Comparisons between the North American Soccer League and Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer (MLS) is the most recent of a series of men's premier professional national soccer leagues established in the United States and Canada. The predecessor of MLS was the North American Soccer League (NASL), which existed from 1968 until 1984.
|1||The NASL was formed this year as a merger between the former top division soccer leagues, the United Soccer Association along with the National Professional Soccer League. 17 teams competed in this inaugural season, and the Atlanta Chiefs won the championship. While San Diego won the premiership, Atlanta's winning percentage was higher because a match had been canceled. This would mark the first of five times in the league's history that the best record did not equate to a premiership. The Oakland Clippers had an identical record to the Western Division Champion Toros and a higher goal-differential, but just as with Atlanta the Toros had more league points. Oakland had won every competition in the NPSL's 1967 season, but were denied a chance to defend their title in the merged league because of this unique points system.||Major League Soccer had originally intended to begin competitive action in 1995. Various difficulties forced the league to postpone its first season until 1996. In preparation for its first season, the league began signing what it called marque players, beginning with Tab Ramos on January 3, 1995. Beginning in October 1995, the league apportioned the marque players in the 1996 MLS Inaugural Allocations. Each team received two national team and two foreign players in the allocation. The league then invited about 250 players to a tryout the second week of January 1996 on the campus of UC Irvine. On February 6 and 7, 1996, the league held its 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft in which the ten teams selected 160 players over sixteen rounds. The teams played thirty-two games each. Each win was worth three points, a loss counted for zero and a shootout win earned a team one point. Fear of alienating fans with tied games had led the league to adopting the shootout when games ended even. The league also adopted a count down clock instead of running clock, unlike IFAB's standards, but did it away starting with MLS Cup 1999. The league also divided the teams equally into two conferences – Eastern and Western. The league began its first season on Saturday, April 6, 1996, when the San Jose Clash hosted D.C. United at Spartan Stadium.|
|2||Five teams competed in the league's 2nd season. The season was divided into two parts; the International Cup and the regular season. The Kansas City Spurs won the International Cup. The Kansas City Spurs also won the NASL championship by finishing at the top of the table in the regular season. For the second straight year the team with the best winning percentage (Atlanta) did not win the premiership due to the NASL's points system. But unlike the previous year, the Chiefs got no opportunity to claim any title, as this would be the only year that the league did not hold a post-season Championship Final.|
|3||In 1970, NASL teams rounded out their schedules by playing an assortment of foreign clubs including Hapoel Petah Tikva, Varzim, Hertha Berlin and Coventry City. These games weren't just for attendance but also counted in the standings. The Washington Darts went 2-2-0 versus the international teams earning the "International Cup".||Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion played their inaugural seasons as the first two MLS expansion teams. Chicago would become the first expansion team to win the MLS Cup and the first to win it in the inaugural year. 3 points were awarded for a win. 1 point was awarded for a shootout win and considered a win in the standings. No points were awarded for a loss or a shootout loss, with the latter being considered a loss in the standings. The top four teams in each conference advanced to the playoffs.|
|4||Playoffs series switched from a two-game aggregate score to a best-two-out-of-three match format. Any playoff games tied after 90 minutes would now be settled by golden goal (or sudden death) overtime periods lasting 15 minutes each.||This was the last season which used the 35 yard line shootout rule to resolve tied games, and that of the countdown timer, with MLS Cup 1999 adopting the IFAB-standard running clock thereafter.|
