For sports fans who became enthralled by the World Cup coverage from Brazil, here’s a guide to Major League Soccer, the top flight league in the United States.
Major League Soccer has two conferences, Eastern and Western with five teams from each conference making the playoffs. There’s one wild card game between 4th and 5th placed teams, then the conference semis and finals are home and home aggregate series with MLS Cup as the championship game.
In the regular season, you play each team in your conference twice home and twice away then each team in the other conference once. All teams from all divisions of soccer in the U.S. play in the U.S. Open Cup, the U.S.’ equivalent to the FA Cup with Canadian teams playing in the Amway Canadian Championship. Four teams from MLS play in the CONCACAF Champions League and the best team in the MLS’s regular season wins the Supporters’ Shield. There is no promotion or relegation allowed within Major League Soccer.
Stadium: Providence Park
Fan Support: A+
Best Players: Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri
Manager: Caleb Porter – Young coach. Extremely intense and competitive. Something of an attacking tactical genius at his best, cold and surly at his worst.
Colors: Forest Green, Gold, White (alternate color: Rose City Red)
History: Came into MLS in 2011, have existed in some form since 1975. Known for fantastic support, giving Portland the name Soccer City, USA. Won the Western Conference regular season title in their best year, 2013.
Rivalries: In the Cascadia Cup with Seattle and Vancouver. Rivalry with Seattle is vicious and one of the best in the world, while rivalry with Vancouver is a little friendlier.
Reputation: Appreciated and hailed as one of the league’s signature clubs. Rub some the wrong way with a sort of oppositional and feisty mentality.
Other: Owner Merritt Paulson is MLS’ Mark Cuban. Passionate, loud, controversial, and has had his share of fines from the league. Have sold out every MLS home game since day one. The Timbers Army is awesome.
Stadium: CenturyLink Field
Best Players: Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins
Manager: Sigi Schmid – One of the most successful managers in American soccer history. Has won MLS Cup with both LA and Columbus, and is the only coach in Sounders MLS history.
Colors: Rave Green, Blue
History: Existed in lower leagues like USL before coming to MLS in 2009, where they smashed records with attendance and fan support. Have made playoffs in all five years of MLS play, but have never made the final.
Rivalries: Cascadia Cup – not liked by Vancouver, but hated by Portland.
Reputation: Heralded as the model franchise. Average more than two times any other club in attendance by virtue of playing in a football stadium that draws as many as 67,000+ for big games. Detractors point at them as fake and a bandwagon type of club that claims to be original but in reality is just gimmicky.