Major League Soccer began in 1996 with just ten teams, often called the league’s original teams. The league has, however, witnessed a series of expansions over the years.
Although at some point in 2001, the idea of an expansion team was put on hold, The need to accelerate the growth of soccer and make the MLS a standout league opened a new window for more expansion teams.
Who are the original MLS teams? Which teams founded and played the inaugural season of Major League Soccer?
What was the first year of the MLS? It was established in 1993.
What is the oldest team in the MLS? Established in 1994, San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls (as MetroStars), LA Galaxy, DC United, New England Revolution, and Columbus Crew are the six oldest teams in Major League Soccer.
How many were the original MLS teams there? Ten teams officially formed in the MLS in 1995 and began to play in 1996.
We’ve brought together every MLS original team that played in the inaugural season of 1996 before the idea of expansion franchise was introduced.
Highlighting the first 10 MLS teams
1. Columbus Crew
Columbus Crew, formerly known as Columbus Crew SC, is a soccer club based in Columbus, Ohio.
Columbus Crew began to play as an MLS franchise in 1996 as one of the ten charter clubs.
They currently compete as a member of the Eastern Conference. The club was founded in 1994 and used to play its home games at Historic Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer.
Columbus Crew’s first MLS game in 1996
The Crew played their first MLS game on April 13, 1996, at the Ohio Stadium against D.C United and won 4–0.
The club’s first logo featured three men with a helmet over their heads and a gold background at the top with an inscription “The Crew.”
2. D.C. United
D.C. United is a soccer club based in Washington, D.C., competing as a member of the Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer.
DC United, along with LA Galaxy, were the two most successful teams in the MLS in the early years.
In 1994, DC United was a household name on the international stage, winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the Copa Interamericana in 1998.
DC United’s first MLS game in 1996
On April 6, 1996, D.C. United played their first MLS match against the San Jose Clash in Spartan Stadium and lost 1-0.
The team’s original Black and white logo features an eagle with three soccer balls overlaid on three white stars.
3. New England Revolution
The New England Revolution is a soccer club based in Greater Boston that competes in Major League Soccer as a member of the Eastern Conference.
The club was originally founded in 1994. In their inaugural season, they failed to reach the MLS Cup playoffs
New England Revolution’s first MLS game in 1996
On Sat, Apr 13, 1996, The New England Revolution played their first MLS game against Tampa Bay Mutiny and lost 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the Tampa Stadium.
The Revs’ original logo was a stylized American flag having a soccer ball at the top left corner.
4. New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls)
The New York MetroStars was a soccer club based in the New York metropolitan area. It was bought over by Red Bull in 2006, who later renamed the club New York Red Bulls.
The New York Red Bulls is a member of the Eastern Conference.
Established in October 1994, the club began to play in the league’s inaugural season in 1996 as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
New York Red Bulls’ first MLS game in 1996
On Sat, Apr 13, 1996, the New York MetroStars played against Los Angeles Galaxy and lost 2-1 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California.
MetroStars’ original crest depicted the metropolitan area of New York City. It featured the City’s high-rise buildings with a red hot sign around them.
5. Tampa Bay Mutiny
Tampa Bay Mutiny was a soccer team based in Tampa, Florida, and began to play in the league’s inaugural season as a Major League Soccer charter member. The club played in the MLS from 1996 to 2001.
They were established in 1994 and were successful in their first years of play, winning the Eastern Conference (Regular Season and MLS Supporters in 1996.
Tampa Bay Mutiny’s first MLS game in 1996
Tampa Bay Mutiny defeated the New England Revolution 3-2 at the Tampa Stadium.
The Tampa Bay Mutiny logo featured a bat superimposed on a black and blue background.
6. Colorado Rapids
The Colorado Rapids is a soccer club based in the Denver metropolitan area that competes in Major League Soccer as a member of the Western Conference.
The club was founded in 1995 and began to play in the inaugural MLS season as one of the founding members.
Colorado Rapids’ first MLS game in 1996
The Rapids were humiliated by Kansas City Wiz, losing by 3-0.
The club’s original logo was a circular “river” logo.
7. Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas)
FC Dallas is a soccer club based in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, competing in the MLS as a member of the Western Conference. They began to play in 1996 as a charter club of the league, then as Dallas Burn.
FC Dallas’s first MLS game in 1996
On Sun Apr 14, 1996, FC Dallas edged visitors San Jose Clash 2-1.
The FC Dallas original logo featured a fire-breathing black Mustang behind a stylized red “Burn” wordmark.
8. Kansas City Wiz (eventually Wizards; now Sporting Kansas City)
Sporting Kansas City is a soccer club based in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The club competes as a member of the Western Conference in Major League Soccer.
Founded by US soccer legend Lamar Hunt in 1995, Sporting KC began to play in 1996 as a charter team. Kansas City Wizards were the early successful team in the MLS.
Sporting Kansas City’s first MLS game in 1996
Then as Kansas City Wizards, they defeated Colorado Rapids 3-0 in their first-ever MLS game on Sat, Apr 13, 1996, at the Arrowhead Stadium.
9. Los Angeles Galaxy
LA Galaxy is a soccer club based in the Los Angeles metropolitan area that competes in Major League Soccer as a member of the Western Conference.
Founded in 1994, the club began to play in 1996 as one of the league’s ten charter members.
LA Galaxy’s first MLS game in 1996
The Galaxy hosted and defeated the New York MetroStars 2-1 with goals from Cobi Jones and Arash Noamouz.
The LA Galaxy original logo was gold, teal, and black. It also featured the Galaxy wordmark on a golden swirl with a black outline.
10. San Jose Clash (now San Jose Earthquakes)
The San Jose Earthquakes soccer team based in San Jose, California, competes as a member club of the Western Conference of Major League Soccer.
The club played in the MLS inaugural season as the San Jose Clash in 1996. It was founded in 1994.
San Jose Earthquakes’ first MLS game in 1996
The Earthquakes played their first-ever Major League Soccer game against DC United and defeated the capital city club D.C. United 1–0.
The original San Jose Clash logo featured a stylized scorpion in black and red with a white ‘clash’ wordmark – (Wikipedia).
Some MLS charter clubs like LA Galaxy and New England Revolution have consistently competed at the highest level.