Major League Soccer (MLS)
Launched on April 6, 1996, Major League Soccer is the U.S. Soccer-sanctioned Division I outdoor professional soccer league in the United States. D.C. United, winners of three of the first four MLS Cup titles (1996, 1997 & 1999) lead all teams with four titles adding a victory in the 2004 final. The Los Angeles Galaxy won its third title in 2011 (2002 & 2005) after beating the Houston Dynamo in the final. The other MLS Cup champions include the Chicago Fire (1998), San Jose Earthquakes (2001 & 2003), Houston Dynamo (2006 & 2007), the Columbus Crew (2008), Real Salt Lake (2009) and Colorado Rapids (2010).
Over the past six years, MLS has continued to expand with Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake joining in 2005, Toronto FC in 2007, and the San Jose Earthquakes re-joining the league in 2008. In 2009, Seattle Sounders FC joined the league with the Philadelphia Union becoming the 16th MLS team in 2010. Expansion continued in the Pacific Northwest as the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps joined the league for the 2011 season. In 2012, the Montreal Impact became MLS's 19th team.
The league is divided into two conferences (Eastern and Western). Eastern Conference – Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC; Western Conference – Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, F.C. Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps.
MLS has a unique ownership and operating structure, based on a "single-entity" concept. Unlike other professional sports leagues, which are a confederation of independent franchise owners, MLS' "single-entity" structure allows investors to own an interest in the league, as well as individual teams. MLS believes that the structure will better position the league for long-term success.
North American Soccer League (NASL)
The North American Soccer League is a professional league that occupies the second tier of men's soccer in the United States.
The league began its inaugural season on April 9, 2011, with eight teams, and following the last regular season game on Sept. 24, 2011, six teams competed in the playoffs before the Minnesota Stars FC won the first NASL championship.
The eight teams that comprise the league are: the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Minnesota Stars FC, San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Puerto Rico Islanders.
United Soccer Leagues (USL)
USL has become the largest organization of elite-level soccer leagues in North America by building on the vision, commitment, and passion of players, fans and investors. USL continues to be a driving force in the growth of soccer in the United States, Canada and Caribbean.
From its beginnings as a five-team regional indoor league in 1986, USL has grown to scores of teams competing in six separate leagues across the country – USL PRO, MISL, PDL, W-League, Super-20 League and the Super Y-League. USL PRO is a professional league that occupies the third tier of men's soccer in the United States.
USISL, as it was then known, created an amateur outdoor league in 1989 that divided into professional and amateur leagues in 1995 after continued growth. Those leagues would become the PSL and PDL with the A-League joining USL in 1997. The W-League was founded in 1995. The Super Y-League was established in 1999 and has grown to more than 500 teams and includes an ODP identification program.