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Leagues: MLS

Guide To Major League Soccer Teams, Players, Fans and History

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.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PORTLAND TIMBERS

Portland, OR
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.

 

SEATTLE SOUNDERS

Seattle, WA
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.

Other: Has a lot of star-power, now and over the years. All sellouts in MLS play. Average around 40,000, only open upper decks up for big games. Won the US Open Cup three years in a row from 2009-2011. Drew Carey is a part owner. Team has a marching band and does a “March to the Match” through Seattle before every game.

 

LA GALAXY

Carson, CA
Stadium: StubHub Center

Fan Support: B+

Best Players: Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane

Manager: Bruce Arena – The top American manager of all time. Managed the US in two World Cups in 2002 and 2006. Won MLS Cup with LA in both 2011 and 2012.  Also won the 1996 and 1997 MLS cups with DC United. Won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup with DC United. A New Yorker.

Colors: Blue and gold.

History: An MLS original team, founded at the start of the league in 1996. Won MLS Cup a number of times.

Rivalries: Play the California Classico against San Jose, a clash of Northern and Southern California. Have a rivalry against Chivas USA, who share a stadium with the Galaxy.

Reputation: Very much MLS’ glamour club, a spot cemented when they signed David Beckham in 2007. Also one of the most successful teams in the league. Mostly respected.

Other: Trailblazing club in terms of salary expenditure. Owned by AEG, who at one point owned as many as half the teams in the league. Alexi Lalas was the former GM.

 

COLORADO RAPIDS

Commerce City, CO
Stadium: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Fan Support: C+

Best Players: DeShorn Brown, Dillon Powers

Manager: Pablo Mastroeni – A Rapids legend who was sent off for the US against Italy at the 2006 World Cup. Retired last year, got this coaching job. A class act.

Colors: Burgundy and white.

History: Won MLS Cup for the only time in 2010 in extra time against FC Dallas. Not a traditionally successful club.

Rivalries: Play the Rocky Mountain Cup against Real Salt Lake.

Reputation: A mostly bland club, the Rapids have fair-weather fan support that only gets good in the summer in good weather. A good young team now, rarely has big stars.

Other: Owned by Arsenal and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

 

REAL SALT LAKE

Sandy, UT
Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium

Fan Support: A

Best Players: Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales

Manager: Jeff Cassar – Jason Kreis’ assistant and former MLS player, took over from the boss when he left to manage expansion NYCFC last offseason.

Colors: Claret and Cobalt

History: Founded in 2005, a big success in MLS. Perennial playoff team under Kreis playing an attractive, attacking brand of football while building a strong fan-base. Won MLS Cup in Seattle against LA on penalties in 2009, lost it in 2013 on penalties against SKC.

Rivalries: Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Reputation: Well liked for the strong team spirit and unity. Not exactly a destination club though. Never sign by DPs.

Other: Never play on Sunday at home because of Mormon religious beliefs.

 

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Vancouver, BC
Stadium: BC Place

Fan Support: A-

Best Players: Pedro Morales, Erik Hurtado

Manager: Carl Robinson – Welshman played in England, MLS, and took over for Martin Renne after the end of last season. Tough, and well-liked. His first head coaching job.

Colors: Blue and white.

History: Another promoted USL club, came into MLS with the Timbers in 2011. Haven’t done well on the field so much in MLS, but have a good young team now. Always play very entertaining games.

Rivalries: Cascadia Cup against Seattle and Portland.

Reputation: Able to sign some big players due to playing in a beautiful city and being willing to spend. We’ll see how this young team develops.

Other: Play in BC Place, a football stadium. Only open up about 22,000 seats, but usually sell out. Had Golden Boot winner last year in Camilo, who left for Mexico. Fun team to watch.

 

CHIVAS USA

Carson, CA
Stadium: StubHub Center

Fan Support: F

Best Players: Erik Torres, Carlos Bocanegra

Manager: Wilmer Cabrera – Longtime assistant in MLS, former USYNT coach, getting a shot at the top job with the Goats.

Colors: Red, white, and blue.

