Soccer

How many teams does MLS have? Here’s a timeline of league expansion

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MLS & Sacramento

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In the beginning, there were 10. With a huge announcement late Monday morning, that number increases to 29 with the addition of Sacramento.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber told Sacramento and the world that it will expand to California’s capital city and welcome Republic FC to the sport’s top league in the United States and Canada.

He opened with a conversation he had years ago with Bee columnist Marcos Bretón, telling him it’s not a matter of if, but when on expansion in Sacramento.

“Well folks, ‘when’ is today. Your ‘when’ has arrived,” Garber told the crowd Monday.

As the league has continued to expand, all but one those original 10 teams from 1996 remain, including the Los Angeles Galaxy, which has won a league-leading five MLS Cups. Two other expansion sides have ceased operations, but the league has almost tripled in size since the first whistle was blown April 6, 1996. Sacramento will be the newest city added, two months after St. Louis was awarded a team.

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There are 24 teams playing now. By 2022, which is when Sacramento is expected to reach MLS, five more will have joined the nation’s fastest-growing major sports league.

“Needless to say, interest in MLS has never been higher and we believe the desire of new owners and major markets to acquire an MLS expansion club is yet another sign of the upward trajectory of the league,” Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications, said in an email to The Bee.

Here are a few quick points about the growth of the league:

MLS on the move

MLS began in 1996 with 10 teams and expanded to 12 two years later.

In early 2002, MLS contracted two clubs, but increased back to 12 just three years later. Also that year, the San Jose Earthquakes became the Houston Dynamo, but the Silicon Valley city’s name, logo and colors remained in San Jose and an expansion team revived it all for MLS in 2008.

MLS reached Canada for the first time in 2007 with the addition of Toronto FC. The Vancouver Whitecaps (2011) and Montreal Impact (2012) make up the teams north of the border.

Since 2005, 15 teams have been added to the league. Only Chivas USA, which played in Carson, is defunct, ceasing operations in 2014.

There are two other defunct franchises: the Tampa Bay Mutiny (1996-2001) and the Miami Fusion (1998-2001).

There are four cities awarded teams which haven’t played yet: Inter Miami CF (2020), Nashville SC (2020), Austin FC (2021) and an unnammed St. Louis club (2022).

On Monday, Sacramento was announced as the league’s 29th franchise. Republic FC is expected to begin MLS play in 2022.

Charlotte and Las Vegas are reportedly contenders for expansion franchises.

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Noel Harris is the assistant local editor for The Sacramento Bee. A former Kings beat reporter who still occasionally writes, he’s been in professional journalism for more than 19 years. His roles have included sports editor at The Modesto Bee and news editor at two smaller California newspapers, as well as online producer, page designer and copy editor.
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