|5||The league changed its offside rule during the season on June 26. They created a "Blue Line" which was an offside line across the field, 35 yards from the goal line. Thereafter, no player could be offside unless he had crossed the 35-yard line. This made the NASL unique in the soccer world; the league received temporary approval for the change from FIFA on an experimental basis only. The league also switched the playoff format to single-match elimination contests rather than series.||Most notably the 2000 season marked the first time in Major League Soccer history (and the first season of American first division soccer since 1974), that ties were allowed to stand. Following a ten-minute sudden death extra time, rather than going to a penalty shoot-out, if two teams were tied, the tie would stand. Also, the league adopted the IFAB-standard running clock, as well as injury time. Additionally, the league broke into three separate divisions, the East, Central and West divisions. The league would use this format until 2002, when the two Florida franchises, Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion folded.|
|6||The 1973 season would be the last season in which games from non-league clubs counted in league standings. In a unique twist, the team with home field for the NASL Championship Game determined the date and time the game was to be played. When the Dallas Tornado won their semi-final, setting up the final with Philadelphia, they chose August 25 as the date of the game. They did this because the NASL loan agreements with players from the English First Division (the precursor to today's Premier League) expired before that date. Because of this, Philadelphia's two leading scorers, Andy "The Flea" Provan and Jim Fryatt, were on their way back to England when the championship match was played on the 25th. Despite this, Philadelphia coach, Al Miller, put Bill Straub, a defender who had not played a minute for the club prior to the championship game, into the lineup at forward. The move paid off as Straub headed home the second goal in a 2–0 win with under five minutes remaining in the final.||The 2001 Major League Soccer season was shortened due to the September 11 attacks, with the final weeks' regular season matches canceled. The playoffs, however, were played, and the San Jose Earthquakes won their first MLS Cup. The top eight teams with the highest points per game clinched a playoff berth, regardless of division.|
|7||The league decided to do away with tie games. If a match was tied after 90 minutes, the teams would go directly to a standard penalty shootout with no extra time played. The outcome would appear in the standings as a 'tie-win'. The tie-winner would gain three points, plus goals in regulation, while the loser of the tie-breaker received no points, except for regulation goals. Including the 1974 NASL Final, 33 matches were decided using this method.||On January 8, 2002, MLS folded two of its teams. The Miami Fusion F.C. ceased operations after only four years in existence due to low attendance and an unfavorable stadium deal. The Tampa Bay Mutiny also ceased operations due to the lack of local ownership. MLS eliminated the Central Division and returned to its original two-conference alignment. According to FC Dallas president Dan Hunt, the entire league nearly folded during the 2001 offseason. The owners agreed to shut down the league on a conference call in November 2001, but within two days Lamar Hunt convinced the other owners to give the league another year.|
|8||The league comprised 20 teams with the Tampa Bay Rowdies winning the championship. Pelé joined the New York Cosmos in 1975. 1975 was the first year the league used the term Soccer Bowl for their championship game. The 1975 season saw the removal of tie games. Matches that were level after 90 minutes would go to 15 minutes of sudden death overtime, and then onto penalty kicks if needed. It would not be until 2000 that a top-tier American soccer league would again allow matches to end in a draw.||Instead of a best-of-three series, the MLS Cup Playoffs changed their format so that the quarterfinal fixtures (or conference semifinals) would be a home and away aggregate over two matches, the team with the higher seed would have the home game in the second leg. The two semifinals (or conference finals) became one match fixtures instead of two legs. The Cup final remained one match.|
|9||Tampa Bay finished the regular season with the best record, giving them consecutive titles in three different domestic NASL competitions. Though not in a calendar year, within 12 months they won the Soccer Bowl in August 1975, the NASL indoor cup in March 1976, and the regular season shield or premiership in August 1976. Since NASL teams at that time did not participate in the U.S. Open Cup, this would be the closest one would ever come to achieving any sort of a North American treble.||The biggest news in the beginning of the season was the signing of 14-year-old prodigy Freddy Adu, who made his debut as a substitute in United's season opener and scored his first goal several games later against the rival MetroStars. Adu contributed as a substitute on D.C.'s championship team, scoring five goals as the youngest player in North American sports history. The season saw the emergence of forwards Brian Ching (San Jose) and Eddie Johnson (Dallas Burn) as formidable forwards, not only for their MLS teams, but for the United States national team as well. The two shared Golden Boot honors. The Columbus Crew emerged as a dominant team in the second half of the regular season, running off an MLS-record 18-game unbeaten streak en route to the Supporters' Shield title, won after finishing level on points with Kansas City.|
|10||The league was made up of 18 teams. The schedule was expanded to 26 games and the playoffs to 12 teams. Team rosters consisted of 17 players, 6 of which had to be US or Canadian citizens. The NASL began using its own variation of the penalty shoot-out procedure for tied matches. Matches tied at the end of regulation would now go to a golden goal overtime period and, if still tied, on to a shoot-out. Instead of penalty kicks however, the shoot-out attempt started 35 yards from the goal and allowed the player 5 seconds to attempt a shot. The player could make as many moves as he wanted in a breakaway situation within the time frame. NASL procedure also called for the box score or score-line to show an additional "goal" given to the winning side of a shoot-out. This "victory goal" however was not credited in the "Goals For" column of the league table.||At the previous MLS Cup, two new expansion franchises were announced to start play in 2005, Real Salt Lake (based at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah) and Club Deportivo Chivas USA (based at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California). Because there were now more teams in the west than in the east, the Kansas City Wizards moved to the Eastern Conference. Expansion franchises Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA struggled in their first season, making playoff qualification a routine matter for the other four Western Conference teams. Chivas USA proved a disappointment in terms of consistent attendance, but its derbies against Los Angeles added excitement and intensity to the calendar, even though the Galaxy won all five (four regular season and one U.S. Open Cup) meetings. Real Salt Lake finished second in the league in attendance.|
|11||Bolstered by the success of the previous season, the league added six teams to reach 24 in total. The Colorado Caribous launched in Denver, the Detroit Express and Houston Hurricane became the second and third team to play indoors, the Philadelphia Fury brought soccer back to Philadelphia, the New England Tea Men would be the third attempt to have NASL soccer succeed in the Boston area and the Memphis Rogues would bring pro soccer to Tennessee. There were also the usual franchise movements. Team Hawaii became the Tulsa Roughnecks, the Las Vegas Quicksilver became the San Diego Sockers, the Connecticut Bicentennials became the Oakland Stompers and the St. Louis Stars moved to Anaheim to become the California Surf. With so many new clubs, the NASL realigned into a six-division format while expanding the playoffs to include 16 teams. The new alignment was a direct copy of the NFL's setup, as the new three-division conferences were called the 'American Soccer Conference' and the 'National Soccer Conference', respectively. Each conference had East, Central and West divisions as well. The top two teams in each division would quality for the playoffs. The other spots would go to the next best two teams in the conference, regardless of division. The top three seeds went to the division winners, seeds 4-6 went to the second place teams and the last two seeds were known as 'wild-cards' – another nod to the NFL. The winners of each successive round would be reseeded within the conference. The first round and the Soccer Bowl were single games, while the conference semifinals and championships were two-game series. As in the 1977 playoffs, if both teams were tied at one win apiece at the conclusion of Game 2, there would be a 30-minute sudden-death mini-game and a shootout if necessary.||The MetroStars were bought by Austrian company Red Bull and rebranded as Red Bull New York, with the playing squad known as the New York Red Bulls. The San Jose Earthquakes players and head coach Dominic Kinnear moved to Houston, Texas, due to owner AEG being unable to secure a soccer specific stadium in San Jose, California. The team was to be renamed Houston 1836, but later changed its name to the Houston Dynamo. In June, the Chicago Fire moved into their new soccer-specific stadium, Toyota Park, in Bridgeview, Illinois.|
