What is MLS?

St. Paul will be home to a Major League Soccer franchise that will begin play in 2017. Here’s a quick primer on America’s most high-profile professional soccer league:

The early days

The MLS began play in 1996 with 10 teams playing mostly in college or pro football stadiums. The league now has 20 teams, mostly playing in soccer-specific stadiums that seat around 20,000 fans. The league has a preference for intimate, urban settings for its teams.

Future growth

The addition of Minnesota and Atlanta in 2017 will give the league 22 teams. Los Angeles is set to join in 2018. Miami has been awarded an expansion franchise but continues to have problems finalizing stadium plans.

The season

The regular season consists of 34 matches (so Minnesota will have 17 home matches). It began March 6 this season and will end Oct. 23. The playoffs run throughout November, with the MLS Cup Championship — think Super Bowl — in early December.

Perennial powers

The Los Angeles Galaxy (five) and D.C. United (four) have combined for nine of 19 MLS titles. Portland claimed the 2015 MLS Cup but is a mere 8-9-8 so far this season.

Scoring leaders

Landon Donovan is the league’s career scoring leader with 144 goals; he retired after the 2014 season. Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco and New York City’s David Villa are this year’s leaders with 15 goals apiece. Both were European standouts before joining MLS.


Nearly half of MLS fans (44 percent) are between the ages of 18 and 34, while another 36 percent are between 35 and 49, according to a league study in 2015. Many teams in the league have capitalized on that relatively young fan base by catering to the craft beer-drinking hipster millennial crowd. About a third of MLS fans are Hispanic, the largest percentage representation among any U.S. pro sports league.


Average attendance in MLS in 2014 was a record 19,148 — and it has continued to grow. The league set another record with an average attendance of 21,574 in 2015, and this season average attendance is 21,529.