Since its inception in 1996, the MLS has grown in proportion. When big talents have completed playing in Europe, they will grace the MLS before calling it a day.
But this was not always the tradition and soccer or football as we know it was not even a thing in the States. Until the opportunity to host the 1994 World Cup arrived.
The history of Major League Soccer began in 1988 when the United States Soccer Federation vowed to establish a division 1 professional soccer league as a condition for FIFA awarding the United States the 1994 FIFA World Cup rights.
This lucrative offer of hosting the biggest tournament on earth was too good to refuse, so the USA fulfilled the condition put forward by FIFA, and the idea of MLS was born.
Major League Soccer was officially established in 1995. The league began in 1996 with 10 teams and expanded to 12 teams in 1998.
The league struggled in its early stages as football was still uncommon among the masses. Basketball, Baseball, and American football were still the prominent team sports in the country. Football was still foreign and the crowd was not yet susceptible to the game.
To change that, MLS tried to Americanise the sport. They made some rule changes taking inspiration from soccer played at the college and high school level in the country.
For tied games, they brought on a shootout. This shootout was not a spot-kick but instead, the penalty taker would run in from 35 yards out and will try to put it past the goalkeeper within 5 seconds.
Instead of using a traditional clock to display the time, MLS implemented a count-down clock. Where the two halves began at 45 and ended at 0. The clock would stop for fouls and stoppages, and once it hits zero, the game was over. This was unlike the conventional norm of the referee blowing the whistle to conclude the game.
All these antics to Americanise the sport did not sit well with the traditional fans, and moreover, they failed to draw attention from the American fans as well.
MLS was struggling in its first period with huge losses reported season on season and the board out of ideas on what to do.
All of this took a drastic turn when the 2002 World Cup concluded.
To everyone’s surprise, USA made the quarter-finals of the tournament which captured the interest of the American people toward the sport.
Slowly the attendance grew and MLS quit all its antics and now was focusing on the core – to develop talent within the country.
As a result, in the years preceding up to the 2006 World Cup, Major League Soccer (MLS) saw a tremendous change. With more talent development within the country and European superstars gracing the league, the legitimacy of MLS grew 10-fold and the rest is history.
As of 2022, there are 28 teams in the first division, with plans to add two more in the future. After a rough start since its inception in 1996, MLS in 2022 is huge in America, and that trend is only going to grow upwards.
The 1994 World Cup introduced football to the United States, while the 2002 World Cup made Americans aware of its presence.
And that is the journey of football/soccer in the United States of America.