|12||A rule modifications required that each squad play two U.S. or Canadian players and that each 17-man roster carry six such players. Compared to the previous season's upheaval, 1979 was a relatively tranquil year. The league format remained unchanged with 24 teams divided into six divisions within two conferences, and a 16-team playoff. A slight modification to the first round of the playoffs, from a single game to the two-game format used in later rounds, was made. Also the minigame, used to decide tied playoff series, no longer ended on a golden goal (sudden death). Instead, the entire 30 minutes was played. Still, there were issues to be sorted out. There was a brief players' strike on April 14, as the league refused to recognize the newly formed Players Association. However, since the majority of NASL players were foreign and unsure of American and Canadian labor laws, support was minimal. An estimated three quarters of NASL players crossed the picket line once the Justice Department implied that foreign players would be subject to deportation. Another positive sign for the league was that this would be the first offseason in NASL history where no franchises folded or moved.||The 2007 season was often cited as the first season in the modern-era of Major League Soccer. Most notably, the regular season decreased from 32 matches to 30, emphasizing the importance of matches during this time window, as well as boosting the credibility for the MLS Supporters' Shield. This year marked the inaugural season for expansion franchise, Toronto FC who began play in the Eastern Conference. For the 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs, the top two clubs in each conference automatically qualified for the playoffs, down from four. Additionally, the next four highest remaining point totals regardless of conference qualified via wild-card berth. The change allowed a single table to determine the entire playoff field. Starting this season, MLS clubs were allowed to sell advertisements on the front of their jerseys. Six MLS clubs took advantage of the opportunity. Local corporations XanGo and Amigo Energy became the kit sponsors of Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo, respectively. More national brands such as BMO, Comex and Herbalife became the sponsors of Toronto FC, Chivas USA and Los Angeles Galaxy, respectively. The international recognized brand, Red Bull became the shirt sponsor of New York Red Bulls, whom they owned. The Designated Player Rule was implemented, permitting one big-ticket foreign player to play for each team without going against the team's salary cap.|
|13||The 1980 season saw the regular season expand from 30 games to 32 games. Three North Americans were required to be among the eleven playing in the match for each team, up from two during the previous season. For the third time in league history the team with the most wins (Seattle) did not win the regular season due to the NASL's system of awarding bonus points for goals scored.||The San Jose Earthquakes returned to play as an expansion franchise in the Western Conference. The top three teams from each conference qualified automatically for the playoffs (up from two). In addition the two highest remaining point totals, regardless of conference, also qualified (down from four). Following the 2008 season, qualification for the SuperLiga was limited to the top four overall finishers not already qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League, after problems related to fixture congestion during the 2008 season. This applied retroactively to the 2008 season, and thus qualification for MLS teams to SuperLiga 2009. Automatic qualification for the 2009 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was awarded to the top six overall finishers, as opposed to the top three finishers in each conference. The 14 teams were split into two seven-team conferences. Each team played 30 games that were evenly divided between home and away games. Each team played every other team twice, home and away, for a total of 26 games. The remaining four games were played against four regional rivals, two at home and two away. The three teams from each conference with the most points qualified for the playoffs. In addition, the next two highest point totals, regardless of conference, also qualified. In the first round aggregate goals over two matches determined the winners. The conference finals were played as a single match, and the winners advanced to MLS Cup 2008. In all rounds, draws were broken with two 15-minute periods of extra time, followed by penalty kicks if necessary. The away goals rule was not used in any round.|
|14||There were a total of 21 teams participating. Three teams (Houston, Rochester and Washington) folded, while four others (Memphis, Detroit, New England and Philadelphia) moved to new cities. Playoff series were switched from the two matches plus a mini-game tiebreaker used since 1977, to a best-of-three full matches played on three separate dates. When Major League Baseball players went on strike on June 12, there was speculation that other sports, especially soccer, would see larger crowds. However, the 157 NASL matches played during the baseball work stoppage (which ended August 9) drew an average attendance of only 13,419, less than the full-season average of 14,084.