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Volume 22 No. 43
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Timeline: Two decades of MLS

The inaugural match in 1996 between D.C. United and the San Jose Clash.
Photo by: Getty Images


December: World Cup USA 1994 Chairman/CEO Alan Rothenberg announces the formation of Major League Soccer.


March: ESPN and ABC Sports announce the league’s first television rights deal without any players, coaches or teams in place. The three-year deal includes regular-season broadcasts on ESPN and ESPN2, and the MLS Cup on ABC.

June: MLS announces the first seven teams for the league: Boston, Columbus, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York (Long Island), San Jose and Washington, D.C.

November: Metromedia partners John Kluge and Stuart Subotnick, the Hunt family, LA Soccer Partners, and API Soccer head MLS’s charter investors and team operators.


June: Budweiser is introduced as MLS’s first official sponsor.
Dallas, Denver and Kansas City are added to the league’s roster of cities for the 1996 season.

November: Doug Logan is appointed as the league’s first commissioner, president and CEO.
Univision signs on as the official Spanish-language broadcaster of MLS.


April: The first regular-season game is played — D.C. United at the San Jose Clash — in front of a crowd of 31,683.

October: D.C. United wins the first MLS Cup in front of 34,643 fans at Foxboro Stadium.


■ April: MLS announces that the league will expand to Chicago and South Florida for the 1998 season, giving the league 12 teams.

October: ABC, ESPN and MLS reach a new six-year TV deal through the 2003 season.


November: Kraft Sports Group, owner of the New England Revolution, acquires operating control of the San Jose Clash. KSG would own the club until 2001.


May: The Columbus Crew opens the first major league, soccer-specific stadium in the United States.

Don Garber poses with the game ball after being introduced as commissioner in 1999.
Photo by: Getty Images

August: Don Garber is named MLS commissioner, replacing Doug Logan. Garber was previously senior vice president of the NFL’s international division.


■ May:
MLS and the new Women’s United Soccer Association agree to coordinate marketing and promotion, scheduling and stadium development.


November: Anschutz Entertainment Group assumes the operating rights to the NY/NJ MetroStars.


January: MLS announces a five-year broadcast agreement with ABC and ESPN that includes MLS television rights and rights to the next two FIFA World Cup tournaments. The deal also includes rights to the 2003 Women’s World Cup.
Garber announces that the Tampa Bay and Miami franchises will cease operation.
AEG becomes investor-operator of D.C. United, marking the first time MLS has an investor-operator for every team.

March: Soccer United Marketing is launched. The subsidiary company is set up to manage sales, service and broadcast production for MLS and its English-language World Cup properties.


April: Fox Sports International reaches a four-year agreement with MLS to nationally televise at least 25 regular-season games and at least eight playoff games per season on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports Español.
MLS and HDNet announce a three-year agreement to broadcast live HDTV coverage of MLS games.
MLS players designate the Major League Soccer Players Union as their exclusive bargaining representative.


July: MLS awards an expansion franchise to Dave Checketts and Salt Lake City. Checketts and associates pay a $10 million expansion fee for the club.

August: Co-owners Jorge Vergara and Antonio Cué announce they have been awarded an MLS franchise, CD Chivas USA. The team announces plans to share the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Home Depot Center and begin play in
The Dallas Burn rebrands the franchise as FC Dallas.

November: MLS and the MLS Players Union reach a deal on the first collective-bargaining agreement in league history.
Groundbreaking is held for the Chicago Fire’s new 20,000-seat stadium.

FC Dallas took the wraps off Pizza Hut Park in 2005.
Photo by: Getty Images

August: FC Dallas opens its soccer stadium, Pizza Hut Park, in suburban Frisco.
AEG and the MetroStars agree to build a 20,000-seat stadium and entertainment complex in Harrison, N.J., in time for the 2007 season.

