As a condition to host the 1994 World Cup, FIFA demanded the USA have a competitive soccer league. As a result, Major League Soccer was born in 1996 with 10 teams. Since then, the league has expanded to 27 teams and is divided into the Eastern and Western conferences.
MLS's regular season usually runs from March to October, with the top seven sides from each division making it to the playoffs. The team with the most points at the end of the regular season is awarded the Supporters Shield and the winner of the post-season is awarded the MLS Cup. Also, the winner of each title earns the right to play in the CONCACAF Champions League.
LA Galaxy, one of the league's original teams, is the club with the most MLS Cup titles – five – to their name. D.C. United follows suit with four trophies, but they have failed to triumph again since they last won it in 2004.
The 2021 MLS season will see the introduction of a new franchise – Austin FC. MLS plans to expand to 29 teams by 2023. Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville and San Diego are all candidate cities for future expansion.
When does the 2021 MLS regular season begin?
The 2021 MLS regular season begins on Friday, April 16, with two games on opening day.
Tab Ramos' Houston Dynamo will host Matias Almeyda's San Jose Earthquakes at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed live exclusively on ESPN+ in the USA.
The Seattle Sounders will welcome Minnesota United at CenturyLink Field on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcasted live on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes.
Which teams will be playing in the 2021 MLS season?
- Atlanta United FC
- Austin FC
- Chicago Fire FC
- FC Cincinnati
- Colorado Rapids
- Columbus Crew SC
- DC United
- FC Dallas
- Houston Dynamo FC
- Inter Miami CF
- LA Galaxy
- Los Angeles FC
- Minnesota United FC
- CF Montreal
- 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
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Who are the current MLS Cup champions?
The Columbus Crew lifted their second MLS Cup after defeating the Seattle Sounders 3-0 in the 2020 MLS Cup final. Argentine attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan led the Crew to victory with a brace in the final. Columbus denied Seattle back-to-back MLS Cup wins.
On the other hand, the Philadelphia Union won the Supporters Shield – regular season title – by finishing first in points overall during the regular season.
Important dates in the 2021 MLS season
- April 16, 2021 – 2020 Western Conference Final rematch between Seattle Sounders FC and Minnesota United on FS1 and Fox Deportes.
- April 17, 2021 – Austin FC will make its anticipated debut against LAFC on FOX and FOX Deportes
- April 18, 2021 – Inter Miami CF host David Beckham's former club, the LA Galaxy, on ABC and ESPN Deportes.
- May 16, 2021 – FC Cincinnati will open its new West End Stadium against Inter Miami live on FOX and FOX Deportes.
- June 19, 2021 – Austin FC will debut Q2 Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes live on UniMás and TUDN
- July 3, 2021 – The reigning MLS Cup champions will open New Crew Stadium against the New England Revolution live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The matchup will have a lot of historical value as Columbus opened the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS in 1999 against the Revolution in the league's fourth season.
Heineken Rivalry week
- August 20, 2021 – LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes on ESPN, ESPN Deportes
- August 21, 2021 – Minnesota United vs. Sporting Kansas City on ESPN, ESPN Deportes
- August 21, 2021 – Columbus Crew vs. Seattle Sounders on FOX, FOX Deportes
- August 21, 2021 – New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC on FS1, FOX Deportes
- August 27, 2021 – Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC on Univision, TUDN
- August 27, 2021 – Columbus Crew vs. FC Cincinnati on ESPN, ESPN Deportes
- August 27, 2021 – Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF on ESPN, ESPN Deportes
- August 28, 2021 – LAFC vs. LA Galaxy on FOX, FOX Deportes
- August 29, 2021 – Austin FC vs. FC Dallas on FS1, FOX Deportes
- August 29, 2021 – Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers on ESPN, ESPN Deportes
- November 7, 2021 – All teams will face intra-conference opponents. Games will kick off simultaneously. Kick-off times and details will be announced at a later date.
Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs
- November 19, 2021 – The top seven sides from each conference will qualify for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
- December 11, 2021 – Major League Soccer championship match will broadcast live on ABC, UniMas, TSN and TVA Sports.
What are the MLS broadcast channels in the USA and Canada?
The 2021 season will see a record 37 network broadcast windows across ABC, FOX and Univision and UniMás, in the U.S., with seven more to be broadcast on CTV in Canada.
MLS in the USA (English language)
ABC will broadcast five matches in 2021, while 27 matches will be shown on ESPN, with 350 regional broadcasts to be streamed exclusively on ESPN+ for fans throughout the U.S. ESPN+ subscriptions are priced $5.99 a month (WARNING: in-market games will not be available).
FOX will carry seven matches, with a further 25 on FS1.All matches will be simulcast in Spanish on FOX Deportes and available on FOX Sports GO.
MLS in the USA (Spanish language)
Univision has a total of 11 matches in 2019 and UniMás will have 14, with games on both networks simulcast on TUDN and streamed live in English on Twitter.
TUDN will air more than 25 regular season games and select playoff contests, including the MLS Cup, during the 2021 MLS season.
MLS in Canada
In Canada, TVA Sports will broadcast every CF Montreal match. TSN, meanwhile, will air every Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps game, in addition to a multitude of CF Montréal content.
Regional channels by MLS team
Each MLS franchise has a local television deal for local and regional broadcasts.
- Atlanta United FC: Bally Sports South and Bally Sports Southeast
- Austin FC: CW Austin, KXAN and KBVO
- Chicago Fire FC: WGN-TV
- FC Cincinnati: WSTR Star64
- Colorado Rapids: Altitude and Altitude 2
- Columbus Crew SC: Bally Sports Ohio and Bally Sports Great Lakes
- DC United: NBC Sports Washington
- FC Dallas: TXA21
- Houston Dynamo FC: QuestTexas 55
- Inter Miami CF: CBS4 and MyTV33
- LA Galaxy: Spectrum Sportsnet
- Los Angeles FC: Not announced yet
- Minnesota United FC: Bally Sports North and The CW Twin Cities
- CF Montreal: TVA Sports
- Nashville SC: MyTV30
- New England Revolution: WSBK-TV38 and WBZ-TV (Channel 4 Boston)
- New York City FC: Yes Network
- New York Red Bulls: Not announced yet
- Orlando City SC: LionNation TV (online) or FOX 35 Plus (WRBW)
- Philadelphia Union: PHL17 and at least one game on 6abc
- Portland Timbers: FOX 12 PLUS (KPDX) and ROOT SPORTS
- Real Salt Lake: KMYU
- San Jose Earthquakes: CBS Sports Bay Area and CBS Sports California
- Seattle Sounders FC: Q13 (KCPQ-Channel 13) and JOEtv (KZJO-Channel 22)
- Sporting Kansas City: Bally Sports Kansas City
- Toronto FC: TSN
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC: TSN