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Major League Soccer
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Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the highest level soccer league in the United States sanctioned by the professional division of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF or U.S. Soccer), a member of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

The quality of play in MLS has improved since the league was founded in 1996 and the success of the United States Men's National Team in the FIFA World Cup 2002 Korea/Japan, reaching the quarter-final round for the first time, has been partly attributed to the experience gained by playing in MLS. Many of the members of the team at that World Cup were current or former MLS players.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Organization
3 Current Member Teams
4 Past MLS Cup Championship Games
5 Notable Players
6 Notable Former Players
7 MLS Commissioners
8 See also
9 External Links

History

MLS was formed in 1996, following the successful staging of the FIFA World Cup USA 1994 in the United States. MLS began with ten teams and had strong attendance the first season. Numbers declined slightly after the first year, but stabilized in subsequent years. The original 10 teams were divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference (Columbus Crew, D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and Tampa Bay Mutiny), and Western Conference (Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, Kansas City Wiz, Los Angeles Galaxy, and San Jose Clash).

Expansion and Contraction

The league expanded to 12 teams in 1998, adding the Chicago Fire to the Western Conference and Miami Fusion F.C to the Eastern Conference. In 2000 the league was reorganized into Eastern, Central, and Western Divisions; Chicago, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Columbus were moved to the new Central Division. However, following the 2001 season, both Florida teams were disbanded and the league contracted back to 10 teams. The league went back to Eastern and Western Conferences, with Chicago now in the Eastern.

On July 14th, 2004 MLS comissioner Don Garber along with Dave Checketts announced that Salt Lake City, Utah(name expected to be announced in August, 2004) will be the 12th team, along with Chivas USA (the previously announced 11th team), to start play in the 2005 season at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Stadiums

When the league was started, most teams played in stadiums built specifically for NFL or NCAA (college) American football. However this is a considerable expense to the league, and to provide better facilities as well as to control revenue for the stadium, a major goal of MLS management is to build its own stadiums, which are often called "soccer-specific stadiums".

The Miami Fusion played in Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which was a former high school stadium converted into a soccer-specific stadium. However, the Miami Fusion ceased operation in 2001 and Lockhart is no longer used by MLS for regular season matches. Currently, spring training practices and matches are conducted there on occasion.

In 1999, the city of Columbus, Ohio built Columbus Crew Stadium, the first major stadium ever built specifically for soccer in the United States.

The Los Angeles Galaxy got a new home beginning with the 2003 season, the Home Depot Center (HDC) in Carson, California. In the first year of operation, the HDC hosted the MLS All Star Game, the 2003 Women's World Cup (including the championship final), and the 2003 MLS Cup Final. The Galaxy previously played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Three teams, the New England Revolution, Kansas City Wizards, and Colorado Rapids, are operated by the owners of their cities' respective NFL teams and use those teams' stadiums: Gillette Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium, and Invesco Field, respectively. The remaining teams rent stadiums to play in: Chicago Fire play at Soldier Field, D.C. United play in RFK Stadium, MetroStars play in Giants Stadium, Dallas Burn play at the Cotton Bowl, and San Jose play in Spartan Stadium at San Jose State University.

Until 2002, the Chicago Fire played at Soldier Field. But while that stadium was undergoing renovations they played their 2002 and 2003 seasons at North Central College's Cardinal Stadium in Naperville, Illinois. The artificial turf permanently marked with lines for American football was a disappointment to the fans. In 2004 renovations were completed and the Fire returned to Soldier Field, and that same year they announced plans for a new soccer-specific stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.

Similarly, the Dallas Burn played at the Cotton Bowl until the 2003 season, when they moved to Dragon Stadium in Southlake, Texas, a football stadium belonging to the Carroll Independent School District. Like Chicago's home during this time, Dragon Stadium featured a FieldTurf surface with permanently-painted football lines and was unpopular with fans. In 2004 they returned to the Cotton Bowl and announced plans for a new soccer-specific stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Name Changes

In 1997, after only one year in the league, the Kansas City Wiz changed their name to the Kansas City Wizards. In 1998, the MetroStars dropped the "New York/New Jersey" part of their name. And in 2000, the San Jose Clash changed their name to the San Jose Earthquakes, reusing the name of the local team from the North American Soccer League. The Dallas Burn have indicated that they will change their name for the 2005 season.

Previous Professional Soccer Leagues

There have been several previous professional soccer leagues in the US and Canada, most notably the North American Soccer League (NASL; 1968-1984), which featured, among others, soccer legend Pelé. These leagues were not generally considered to be successes, due to the perception of soccer in the US as a "foreign" sport. The free-flowing nature of soccer, with relatively few set plays, fixed positions, timeouts and goals, may make the sport seem dull to some Americans; another factor includes the low-scoring nature of the game.

Organization

Unlike many other professional sports leagues in the United States, MLS is organized as a "single-entity" organization, in which the league contracts directly with the players, in an effort to control spending and maximize exposure. Each team has an owner/investor and the league allows an owner to have more than one team.

The full roster for each MLS team is limited to a maximum of 18 senior players, plus a maximum of six (6) roster-protected players. Of the 18 senior players, MLS teams are allowed a maximum of three (3) international players on their active roster. In MLS, a player is not considered an international (regardless of eligibility to play for the U.S. National Team) if he is a U.S. citizen, is a resident alien (green card), or under asylum protection. This criteria, defining an international player, has been established by U.S. Soccer and is in accordance with U.S. Immigration and Naturalization laws which require that MLS not limit or restrict the number of lawful permanent or temporary residents, asylees or refugees permitted to play on any team's active roster.

As a result, most of the players in the league are from the United States but some are renowned international players, with Latin America and the Caribbean being the home region for the largest number of international players.

In Europe, MLS is currently viewed largely as a 'retirement league,' where stars who are past their prime can collect easy paychecks. Although this may have been true of the early years of the league, far fewer older players have been imported recently, as the league has focused more on acquiring promising young players from the CONCACAF region. The league has recently been a springboard for young American players looking to join wealthier European teams, with Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Mathis, and DaMarcus Beasley being the most notable recent examples.

Unlike most other nations, there is currently no system of promotion and relegation in American soccer; it has repeatedly been suggested to introduce it, but such a system is rare in any sport in America, and the idea has not gained many fans.

Current Member Teams

Eastern Conference Western Conference 2005 Expansion Teams Defunct Teams

Past MLS Cup Championship Games

Notable Players

Notable Former Players

MLS Commissioners

See also

External Links