||Seattle Sounders FC began play as an expansion team in the Western Conference. After three seasons, the MLS Reserve Division was discontinued. As a result, each team's Developmental Roster spots were reduced from 10 to four, and each team's Senior Roster spots were increased from 18 to 20. This had the effect of reducing each team's total roster from 28 to 24 players. The 15 teams were split into two conferences. The Western Conference had eight teams with the addition of Seattle Sounders FC, and the Eastern Conference had seven teams. Each team played a total of 30 games that were evenly divided between home and away games. Each team played every other team twice, home and away, for a total of 28 games. The remaining two games were played against two conference rivals, one at home and one away. The two teams in each conference with the most points qualified for the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs. In addition, the next four highest ranked teams, regardless of conference, also qualified. Teams were bracketed by conference, with the lowest ranked teams crossing over to the other conference if necessary. In the Conference Semifinals, aggregate goals over two matches determined the winners. The Conference Finals were played as single matches, and the winners advanced to MLS Cup 2009. After the completion of any round, ties were broken with two 15-minute periods of extra time, followed by penalty kick shootout if necessary. The away goals rule was not used in any round. The team with the most points in the regular season won the MLS Supporters' Shield and qualified directly into the Group Stage of the 2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League. The MLS Cup Winner also qualified for the Champions League Group Stage. The MLS Cup Runners-Up and the 2009 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Winners qualified for the Preliminary Round of the Champions League. If a team qualified for multiple berths into the Champions League, then additional berths were awarded to the highest-placed team(s) in the 2009 MLS regular season's overall standings that had not already qualified. The four teams with the most points, regardless of conference, who had not qualified for the Champions League qualified for SuperLiga 2010. The six U.S.-based teams with the most points, regardless of conference, qualified for the Third Round of the 2010 U.S. Open Cup. The remaining U.S.-based MLS teams had to qualify for the remaining two berths via a series of play-in games. As a Canadian-based team, Toronto FC could not qualify through MLS for the Champions League or the U.S. Open Cup. In either case, any berth earned by Toronto FC was awarded to the highest-placed team in the overall standings which had not already qualified. Their means of entry into the Champions League is the Canadian Championship; they won that competition in both 2009 and 2010 to gain entry to the Champions League for 2009–10 and 2010–11.|
|15||The NASL no longer used the 35 yard line for offside, but retained its presence for use in tie-breaker shootouts.||The expiration of and failure to sign a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' union threatened the season. Negotiations resulted in a new contract being agreed to on March 20, 2010. New Designated Player Rules were agreed upon early in the season: Teams can sign two Designated Players, up from one under the previous rules, and pay a "luxury tax" of $250,000 for the right to sign a third Designated Player. The $250,000 would be distributed evenly to all MLS teams that have not signed a third Designated Player in the form of allocation money. Each Designated Player counts as $335,000 for the salary cap, down from $415,000 under the previous agreement, and only counts as half that amount if the player is signed during the middle of the season. Teams can use allocation money to reduce the salary cap value of a Designated Player. Teams are no longer allowed to trade for additional Designated Player spots, so the New York Red Bulls will receive $70,000 of allocation money in exchange for effectively nullifying their earlier trade with Chivas USA for a second Designated Player spot. Teams who have a Designated Player transfer out of the country during the MLS season will recoup a portion of the money spent on the Designated Player. Unlike the previous Designated Player agreement, which was set to expire after three seasons, this agreement has no set expiration date. The new Designated Player rule resulted in an explosion of DP signings in 2010, with the league boasting 13 Designated Players at the conclusion of the regular season (Omar Bravo signed with Kansas City in the summer of 2010 but remained with his previous club Guadalajara for the remainder of the season). The 16 teams were split evenly into two conferences. The Eastern Conference has eight teams with the addition of the Philadelphia Union, and the Western Conference also has eight teams. For the first time in league history, the season had a balanced schedule where each team playing every other team in the league once at