So it’s come around once again – the start of the MLS Season!
Kicking off with the annual curtain-raiser of Philadelphia Union versus the Seattle Sounders, is the American Major League Soccer season!
Andy Williams of Real Salt Lake striking between Chris Rolfe and Logan Pause of the Chicago Fire.
As well our American readership know, the MLS has been developing hugely in the last few seasons, becoming a hugely entertaining' league to watch.
English readers might also be interested to keep an eye on Landon Donovan, who was hugely impressive during his spell at Everton.
So – for the uninitiated anywhere in the world, here’s our guide to the 2010 MLS season:
How Many Teams are in the MLS?
16. There are 8 in the Eastern Conference and 8 in the West
How do the Conferences work?
The 8 teams in each conference play each other both home and away in a regular season. For each win 3 points are awarded and each draw 1 point. The top 4 clubs in each conference then face each other in the end of season playoffs.
How does the PlayOff system work?
The top teams from each conference are seeded, and then organised with who they will play from within their conference. The 2 winners of these games go on to play in the Conference Semi-final series, which are played in a Home/Away game aggregate (Like Champions League Knock-out rounds). The last two teams standings then play each other for the Championship game – the MLS Cup.
Real Salt Lake celebrating victory in the Eastern Conference Final.
What happens during the World Cup?
2010 signals the first time that the MLS will break for a tournament' -' The last MLS game prior to the World Cup will be played the day before the World Cup kicks off and continue on June 25. The MLS also does not plan to schedule games on the days of either World Cup Semi-Final nor the World Cup Final.
Wasn’t there going to be a strike?
Absolutely – the MLSPU (Players Union) was going to strike unless the League’s commission came up with a new Collective Bargaining' Agreement – but that’s been settled, so the season’s on as normal!
What makes this year more exciting than any other?
Well – there’s a new team! Philadelphia Union are this season newbie, following on in the footsteps of the Seattle Sounders as an ‘expansion team’ – meaning they’re new additions to the league after it was founded!
And more teams are getting soccer-specific stadiums – New York Red Bulls recently christened their new Red Bull arena with a 3-1 win over Brazilian Giants Santos!
Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo hurdles Omar Gonzalez LA Galaxy.
What other tournaments run alongside it?
Well, the MLS has three automatic berths in the CONCACAF Champions League featuring teams from the US, Canada, Mexico, Central American and the Caribbean!
Then there’s the US Open Cup; which is a soccer competition open to all United States Soccer Federation' affiliated teams, from amateur adult club teams to the professional clubs of Major League Soccer – a bit like the FA cup!
Who are the teams to watch this season?
Columbus Crew triumphed in the Eastern Conference last season, and despite being knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions league have looked impressive pre-season; Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Steven Lenhart in particular!
In the Western division, whilst many will talk of LA Galaxy and reigning Champions Real Salt Lake, there’s been great progress made at the Seattle Sounders, who have former Premiership players ex-Fulham stopper Casey Keller and former Arsenal daft-haircut pioneer Freddie Ljungberg on their books.
Freddie Ljunberg and Fredy Montero of Seattle Sounders.
What are the football boots like?
The MLS is great for boot-spotting; Adidas supply the entire Leagues team kits – meaning that they also supply many of the players with football boots. But with Nike being an American company, you can be sure they don’t like being beaten on home turf so offer many players contracts when they’re drafted into the MLS. Expect plenty of Mercurial Vapor Superfly II‘s and Predator_X‘s then!
So there you have it – a quick catch-up on some of the in’s and out’s of the MLS, and without a single mention of a certain ex-England Captain!