We admit we’re not big futbol/soccer fans. Part of it is FIFA’s career corruption, which turns us off. Plus. we grew up in the 1970s in the era of Total Football, and the game is very different now—despite Ted Lasso and its return to the style we grew up playing. Whenever we watch soccer in America, we usually either fall asleep … or turn it off at halftime so we can outside and actually play the sport instead of merely watching it. So, yeah, there’s some built-in subjectivity here.
Reading the news today that Major League Soccer is adding a 30th team via expansion caught us off-guard, however. We didn’t even know MLS was that big already to begin with, and it shocked us to learn there are 29 teams already in existence. Shows you how much we’ve been paying attention to the sport (basically, we don’t). As a result, we thought we’d post some interesting facts that may interest only us about the MLS and its existing organizational structure. Hang on:
- The league started in 1996 in the aftermath of the 1994 World Cup competition hosted across the U.S.
- For the first 11 seasons, MLS bounced back and forth between 10 and 12 teams, intermittently.
- After 20 years of existence, the league had doubled in size from its original 10 teams to a total of 20 teams.
- The Los Angeles Galaxy have the most championships (5), although it has not won since 2014.
- D.C. United is second in total titles (4), but the club has not claimed a championship since 2004.
- Fifteen different teams have earned at least one league crown over the 27-year lifespan of the league.
- The New England Revolution holds the record for five runners-up finishes without a championship.
The league has just one tier, so to speak, with the current 29 teams, so there is no fear of relegation—and no motivator of promotion, either. A quick glance at the 2023 season’s tables show us two conferences with 15 and 14 teams, respectively, so the San Diego addition in 2025 will even out the Eastern and Western divide. The franchise with the highest attendance this season, easily, is the Atlanta United with an average of 46,552 fans per match. That’s pretty crazy.
But we know Atlanta doesn’t have a hockey team, so maybe this fills the void? The worst team, attendance wise, is the Chicago Fire—a team in a big metropolitan area that hasn’t finished in the top half of the league since 2014, despite winning a title in 2003. It’s hard for teams in big cities to draw fans without winning, unless that team is the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers, of course. But still, with just 12,958 fans per match, the Fire needs help, for sure.
Our “local” team is the San Jose Earthquakes, currently hanging out in fifth among Western Conference teams. They were the MLS champs in 2005 and 2012, although we had no clue, really. We’re probably confused as another Earthquakes franchise played here from 1974-1988 in the North American Soccer League (NASL, 1974-1984) and the Western Soccer Alliance. We don’t remember ever going to a game, in truth, as kids or teens, so no wonder the new version is so invisible.
Maybe this should be our challenge for the next few years: watch some American futbol and see where we go. Hmmm.