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Major League Soccer: how is it different from the top flight European football leagues?

02 Mar 2019, 14:32 IST

Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays for LA Galaxy in the MLS
Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays for LA Galaxy in the MLS

Major League Soccer, commonly known as the MLS is the top flight football league of the United States with clubs from both the USA and Canada competing in the competition. It was founded in 1993 and was part of the United States' successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Since then, the competition has quickly grown into one of the most popular football leagues in the world. Its popularity has made it a star attraction for players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and many more.

Knowing the League

The format of MLS is inspired by other popular American sports leagues which include Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL). The league is split into two mini-leagues called Conferences. In the 2018 MLS season 23 clubs participated, while the Eastern Conference consisted of 11 clubs, the Western Conference had 12. 

Atlanta United FC won the 2018 MLS season
Atlanta United FC won the 2018 MLS season

Playoffs give it another dimension

While the regular season runs from March to October, it is followed by the playoffs which culminate in the MLS Cup (the final match of the season) in November or December. The playoffs make the MLS stand apart from other top flight European leagues. The thrill and excitement of the knockout stages are behind the league's ever-growing success. 

No relegation

Unlike in European leagues, MLS does not use the system of promotion and relegation. As the league owns all the clubs, the possibility of relegation is effectively ruled out. This factor has become crucial for the League's expansion across the nation.

6th most popular league

According to stats, MLS was the world's 6th most popular league in terms of average attendances for the 2018 season. With an average footfall of around 22,000 per match, it only trails Ligue 1 (22,585), Serie A (24,738), La Liga (26,968), the English Premier League (38,274) and the Bundesliga (44651).

Fastest growing league in the world

Only 10 teams competed in the first edition of MLS in 1996. Today, that number has more than doubled. In the 2019 MLS season, a total of 24 clubs would compete. As the competition expands, it is predicted to have 30 teams by 2025. 

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