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A guide to the US models for Major League Soccer and United Soccer League

USA Soccer
Wednesday, 15 July 2020 By Mohsen Parsa

Many fans may not know that soccer has a long history in the United States. The first US soccer league was established in 1884, making it one of the oldest sports leagues in the country, second only to the National League of Baseball. Soccer was so prosperous in the 1920s that approximately fifty European players were employed with soccer clubs in the United States. However, throughout the last century and a half, the soccer landscape has experienced one failed attempt after another (primarily by leagues) to make it as beloved in the United States as it is elsewhere.

This article briefly discusses the history of soccer in the US and then compares the US’s two prominent leagues – Major League Soccer and United Soccer League – from a business and legal standpoint.  Specifically, it looks at:

  • how the history of soccer informs the modern game;
  • the ‘single-entity’ structure and the evolution of Major League Soccer;
  • the rise of the United Soccer League;
  • where US soccer goes from here.

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Written by

Mohen Parsa

Mohsen Parsa

Mohsen Parsa is a sports and business attorney based in Irvine, California. He currently serves as the General Counsel to the Orange County SC professional soccer team which competes in the USL Championship. 

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Comments (2)

  • Tony Bates

    • 29 July 2020 at 21:19
    • #

    Great insight. I don't expect relegation coming to MLS in my lifetime. Especially after this pandemic, when so many clubs will be hemorrhaging cash or even facing bankruptcy, I think MLS will have a "told ya so" perspective.


    • Mohsen Parsa

      • 29 July 2020 at 22:14
      • #

      Thanks for your feedback. I agree with you in that the MLS will likely be impacted by the pandemic just like every other sports league in the world. I also agree with you in that given the MLS's current structure, adopting a promotion/relegation model is likely not feasible anytime soon. However, remember that MLS is a "single entity" league and there is another promising professional league in the United States (i.e. USL) which is completely separate from the MLS. The USL is creating a model which would eventually be compatible to adopt promotion/relegation. Therefore, while we may not see promotion/relegation coming to MLS, we may eventually see promotion/relegation in another league within the United States.


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