December: The Earthquakes are relocated from San Jose to Houston, less than four months before the start of the 2006 season. San Jose would later be granted a new expansion team, which also would use the Earthquakes name, in July 2007, to begin play in the 2008 season.


March: Red Bull buys the MetroStars and a 50 percent stake in the team’s new stadium, as well as naming rights for the stadium. The team will be rebranded as the New York Red Bulls.
Houston’s MLS team announces that its new nickname will be the “Dynamo,” replacing the original “1836” nickname.

July: Fox Soccer Channel and Soccer United Marketing agree to a five-year, $11 million deal to broadcast a Saturday night MLS Game of the Week, up to three MLS playoff games, and two men’s and two women’s U.S. national team games.

August: ESPN and Soccer United Marketing announce an eight-year, $64 million multimedia rights agreement for MLS through the 2014 season.

September: The league says it will begin placing ads on the fronts of player jerseys next season.


David Beckham’s arrival in 2007 had people buzzing about the league.
Photo by: Getty Images

January: David Beckham announces plans to join the LA Galaxy, signing a five-year, $250 million deal.

April: Toronto FC begins the season as the league’s first Canadian franchise.
The Colorado Rapids move to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, their soccer-specific stadium located in the Denver suburb of Commerce City.

■ November: Seattle is granted the league’s 15th franchise and is set to begin play in 2009.


■ February: MLS awards an expansion franchise to Philadelphia to begin play in 2010.

October: MLS Real Salt Lake hosts its first game at the new Rio Tinto Stadium.


March: MLS awards expansion franchises to Portland and Vancouver, to begin play in 2011.


May: The Montreal Impact will be the league’s 19th team and will begin play in 2012.

June: The Philadelphia Union hosts its first game at the new PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

November: The Kansas City Wizards are rebranded as Sporting Kansas City.


August: MLS signs a three-year deal with NBC that will see regular-season games return to English-language broadcast television for the first time since 2008. The deal is valued at $10 million per year.


March: The expansion Montreal Impact become the third Canadian MLS franchise as the team begins play in the 2012 season.

May: The Houston Dynamo hold the inaugural MLS game at the team’s new home, BBVA Compass Stadium.


■ May: MLS announces that New York City FC, a partnership between Barclays Premier League club Manchester

City and the New York Yankees, will begin play in 2015 as the league’s 20th team.

November: MLS officially names Orlando City SC as the league’s 21st franchise, expected to begin play in March 2015.


January: Garber signs a new five-year contract that will keep him in his position through the end of 2018.

February: Garber announces that David Beckham will get an expansion franchise in Miami if Beckham and his investors can secure a new stadium.

April: Atlanta is unveiled as the newest expansion franchise. The team will begin play in 2017 in the new Falcons stadium scheduled to open that year.

May: MLS signs new eight-year media rights deals with ESPN, Fox and Univision. ESPN and Fox will pay a combined average of $75 million a year for English-language rights to MLS and U.S. Soccer matches. Univision’s Spanish-language deal averages $15 million per year.

September: MLS unveils its new logo as part of the “MLS Next” branding initiative.

October: MLS set new total and average attendance records during the 2014 regular season. And in its final season carrying MLS matches, NBC Sports Network averaged 141,000 viewers across 38 MLS games, up 26 percent from 2013.
The Chivas USA franchise is shuttered after 10 seasons. The league awards an expansion franchise to a group headed by Henry Nguyen, Peter Guber and Vincent Tan to begin play in Los Angeles in 2017.

November: Avaya agrees to a 10-year, $20 million deal for naming rights to the San Jose Earthquakes’ new stadium that is to open for the 2015 season.

December: After more than a decade of work for a new stadium, the D.C. Council approves the development of a new soccer-specific stadium for D.C. United that is expected to open for the 2017 MLS season.


January: The league sells its premium YouTube channel, KickTV, to Copa90, a London-based global soccer media platform. MLS will retain a minority stake and hold a board seat at the newly created company.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal research