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Americans Love Soccer…Really!

May 17, 2018

The colloquial term “big 4” refers to the four major team sports organizations in the United States and Canada: Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League. That should probably be “big 5.” Here are some facts about Major League Soccer…which is much more popular than you probably think it is.

Founded in 1993

The MLS was founded in 1993, a year before the World Cup tournament was held throughout the United States. League founders thought that the biggest event in the world’s biggest sport would immediately ignite interest in soccer in the U.S. It didn’t. The league faltered after it quietly began play in 1996, with its first 10 teams playing to mostly empty stadiums. About a decade later, however, MLS got more and more popular and even started to turn a profit.

Average attendance

In both the 2016-17 NBA and NHL season, teams averaged attendance of about 17,000 fans per game. Average attendance at a Major League Soccer game in 2017: more than 22,000.

23 squads

Most any professional sports league loses a team or two as it grows, and Major League Soccer is no exception. It now fields 23 squads or “clubs,” and since being established in 1996, three teams have folded: the Miami Fusion, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and, most surprisingly, Chivas USA. C.D. Guadalajara is one of the most popular pro soccer teams in Mexico—nicknamed Chivas, or “goats”—and the American franchise was an expansion of the team’s empire. The American version of Chivas didn’t add to the empire and went out of business in 2014.

Team nicknames

In line with professional soccer teams in Europe and the Americas, official team nicknames or mascot names aren’t compulsory for Major League Soccer teams. That’s a big difference between the MLS and other American pro sports leagues. Some teams have nicknames, such as the Houston Dynamo, Portland Timbers, and Colorado Rapids, while others have more formal titles, like F.C. Dallas and Toronto F.C. (The F.C.” stands for “football club,” because the rest of the world calls soccer “football.”

New York Red Bulls

The MLS fields the only team in major American pro sports that’s named after its parent corporation. Formerly the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, the team was sold in 2006 to the company that makes and markets Red Bull energy drink, necessitating a name change to the New York Red Bulls.

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