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One of the Untied State’s Major Leagues, the MLS represents the highest level of professional soccer in the US and Canada. The MLS was founded in 1993 to support the US’s bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The bid was successful and following the World Cup, soccer experienced a surge of popularity in the country. Despite some early hardships, the MLS has gone on to become a global soccer brand and now has to power to attract some of the biggest soccer stars in the world. It truly has never been more competitive or exciting.
Early Years of the MLS
The League officially began in 1996 with ten teams. The first few years were hard, with both operational and financial troubles plaguing the project. The biggest obstacle however was the lack of public support, with most teams usually playing in empty football stadiums. By 2002, two teams had already folded.
Resurgence in opularity
Following the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in which the US National Team reached the quarterfinals against all odds, soccer experienced another resurgence in the country. More than sixty thousand fans turned up to watch the final of the 2002 MLS Cup at Gillette Stadium, which was the largest recorded attendance for the competition.
Prior to the start of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the MLS realized they needed to market itself differently. The league started focusing on their homegrown stars. But that became difficult as the league grew in profile and attracted attention from Europe. For example goal keeper Tim Howard transferred to English powerhouse Manchester Untied in a high profile deal. Despite the fact that certain high profile players were leaving, new talent was starting to emerge and the MLS was finally becoming profitable.
Stabilization and Expansion
As part of its stabilization plans, soccer specific stadiums were an absolute necessity for the teams. From 2003 to 2008, six soccer stadiums were constructed and that meant that a majority of the teams did not have to share stadiums anymore. During this time, the MLS also started incorporating expansion franchises and the league grew in size. Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo were among the first expansion teams.
The introduction of designated players in 2007 was also hugely influential in helping the league gain widespread popularity. The acquisition of soccer icon David Beckham by LA Galaxy helped the league’s cause as fan interest further developed.
A Global Brand
With each passing year, the league has slowly grown in prominence. As of today it has expanded to twenty teams and and the average MLS attendance now exceeds that of the NBA and NHL. The league has secured lucrative national TV contracts and it has become a highly profitable venture. The future also looks bright as more teams are in the process of joining as expansion franchises.
With this rise in popularity, more and more global stars are moving to the MLS. The acquisition of former World Cup winners like Brazil’s Ricardo Kaka and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo will add to the league’s appeal.
Other international stars to have made the trip across the Atlantic include England’s Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Their arrival has certainly made the league more competitive and the overall quality of the soccer will also improve.
Catch these superstars live in action and watch the best soccer action North America has to offer by getting MLS tickets now. The league has never been more exciting.