home and once away for a total of 30 games. Games were not played during the group stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The last MLS game prior to the World Cup was played on June 10, with no games scheduled until after the group stage concluded on June 25. The two teams in each conference with the most points qualified for the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs. In addition, the next four highest ranked teams, regardless of conference, also qualified. Teams were bracketed by conference, with the lowest ranked teams crossing over to the other conference if necessary. In the Conference Semifinals, aggregate goals over two matches determined the winners. The Conference Finals were played as single matches, and the winners advanced to MLS Cup 2010. After the completion of any round, ties will be broken with two 15-minute periods of extra time, followed by a penalty kick shootout if necessary. The away goals rule was not used in any round.|
|16||The Tulsa Roughnecks won the championship. Though Vancouver won two more games than any other club, for the fourth time in league history, the team with the most wins did not win the regular season due to the NASL's system of awarding points.||The season marked the arrival of two new league clubs, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, whose cities previously had clubs of similar name play in the USSF D2 Pro League. Those two new West Coast clubs led to a realignment of the league's conferences, with Houston Dynamo moving to the Eastern Conference to create two conferences of nine teams each. Each team played a balanced 34-match regular season schedule, playing every team twice (once at home and once away). The MLS Cup Playoffs expanded from eight teams to ten. Beginning with this season, the best three teams from each conference receive guaranteed playoff spots; the four teams with the next best point totals will play one-match knockout games to determine the final participant for each conference. With the new playoff structure, comes a new incentive for the MLS Supporters Shield winner, who will play the lowest seeded team to qualify for the conference semifinals. Furthermore, the MLS Reserve Division returned; the rosters accordingly expanded to 30 players. Other minor changes included the shortening of the MLS SuperDraft from four rounds, down to three, and the expansion of the number of guaranteed spots reserved for away supporters from 150 to 500.|
|17||By 1983, the NASL had shrunk to half of the 24 teams that made up the league in 1980. The ongoing salary war with the Major Indoor Soccer League had taken its toll, along with shrinking attendances and a lack of interest from American network TV broadcasters. The league made plans to have both an outdoor and indoor presence, with a 24-game outdoor season and 40-game indoor season scheduled for 1984 and beyond. The off-season following the 1983 outdoor playoffs saw three more teams fall by the wayside: the Montreal Manic, Seattle Sounders and Team America would all fold. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers decided to move to Minnesota because of a lack of suitable indoor arenas in Southeastern Florida. Things had gotten so bad for the league that the champion Tulsa Roughnecks almost folded two weeks after winning the Soccer Bowl. They survived, thanks to a fundraiser that put $65,000 in the team's coffers. The league would soldier on with nine teams. While there would not be huge changes on the field, the single game Soccer Bowl would be no more. The league moved to a best-of-three championship series format, as was done back in the 1971 Final. The revised NASL playoff format had the two division winners and the two next best teams qualify. The four teams would be seeded 1 through 4. or the fifth time (and second year in a row), the NASL's points system rewarded a team other than the one with the best record (Chicago instead of San Diego) the regular season title and number one playoff seed. Moreover, Toronto and Minnesota also had better won-loss records than Chicago. Minnesota would not even qualify for the playoffs, despite having a better record than both Chicago and Vancouver. There were still plans for a 1985 outdoor season as the year ended, but the departures of Chicago Sting, Minnesota Strikers, New York Cosmos and the San Diego Sockers to the MISL for the indoor season made that difficult. The Cosmos left both the NASL and MISL on February 22. A month later, on March 28, 1985, the NASL suspended operations when only Toronto and Minnesota were interested in fielding teams for a 1985 "outdoor" season.