First developed in the winter of 1993, Major League Soccer came to life on June 15, 1994, when the league announced its first seven teams to compete in the league — Boston, Columbus, New Jersey, New York (Long Island), San Jose and Washington D.C. Since its first player signing (Tab Ramos) in 1995, MLS has evolved into the top flight of soccer in both the United States and Canada and a league recognized around the world.
As it enters its 15th season in 2010, MLS features 16 clubs across North America with additional clubs in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., set to join the league in 2011. MLS teams play a 30-game regular-season schedule from late March to October, supplemented by exhibition matches, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament and MLS All-Star Game. Ten MLS clubs play in a stadium built specifically for soccer, opening in 2010 are the new homes of the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls.
Entering the 2009 season, the MLS player pool represented 51 different countries, showing how far MLS has reached around the globe. In the second installment of "MLS 101," we provide a brief summary of team and player history for the existing eastern conference clubs.
Chicago Fire — Achieving a rare feat, the Chicago Fire captured the MLS Cup in their inaugural season in Major League Soccer in 1998. The club was named after the Great Chicago Fire that struck the city in 1871. In its first 11 seasons, the Fire have won five domestic titles, including the U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006, and the MLS Supporters Shield in 2003. In 2009, Chicago reached the Eastern Conference championship match, but fell to eventual MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake. With international players from around the globe, including Poland, Colombia, and Costa Rica, the team has been a melting pot of talent throughout the years.
Located in Bridgeview, Ill., the Fire play their home matches at Toyota Park, a soccer-specific venue, which opened in 2006.
Notable players: Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Ante Razov, C.J Brown, Peter Nowak, Jon Busch, Zach Thornton, Chris Rolfe, DaMarcus Beasley, Chris Armas
Columbus Crew — Columbus was introduced as one of Major League Soccer's inaugural clubs on June 15, 1994. Nearly five years later, the Crew made their mark on American sports history by opening Columbus Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999 — the country's first major league stadium build specifically for soccer. Columbus has been one of the top clubs in recent seasons, posting the best regular-season record in both 2008 and 2009, winning the Supporters Shield both seasons. In 2008, the Crew claimed their first championship, defeating the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the MLS Cup that season. Additionally, the Crew won the U.S. Open Cup in 2002.
Notable players:, Jeff Cunningham, Brian McBride, Edson Buddle, Robert Warzycha, Ezra Hendrickson, Guillermo Barros Schelotto
D.C. United — The most accomplished club in Major League Soccer, D.C. United is also the most successful professional soccer organization in U.S. Soccer history. United is four-time MLS Cup Champions (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004) and winners of the 1996 and 2008 U.S. Open Cup, the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, the 1998 Interamerican Cup and the 1997, 1999, 2006 and MLS Supporters Shield. United became the first MLS club to establish a hall-of-fame, and John Harkes became the club's first inductee into their "Hall of Tradition" in 2003.
One of MLS' original franchises, D.C. United is stationed in the nation's capitol and plays its home matches at RFK Stadium. Notable players: John Harkes, Jeff Agoos, Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, Ben Olsen, Tony Sanneh, Freddy Adu, Eddie Pope, Nick Rimando
Kansas City Wizards — Kansas City was introduced as one of 10 charter members of Major League soccer on June 6, 1995. First known as the "Wiz," the Wizards will play their 15th season in 2010, and the club continues its planning and preparation for their new soccer-specific stadium. Kansas City assembled their best MLS campaign to date in 2000, winning both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup that season. The club won their second domestic title in 2004, winning the U.S. Open Cup. Former midfielder Preki, who now is the head coach for MLS' Toronto FC, is the club's all-time career leader in goals scored with 71. Until their new stadium is complete, the Wizards play their home matches at Community America Ballpark.
Notable players: Preki, Chris Henderson, Kerry Zavagnin, Jimmy Conrad, Tony Meola, Mo Johnston, Chris Klein, Josh Wolff, Chris Brown, Alexi Lalas, Nick Garcia, Claudia Lopez
New England Revolution — As one of Major League Soccer 10 founding clubs, the New England Revolution was born on Oct. 17, 1995. The Revs opened MLS play with former U.S. National Team members Alexi Lalas and Mike Burns leading the charge, and have played all 14 MLS seasons at Foxoboro Stadium — also the home of the NFL's New England Patriots. The Revolution reached the Eastern Conference finals each season from 2003-07, and played in the MLS Cup in three straight seasons from 2005-07, but continues to search for its first MLS Cup championship. The franchise's best season came in 2005, posting a 17-7-8 record and clinching the Eastern Conference title.
New England features the longest tenured head coach in MLS, Steve Nichol. Guiding the club since November 2002, he has recorded 107 victories in seven seasons at the helm.
Notable players: Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, Pat Noonan, Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Rusty Pierce, Eric Wynalda, Jamar Beasley, Alexi Lalas
New York Red Bulls — An original member of Major League Soccer, the New York Red Bulls have undergone more identity changes than any other club in the league. Founded as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, they carried that name through 1997, but were then simply known as "MetroStars" from 1998-2005. In 2006, the club was sold to Red Bull GmbH, and the organization's name was changed to its current moniker. New York anticipates the opening of its new facility, Red Bull Arena, in 2010. The new state-of-the-art venue was fashioned after some of the great European soccer stadiums. The Red Bulls reached the 2008 MLS Cup as the Western Conference champ, and also made an appearance in the 2003 U.S. Open Cup final.
The New York franchise played its first 14 seasons at Giants Stadium, at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J. Their new facility is stationed in Harrison, N.J.
Notable players: Chris Henderson, Giovanni Savarese, Juan Pablo Angel, Clint Mathis, Tony Meola, Jeff Parke, Mike Petke, Tim Howard, John Wolyniec, Jozy Altidore, Claudio Reyna, Chris Albright
Philadelphia Union — Major League Soccer unveiled its 16th team on Feb. 28, 2008, and the Philadelphia Union will begin play in 2010. Led by the ownership group of Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC, the Union will play their home matches in a newly constructed, state-of-the-art facility in Chester, Pa. After the city's historical background, the name "Union" alludes to the Union of the 13 Colonies, of which Philadelphia was the first capitol. The club's name and crest incorporate Philadelphia's rich colonial history and vital role in the creation of our nation. Philadelphia was also the host city for the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, and they selected Oregon State University's Danny Mwanga as the No. 1 overall pick.
Notable players: Alejandro Moreno, Chris Seitz, Danny Califf, Shavar Thomas, Jordan Harvey, Fred, Michael Orozco
Toronto FC — One of the newest members of Major League Soccer, Toronto FC joined as an expansion team in 2007, and became the league's first Canadian franchise. The club's name incorporates the acronym "FC" (football club), which is synonymous with soccer and great clubs around the world who choose to emphasized their cities' names. Toronto FC's red and white colors display the same colors as the Canadian flag. Toronto FC, nicknamed "the Reds," plays at BMO Field — the first soccer-specific stadium in Canada and home to the Canadian National teams. The facility is owned by the City of Toronto and has a winter bubble which supports year round usage by community.
Notable players: Dwayne De Rosario, Jim Brennan, Danny Dichio, Marvell Wynne, Maurice Edu, Greg Sutton, Jeff Cunningham, Andrew Boyens, Conor Casey, Tyrone Marshall