Major League Soccer (MLS) is a professional soccer league representing the sport’s highest level in the United States and Canada, with headquarters at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. Sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer), the league is composed of 19 teams — 16 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. Seasons presently run from March to December, with each team playing 34 games in the regular season. Ten teams compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs culminating in the championship game, the MLS Cup.
Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 as part of the United States’ bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The first season took place in 1996 beginning with ten teams. Instead of operating as an association of independently owned teams, MLS is a single entity where each team is owned and controlled by the league’s investors. The league’s closed membership makes it one of the world’s few soccer leagues not using promotion and relegation.
Major League Soccer’s regular season runs from March to October with its 19 teams playing 34 games in an unbalanced schedule. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences. Midway through the season, teams break for the annual All-Star Game, a friendly game between the league’s finest players and a major club from a different league. At the end of the regular season, the team with the highest point total is awarded the Supporters’ Shield. The regular season is followed by the 10-team MLS Cup Playoffs ending with the MLS Cup championship final.
MLS has three automatic berths in the CONCACAF Champions League for its American clubs with an additional spot available via the U.S. Open Cup; Canadian clubs can qualify for a single berth via the Canadian Championship. For the 2013–14 CONCACAF Champions League, the qualifying clubs are MLS Cup 2012 champion Los Angeles Galaxy, Supporters’ Shield winner San Jose Earthquakes, MLS Cup runner-up Houston Dynamo, and 2012 U.S. Open Cup champion Sporting Kansas City. The 2013 Canadian Championship began on April 24 and continues through May 29.