Now that there’s a labor agreement, the Major League Soccer season is on.

MLS may be 20 years old but there’s a lot that’s new, from the overall league rebranding, to a pair of high-profile expansion teams and an influx of internation talent. It all kicks off Friday night when the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy host the Chicago Fire.

The season comes as the sport’s profile stateside has been raised with the success of the U.S. men’s national team in last year’s World Cup. There has been expanded coverage of international matches on network television and the league itself has three lucrative broadcast deals that should further increase soccer’s exposure.

“In many ways it’s a new start to the next generation of growth for Major League Soccer,” Commissioner Don Garber said Thursday.

Ultimately, what matters most is the product on the field. Here are some things to watch:


This season’s field includes two expansion teams, Orlando City and New York City FC. They will face each other Sunday night at the Citrus Bowl before an anticipated 62,000 fans.

Orlando City will only play at the old football stadium for a season before moving into its own home downtown. Walt Disney World Resort signed on as a founding sponsor and season tickets have nearly sold out.

NYCFC, which will play at Yankee Stadium, is owned by the Yankees and City Football Group, which also owns Premier League side Manchester City. The team is led by former Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis, who spent much of last year in England studying with the parent club.

Along with the additions this season is one subtraction: Chivas USA. The Southern California club folded following last season, but it will be replaced by a new team in the same market that will start in 2017.


Because of the expansion teams, the league moved the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City to the Western Conference to create two 10-team conferences.

Twelve teams will make the playoffs, adding the sixth-place team in each conference.


They may be new to MLS but they’re certainly not unknown: Players like Jozy Altidore, Kaka and David Villa are proven international players who are new to the league this season. Or, in Altidore’s case, making a return.

Toronto FC lured Altidore, the U.S. national team striker who played for Sunderland, as well as Italian midfielder Sebastian Giovinco. With Michael Bradley returning, Toronto is loaded with talent.

The expansion teams both added high-profile names, with Orlando City signing Brazilian Kaka and former U.S. national team star Brek Shea, and NYCFC bringing in national team midfielder Mix Diskerud, former Chelsea star Frank Lampard and Villa, the Spanish striker.