||The Montreal Impact became the 19th MLS franchise, replacing a same-named Montreal club that previously played in the North American Soccer League in 2011 and in the USL First Division before that. The Impact made their on-field debut on March 10 in a 2–0 loss at Vancouver. The Impact's home debut, a 1–1 draw with the Chicago Fire on March 17, attracted 58,912 to Olympic Stadium, setting the all-time record crowd for professional soccer in Montreal. A 1–1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 12 attracted 60,860, setting the all-time attendance record for professional soccer in Canada. The Impact joined MLS as the 10th team in the Eastern Conference; the Western Conference remains at 9 teams. Each of the 19 teams plays a 34-game regular season schedule, one that employs a new unbalanced format that gives greater emphasis on in-conference matchups. Western Conference clubs will play each conference rival three times, and play once against each Eastern Conference club. Eastern Conference clubs will play seven of their conference rivals three times, the remaining two conference rivals twice, and each Western Conference club once. The span of the regular season will be the longest in MLS history, beginning with 5 matches on March 10 and ending with 3 matches on October 28. A change to the Designated Player Rule regarding international players took effect with the start of the 2012 season. The salary cap charge for international designated players (i.e., players not from the U.S. or Canada) will depend on the players' ages. The league gained a new U.S. TV partner in NBC Sports, whose 3-year deal was announced in August 2011 (replacing expired deals with Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes) and began on March 11 with a NBC Sports Network broadcast of the New York Red Bulls/FC Dallas match. As part of the deal, NBC Sports Network will air 38 regular season and 3 playoff matches, while the main NBC network will air 3 regular season and 2 playoff matches (the first time since 2002 that that many MLS games will be broadcast on English-language network television). NBC and NBCSN will also air United States men's national soccer team matches (2 on each network). Previous deals with U.S. partners ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and Galavisión continue in 2012, as do deals with Canadian partners TSN, TSN2, and GolTV.|
|Atlanta||Atlanta Chiefs||Atlanta United FC|
New England Tea Men
|New England Revolution|
|Chicago Fire FC|
|Dallas||Dallas Tornado||FC Dallas|
Caribous of Colorado
|Kansas City||Kansas City Spurs||Sporting Kansas City|
|Los Angeles||Los Angeles Wolves
Los Angeles Aztecs
Los Angeles FC
Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Inter Miami CF
|Minneapolis–Saint Paul||Minnesota Kicks
|Minnesota United FC|
|New York||New York Generals
New York Cosmos
|New York Red Bulls|
New York City FC
|Portland||Portland Timbers||Portland Timbers|
|San Jose||San Jose Earthquakes||San Jose Earthquakes|
|Seattle||Seattle Sounders||Seattle Sounders FC|
|St. Louis||St. Louis Stars||St. Louis MLS team|
|Tampa Bay||Tampa Bay Rowdies||Tampa Bay Mutiny|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC|
|Washington, D.C.||Washington Whips
Playoffs and championship game
|After the 1966 World Cup was successfully televised in the United States, two new leagues were formed. With international and national sanctioning from FIFA, the CFSA and USSFA, the United Soccer Association was created by a consortium known as the North American Soccer League. The second, independent league, enacted without sanction, was the National Professional Soccer League. By the following year, the two leagues merged and created the original North American Soccer League. Between 1968 and 1974 the championship game, or series (on three occasions), was titled the NASL Final, and no title match was held in 1969. From 1975 to 1984 it became the Soccer Bowl. The winner of the NASL Finals received the NASL trophy. During the Soccer Bowl years the trophy was interchangeably regarded by association as the Soccer Bowl trophy, though the official title remained the same. The concept for the Soccer Bowl began in 1975 by then NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam, who was trying to build a neutral-site championship event in the mold of the NFL's Super Bowl. Unlike the Super Bowl, the annual numbering scheme of the match did not use Roman numerals (e.g., Super Bowl XXI) but instead used the last two digits of the year played (e.g., Soccer Bowl '78). The original NASL's last Soccer Bowl took place in early October 1984 in a best-of-three series, as the league ceased operation in 1985.Among the championship matches, there have been different formats used, mostly influenced by the original two leagues. The 1967 NPSL Final, and the 1968 and 1970 NASL Finals were contested by two-game aggregate goals. After 1971, the initial parameters by the United Soccer Association were used. The 1967 USA Final, and the 1972 through 1983 NASL Finals were all single-games. There was no 1969 NASL Final match contested. Instead, as in many leagues in Europe, the championship was awarded to the league winner; the team with the most points at season's end. The 1971 and 1984 NASL Finals were played in a best-of-three series.