History: Started in 2005 as Chivas Guadalajara’s sister/minor league club under the same ownership. Things were going okay until 2013, when both clubs came under new ownership that tried to make the club all-Latino. Club was sued for discrimination by white employees, as always shaky fan support plummeted. Owner was forced out before 2014 season, when it was announced the team would be sold and rebranded for the 2015 season. This is the last year of Chivas USA. Did have some good years under Bob Bradley in the late 2000s.

Rivalries: Against LA, who they’re something of a little brother to. We’ll see what happens after the club is sold. MLS says they’ll stay in LA.

Reputation: The laughing stock of the league. An embarrassment. Sounders get more fans in one game than they have gotten all year.

Other: None.

 

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

Santa Clara, CA
Stadium: Buck Shaw Stadium (replaced by new stadium for 2015 season)

Fan Support: A-

Best Players: Chris Wondolowski, Clarence Goodson

Manager: Mark Watson – Got the job on an interim basis last year and got it full-time after a strong finish to the season. Struggling mightily this year though – may be in over his head.

Colors: Blue, black

History: Founded as San Jose Clash as an MLS original team in 1996. Changed name to Earthquakes shortly thereafter. Won MLS Cup with Landon Donovan on the team in the early 2000s, but moved to Houston after being unable to secure a stadium deal in the middle of the decade. San Jose was awarded an expansion team a few years later to bring back the Quakes. Won the Supporters’ Shield (for best regular season team) in 2012.

Rivalries: LA in the California Classico, which they host every year in front of a sellout crowd of over 50,000 at Stanford Stadium.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Me

    July 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

    For what its worth, your subjective biases were clearly apparent. Before reading the byline I could tell you were a Portland fan. Disappointing piece.

  2. Harry Nibbler

    July 16, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    If you are a parent of a kid who is into soccer, and you are convincing him, or letting him think, that Chris Wondorooski is a top-flight goal-scoring machine, please call the nearest orphanage immediately and request a drop-off time.

    It’s 2014. There is no reason any fan of the game should willingly subject themselves, let alone a child, to this weak product.

    • RichardSGDoclin8500

      July 18, 2014 at 5:59 am

      LOL, I don’t think parents are convincing their kids that Wondolowski is somehow the best in the world. You’re hugely mistaken. In fact, I live in San Jose and take my kids to see Wondo & the Quakes play because the team represents our CITY, cause last time I checked, Man U, Barca, Bayern don’t represent any part of the US, so it would make zero sense for our family to support any of those teams (although we do watch Euro leagues play, we just don’t support any club considering we feel no connection/affiliation to them). And Wondolowski adds to the value because he is a USMNT player and my son looks up to all the USMNT guys. So stop assuming and get your facts straight, troll.

  3. Harry Nibbler

    July 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Being a fan of this inferior league should disqualify a person from ever talking about big boy football. It’s really, really sad stuff.

    No matter how badly you want it, or how badly you try and argue for it, the MLS will always be garbage.

    (I’ll let you get back to your Budweisers now).

    • CassanovaFrankenstein

      July 16, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      We’ll go back to our Bud and you can go back to playing tough guy on the Internet and talk all the sh#t you want. Deep down I think it pisses you off that you can’t be like this in real life. Please respond to this, so we can all read more of you. We can’t wait.

      • Harry Nibbler

        July 16, 2014 at 11:20 pm

        “Tough guy”?
        “talk all the sh#t you want”?

        What does any of this have to do with the fact that you are a fan of garbage soccer?
        MLS fans are some of the most thin-skinned people out there. How cute.

        You simply must understand that your love of MLS is embarrassing and quickly identifies you as someone who doesn’t know anything about quality football.

    • Tim

      July 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

      Go back to your parents basement and watch “proper football” hippie! Haha people like you give American soccer fans a bad name. Wana be Euro!

      • Harry Nibbler

        July 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm

        Again, more personal attacks from the MLASS fans. They cling to their poor-quality teams and pretend that they are watching quality on the field. So sad. Such thin skin.

        You must realize that you spend time and money supporting minor league garbage.

