sporting Kansas City and FC Cincinnati.
- Newer MLS team that joined the league in 2019 based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- They play at TQL Stadium and have a major rivalry with Columbus Crew SC.
- FC Cincy has a passionate fan base but has struggled on the field as an expansion team.
Columbus Crew SC
- One of MLS’s ten original teams from the league’s 1996 launch based in Columbus, Ohio.
- The Crew have won two MLS Cups and three Supporters’ Shields for best regular season record.
- They have a fierce in-state rivalry with newer team FC Cincinnati.
- The team plays at the modern Lower.com Field stadium.
- Historic MLS charter franchise dating to 1996 located in Washington, D.C.
- D.C. United has won 4 MLS Cups and been one of the league’s most successful teams.
- RFK Stadium was their renowned noisy home before moving to Audi Field in 2018.
- Key historic rivals are the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution.
Inter Miami CF
- MLS’s newest expansion team owned in part by David Beckham that debuted in 2020.
- Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but seeking to build their own Miami stadium.
- Managed by renowned former player Phil Neville andBrazilian owner Jorge Mas.
- One of MLS’s ten original clubs dating to 1996 based in Montreal, Quebec.
- They were known as the Montreal Impact before rebranding to CF Montréal in 2021.
- Historic rivals include Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps in all-Canadian matchups.
New England Revolution
- MLS charter club since 1996 located in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
- The Revs play at Gillette Stadium and have been one of MLS’s most consistent playoff teams.
- Recent stars include USMNT player Clint Dempsey and Premier league legend Thierry Henry as manager.
New York City FC
- MLS team created in 2015 as Manchester City’s affiliate in the United States.
- They play games at iconic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
- NYCFC reached the 2022 MLS Cup final led by players like Valentin Castellanos.
- Key historic rivalry against the older New York Red Bulls.
New York Red Bulls
- MLS original club dating to 1996 representing the New York Red Bulls energy drink brand.
- Based in Harrison, New Jersey and play at Red Bull Arena.
- They have won three Supporters’ Shields for best regular season record.
- Fierce rivals with NYCFC in battle for New York supremacy.
Orlando City SC
- MLS team that originated in the lower USL league in 2010 before moving up to MLS in 2015.
- Based in Orlando, Florida and have quickly cultivated a passionate regional fanbase.
- Home stadium is the modern Exploria Stadium.
- Key rivalry against Atlanta United FC.
- MLS team added in 2010 based near Philadelphia in Chester, Pennsylvania.
- They play at Subaru Park, previously known as Talen Energy Stadium.
- The Union have reached two MLS Cup finals and won a Supporters’ Shield.
- Their fanbase has built a reputation for intense crowd support.
- Canadian MLS team joining the league in 2007 based in Toronto, Ontario.
- They were the first Canadian MLS franchise and remain the only outside Montreal.
- Toronto FC won MLS Cup in 2017 becoming the first Canadian champion.
- Historic rivalry against fellow Canadians the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Western Conference MLS Teams
The Western Conference contains the other 14 MLS clubs mostly located in the central and western United States.
- MLS’s newest expansion team that debuted in 2021 based in growing Austin, Texas.
- They inaugurated the impressive Q2 Stadium as their first home venue.
- Owned in part by actor Matthew McConaughey with a distinctive bright green color scheme.
- Debuted as an MLS expansion team in 2022 based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- They play home games at Bank of America Stadium.
- Coached by legendary Spanish star Miguel Angel Ramirez.
- One of MLS’s founding clubs in 1996 situated near Denver in Commerce City, Colorado.
- The Rapids play home matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
- They won MLS Cup in 2010 and the Supporters Shield in 2016.
- Original MLS team since 1996 located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
- They were among the first soccer-specific stadiums in MLS with Toyota Stadium.
- FC Dallas has a strong youth development program grooming talent like Reggie Cannon.
- Rivalry with fellow Texas team the Houston Dynamo.
- Houston joined MLS in 2006 after the San Jose Earthquakes relocated from California.
- They’ve won two MLS Cup titles in 2006 and 2007 establishing early success.
- The Dynamo have a Texas derby rivalry with FC Dallas.
- The most historically successful MLS original club starting play in 1996 based in Carson, California.
- The Galaxy have won 5 MLS Cup titles, second most to D.C. United.
- They attract superstars like David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Chicharito playing at Dignity Health Sports Park.
- Fierce rivalry with LAFC for city dominance.
Los Angeles FC
- Expansion club added to MLS in 2018 as LA’s second top flight team.
- LAFC play in the architecturally acclaimed Banc of California Stadium.
- They won Supporters’ Shield in 2019 behind scoring star Carlos Vela.
- Emerging rivalry against the more established LA Galaxy.
Minnesota United FC
- Joined MLS as an expansion side in 2017 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
- Play matches at Allianz Field which opened in 2019.
- Their supporters are called the Wonderwall.
- Top players include Emanuel Reynoso and Luis Amarilla.
- Started MLS play in 2020 as one of the newest American franchises.
- They play in Nashville, Tennessee at Nissan Stadium and have plans to open a soccer-specific venue.
- Guided by manager Gary Smith who won MLS Cup with the Rapids.
- Joined MLS in 2011 adding Pacific Northwest presence based in Portland, Oregon.
- The Timbers have cultivated one of MLS’s most loyal and rowdy home crowds at Providence Park.
- Won MLS Cup in 2015 led by Diego Valeri.
- Major rivalry with the Seattle Sounders in the famous Cascadia Cup matches.
Real Salt Lake
- MLS team based in Salt Lake City, Utah added to the league in 2005.
- They played at Rice-Eccles Stadium before opening their own Rio Tinto Stadium in 2008.
