MLS 2020: Top Teams, Future Teams, Cup Favorites

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The U.S. professional soccer league, Major League Soccer, has been around since 1996, when it began with only 10 teams. Today, there are 26 teams, with four more getting ready to join in the next two years. In typical seasons, every team plays 34 games between March and October.

Seasons end with a playoff that includes the top 14 teams, much the way the National Football League does its own playoff bracket. Who are the current squads, the discontinued ones, and those ready to join the league? Plus, how has attendance held up since those early years? As fans get ready to watch the December 12 final match of the MLS Cup tournament, who are the favorites to win?

mls all star game

State of the League

U.S. professional soccer is currently in a state of growth and transformation. Attendance continues to grow, new teams are being added every few years, and TV ratings are slowly inching upward. The current roster of teams includes:

Atlanta United FC, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, Chicago Fire FC, DC United, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Inter Miami CF, Los Angeles FC, Los Angeles Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, Montreal Impact, Nashville SC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

There are three squads that no longer exist. They are the Tampa Bay Mutiny, Chivas USA, and Miami Fusion.

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Note that some teams have changed their names several times but still exist under their new moniker.

For example, Sporting KC began as The Wiz, changed to The Wizards, and finally settled on Sporting Kansas City.

Attendance Growth

When U.S. pro soccer began in 1996, attendance was a huge concern. Investors had millions of dollars on the line in what was essentially an experiment. No one know for sure is the sport would take off in the States. Fortunately, for fans, investors, and players, it did. Attendance numbers have risen steadily, with the exception of a short dip between 1996 and 2002.

Total ticket sales for the season hovered around 3 million until 2011, when they surged above the 5 million mark. Now they’re threatening to touch 9 million, with hopes that the 10 million milestones can be reached next year.

Stats on the growth of MLS provided by Betway

Four Future Teams

Within the next two years, there will be four brand new teams in the league: St. Louis, Sacramento Republic FC, Charlotte, and Austin. It’s possible that several more will be added to the list between now and 2030.

Cup Favorites

It has taken a while for the top-ten to become clear, especially in a strange season that was interrupted by the COVID pandemic, but all eyes are on Los Angeles FC, Toronto, NYCFC, Orlando, Columbus, Portland, Sporting KC, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Seattle. Any one of those teams could emerge from the playoffs and take it all.

But league-watchers say that four of those ten are true favorites, having dominated all season. The four are Los Angeles FC, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Orlando. In fact, Seattle is the current champ, having defeated Toronto in the 2019 tournament final round.

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