        • Unidentified Flying Man

          July 18, 2014 at 6:02 am

          rofl this is some Ann Coulter-level trolling. Delusional, out-of-the-blue attacks, unnecessary, and just straight up silly.
          I won’t comment further cause it’s useless to educate anyone who can’t even think for himself.

        • "MLASS fan" "Fan of an inferior league"

          July 18, 2014 at 6:13 am

          Again, more personal attacks from the mindless Eurosnobs. They cling to their teams from across the pond and pretend that they have some sort of love and connection for a team that has no affiliation with them and isn’t even from their home countries so they feel the need to attack the less-talented MLS to make them feel better about their Eurosnobbery. So sad. Such insecurity.

          You must realize that you spend your time attacking people who have a truly passionate interest about their home country’s league and want the sport to grow, so as a result they support it out of love for the game, they could not give much less of a $#*t if it was inferior or not.

          Oh and we’ll take our beers and enjoy ourselves by going to see the sport we love live in person, thank you very much.

      • Hugh Jasole

        July 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        Actually Tim, American soccer fans give themselves a bad name. Completely obnoxious, annoying and delusional. It was so nice when the USA got eliminated and I could go back to watching the world cup with real football fans.

    • fireandwater

      July 18, 2014 at 3:39 am

      Lol, sorry to intrude on your odd rant, but let me clarify some stuff for you. I’m pretty sure that the majority of MLS fans/supporters agree that the league isn’t at the level of your usual European top flight/UEFA Champions League or even to the level of the Brazilian & Argentinean leagues. But it’s the top flight league that we have here in the U.S. so we love it, not because we think it’s an amazing league, but because we love football that much. Yes, we know that the defending champs Sporting KC aren’t even close to the level as some of the top European clubs, but the this is the top league of our country so we are going to support it whole-heartedly. We know it’s not the best, but we frankly aren’t picky on that, considering it is improving in quality year by year, and can actually be quite fun to watch, believe it or not. Not to mention the matches are ridiculously fun to go to in-person, it beats the fan experiences of all the other sports in the U.S. And if you really love the sport, you’d want it to grow here in the U.S., you’d want its leagues to continue to rise in quality, and you’d want to support it for the sport itself. That’s why we love the league and if you can’t appreciate that then you have my pity.

  4. R.O

    July 16, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    “Won MLS Cup with Landon Donovan on the team in the early 2000s,”

    Correction won TWO (2) MLS cups (2001 and 2003!) Get it right Abe.

    And technical it was a quakes team which won MLS cup in 2006. Same players and coach from SJ in 2005 before Garber and the league moved them to Houston.

    It was Don Garber, MLS and Houston (and owner/operator) that stole the Earthquakes from SJ. It was a scam and more than not having a stadium deal was the supposed reason for the move. Lots of investigations went on.

    This was the same kind of scam that MLS did to the Miami Fusion. In fact in the 2001 playoffs, whichever team lost (SJ Earthquakes or Miami Fusion) MLS was going to get rid of the team that lost. This bit of info was confirmed by numerous folks included the then coach of Miami Ray Hudson.

    For those two reasons, I dislike Don Garber and the MLS league management. Never trust them again.

    SJ and Miami got screwed.

  5. jeremy

    July 16, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    So, You got the Fire terribly wrong. Our colors are RED AND WHITE despite what Adidas wants you to think. Also, we HATE Columbus with a passion and New England and KC can also die in a fire. Next time do your research. I think KC would appreciate having us listed as a rival under their section as well 😉 though we don’t really care about them

    • Harry Nibbler

      July 16, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      “die in a fire”?
      Wow, what a soccer hooligan you are!

    • CassanovaFrankenstein

      July 16, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Don’t forget, DC United. We got a little something going with them too!

  6. EPLNFL

    July 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Nice job. More pieces like this.

  7. John Gurnick

    July 16, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Very nice write up Abe. The only thing missing is adding a Fan Support rating of A+ four our friends & foes to the north Seattle Sounders FC. From a proud fellow member of the Timbers Army.

  8. Total Relegation @totalrelegation

    July 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Sponsored by MLS

    • Christopher Harris

      July 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      We wish!

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