- Real Salt Lake reached MLS Cup finals in 2009 and 2013.
San Jose Earthquakes
- Original MLS club from 1996 who moved to Houston after 2005 before returning in 2008.
- Based in San Jose, California where they moved into Avaya Stadium in 2015.
- The club has won two MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003 and two Supporters’ Shields.
- Historic stars include Landon Donovan and club scoring leader Chris Wondolowski.
Seattle Sounders FC
- Debuted as an MLS expansion team in 2009 based in Seattle, Washington.
- The Sounders have won four MLS Cups playing in front of crowds over 40,000 at Lumen Field.
- Huge Cascadia rivalry against the Portland Timbers.
Sporting Kansas City
- Original MLS charter club starting in 1996 first as the Kansas City Wizards before rebranding in 2011.
- Based in Kansas City, Kansas and play at Children’s Mercy Park.
- They have won 2 MLS Cups (2000, 2013), 4 U.S. Open Cups, and 1 Supporters’ Shield.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- Joined MLS in 2011 as Canada’s second team after Toronto FC.
- Situated in Vancouver, British Columbia and play at BC Place.
- Rivalry with Toronto FC constitutes battle for Canadian MLS supremacy.
Notable MLS Players Past and Present
MLS has attracted global superstars but also cultivated world-class homegrown stars:
- David Beckham (LA Galaxy)
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)
- Thierry Henry (NY Red Bulls)
- Wayne Rooney (DC United)
- Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago Fire)
- Nani (Orlando City)
- Carlos Vela (LAFC)
- Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy)
- Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution)
- Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
- Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
- Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
- Claudio Reyna (New York Red Bulls)
MLS has greatly elevated quality of play through key imports but also developed domestic talent.
Most Successful MLS Teams Historically
Based on total trophies, these MLS clubs lead historically:
- 5 MLS Cup Wins
- 4 Supporters’ Shields
- 2 U.S. Open Cups
- 4 MLS Cup Wins
- 4 Supporters’ Shields
- 3 U.S. Open Cups
San Jose Earthquakes
- 2 MLS Cup Wins
- 2 Supporters’ Shields
Sporting Kansas City
- 2 MLS Cup Wins
- 1 Supporter’s Shield
- 4 U.S. Open Cups
- 2 MLS Cup Wins
- 4 Conference Titles
The Galaxy and D.C. United sit atop the pile but other charter clubs like Kansas City and San Jose carried success through changing leagues.
Best MLS Player of All Time Candidates
While young, MLS history features icons:
Landon Donovan – Leading scorer with 145 goals and second-most assists. Dominant with San Jose and LA Galaxy winning 6 MLS Cups.
David Beckham – Most famous MLS import who drove LA Galaxy to repeat titles in 2011-2012 while boosting league visibility worldwide.
Jeff Agoos – Defender with D.C. United and San Jose who won 5 MLS Cups and 2 Supporters’ Shields across a long career spanning 1996-2005.
Nick Rimando – League’s all-time wins and shutouts leader from 1996-2019 mostly with Real Salt Lake where he won MLS Cup in 2009.
Preki – Yugoslavian import who won MVP and 2 scoring titles with Kansas City Wizards helping their 2000 MLS Cup win.
Bradley Wright-Phillips – Prolific recent scorer with 2 Golden Boots who propelled New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew to success.
MLS legacy continues building with new icons sure emerge in coming decades.
Most Heated MLS Rivalry Games
MLS rivalries spark passion and high stakes:
Cascadia Cup – Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps. Three bitter geographic rivals all joining MLS in 2009-2011.
El Trafico – LA Galaxy vs. LAFC. Heated derby between the established Galaxy and newer downtown LAFC.
Atlantic Cup – D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls. Two historic clubs that have disliked each other since MLS’s debut.
Hell Is Real Derby – Columbus Crew vs FC Cincinnati. Ohio foes joined MLS five years apart but built immediate hostility.
Lone Star Showdown – FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo. Texas pride on the line.
Rocky Mountain Cup – Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake. Utah vs. Colorado mountain region clash.
This overview of every MLS club provides deeper insight into the key components that have built the league since 1996. MLS strategically expanded across the continent in major media markets while cultivating regional rivalries. The league has increasingly attracted global talent while developing domestic stars. While still growing and evolving, MLS established its place within American pro sports while enabling soccer to flourish. The league strikes a balance between honoring history through charter clubs and infusing new energy with recent expansion teams. Every MLS club contributes unique traditions and passion bolstering the soccer culture. For devoted fans, this collection of teams constructs the American soccer community.
Here are some additional frequently asked questions about MLS soccer:
When did Major League Soccer start play?
Major League Soccer (MLS) was founded in 1996 as the United States’ new top-flight professional soccer league following the 1994 World Cup. MLS began with 10 charter teams and has since expanded to 28 clubs.
How many MLS teams are based in Canada?
Currently, MLS contains 3 Canadian teams – Toronto FC, Montreal CF, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. This allows an all-Canadian MLS rivalry to develop in addition to matches against American clubs.
What MLS team has the best attendance?
Seattle Sounders FC leads MLS attendance by a wide margin. They average over 40,000 fans per home match at Lumen Field and have set multiple league attendance records.
Which club is the most valuable MLS team?
In 2022, LA Galaxy was valued at $860 million making them MLS’s current most valuable club according to Forbes. They are followed by LAFC ($860M), Toronto FC ($550M), and the Seattle Sounders ($545M) as the next most valuable.
Who won the most recent MLS Cup?
As of 2022, the defending MLS Cup champions are New York City FC who won their first title by defeating the Portland Timbers on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the 2021 MLS Cup final.