مقال

MLS 24 years on: Beckham, Zlatan and the landmark moments

6 نيسـان 2020 15:00

On April 6, 1996, the United States of America embraced a new competition as Major League Soccer debuted in San Jose.

After the collapse of the North American Soccer League 12 years earlier, a new 10-team league had formed, hoping to ride the crest of a wave from USA hosting the 1994 World Cup.

To mark 24 years to the day since Eric Wynalda's 88th-minute strike earned San Jose Clash a 1-0 win over DC United, we look at the biggest landmarks in MLS' history so far.

 

1996 - THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA

As part of the agreement to award USA the 1994 World Cup, the United States Soccer Federation had to commit to starting a new elite league.

The result was the formation of MLS - a 10-team competition with clubs such as LA Galaxy, DC United and New England Revolution all involved in that inaugural campaign.

DC United came from 2-0 down to beat the Galaxy 3-2 in the MLS Cup in front of 34,643 fans in Massachusetts.

2001 - HUNT TO THE RESCUE

After four years of dwindling attendances, the future of MLS appeared bleak when commissioner Don Garber staged a meeting in 2001 attended by both club owners and bankruptcy attorneys.

The league had lost $250million since its first game, but Philip Anschutz, the Kraft and Hunt families stepped forward to bankroll the 11 franchises between them.

The late Lamar Hunt had convinced owners not to fold the league, and it proved a shrewd decision...

2005 - THE EXPANSION BOOM BEGINS

For the first time since 1998 - when Chicago Fire and the short-lived Miami Fusion came on board - new MLS teams joined the party in the form of Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA.

MLS expanded to 13 clubs in 2007, and it grew in size in each of the next five seasons.

This season, MLS has 26 clubs and that number will grow to 30 by 2022.

2007 - DAVID BRINGS BECKS APPEAL

It could be argued no player has had a greater impact on MLS than one David Beckham.

The Manchester United and Real Madrid great arrived in the City of Stars in 2007 thanks to the 'Designated Player Rule' - nicknamed the 'Beckham Rule', allowing clubs to sign up to three players that count outside their salary cap.

LA Galaxy's acquisition of Beckham was seen as a huge coup. The England midfielder spent five seasons in Hollywood and his arrival helped put MLS on the map.

2012 - AMERICA'S SECOND FAVOURITE SPORT

As well as Beckham's arrival, the sport's popularity was also aided by USA's thrilling matches at the 2010 World Cup.

USA beat Algeria to reach the last 16 thanks to a last-gasp Landon Donovan goal, only to lose their first knockout match to Ghana in extra time.

Interest intensified, though, and in 2012 an ESPN poll found MLS was America's second-most popular sporting league among those aged 12-24 - behind just the NFL.

2018 - MARTINEZ AND ATLANTA BRING THE NOISE

The 2018 MLS Cup was watched by 73,019 fans at Atlanta United's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, shattering the previous final record of 61,316 supporters from 16 years earlier.

Atlanta, in just their second campaign, won the trophy during a memorable campaign when Josef Martinez scored a record 31 goals in the regular season.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic making the Galaxy must-watch again, Wayne Rooney transforming DC United and Carlos Vela firing at Los Angeles FC, it was one of the more memorable MLS campaigns to date.

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