||The winner of Major League Soccer's MLS Cup, the final match of the MLS Cup Playoffs, determines that season's league champion. The playoff tournament is organized by the league at the conclusion of the regular season in a format similar to other North American professional sports leagues. The tournament is open to the top 7 clubs of the Eastern and Western Conference. The winner is crowned champion in the same manner as in other North American sports leagues (i.e. via a playoff following a regular season). This differs from other top soccer leagues around the world which consider the club with the most points at the end of the season to be the sole champion. MLS honors that achievement with the Supporters' Shield. A U.S.-based team that wins the MLS Cup is awarded one of that country's berths in the following year's CONCACAF Champions League. (The sole Canadian entrant in the Champions League is determined by a separate process also involving non-MLS teams; when Canadian team Toronto FC won the 2017 MLS Cup, an additional U.S. team was selected based on regular-season performance.) From 1996 to 1999 and 2003 to 2006, the top four teams per conference qualified for the playoffs. In 2000 and 2001, the three division winners plus the next five teams with the next best records made the playoffs. In 2002, the top 8 teams qualified for the playoffs regardless of conference. In 2007, the top two teams per conference plus the next four teams with the next most points qualified. At the 2008 season's end, the top three teams of each conference made the playoffs; in addition the clubs with the next two highest point totals, regardless of conference, were added to the playoffs. In the first round of this knockout tournament, aggregate goals over two matches determined the winners; the Conference Championships were one match each, with the winner of each conference advancing to MLS Cup. In all rounds, the tie-breaking method was two 15-minute periods of overtime, followed by penalty kicks if necessary. The away goals rule was not used. At the 2009 and 2010 season's end, the top two teams of each conference made the playoffs; in addition the clubs with the next 4 highest point totals, regardless of conference, were added to the playoffs. In the first round of this knockout tournament, aggregate (total) goals over two matches determined the winners; the Conference Championships were one match each, with the winner of each conference advancing to MLS Cup. In all rounds, the tie-breaking method was two 15-minute periods of extra time, followed by penalty kicks if necessary. The away goals rule was not used. At 2011 season's end, the top three clubs in each of the league's two conferences earned the six automatic spots in the conference semi-finals. The wild-card entrants, seeded seventh through tenth, entered based upon their overall position in a single table of the league standings. The new format was assembled so that the lowest seed to qualify out of the wild-card rounds will play against the Supporters' Shield winner. The highest wild-card seed remaining will played the conference champion that did not win the Shield. The play-ins proper were single matches, with the higher seeded club playing at their home field. The conference semi-finals were two-leg aggregate series. The conference championships were single matches at the field of the higher seed; the cup final was at a predetermined venue. From the 2012 season through 2014, the playoff structure were further tweaked. While the number of playoff teams remained at 10, the "wild cards" disappeared. Instead, the top five teams in each conference qualified. The No. 4 seed in each conference hosted the No. 5 seed in a single match for a place in the conference semi-finals against the top seed in its conference. The conference semi-finals remained two-legged while the conference finals changed from a single match to a two-leg aggregate series. Finally, the MLS Cup final was held at the home field of the finalist with the highest point total during the regular season. From 2014 to 2018 the away goals rule was used, but did not apply after extra time. From the 2015 season through 2018, the top six teams per conference qualify for the playoffs (12 total teams). The first round of each conference involves the No. 3 seed hosting the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 hosting No. 5. In the Conference Semifinals the top seed plays the lowest remaining seed, and the No. 2 seed plays the next lowest seed. From the 2019 season through 2020, the top seven teams per conference will qualify for the playoffs (14 total teams), and all rounds will be single-elimination throughout. The top team in each conference will have a bye, and will play the winner of the fourth v. fifth place match. The playoff brackets will be fixed, as the league abolished re-seeding.|
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