The 2023 Major League Soccer season gets underway at the end of February, and excitement for the new campaign is already palpable. Last season saw Los Angeles FC build a squad full of superstars such as Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini, and that was enough to catapult the California-based outfit to a maiden MLS Cup victory. However, it didn’t come easy.
Despite topping the regular season table for the second time in the franchise’s short history, they were just seconds away from losing the showpiece fixture against the Philadelphia Union, on home turf nonetheless. The game was perhaps the greatest MLS Cup final ever played and has left fans salivating at the prospect of the new season.
Online sports betting site Bovada has made LAFC the favorites to lift the trophy however, the game finished as a 2-2 draw following two late goals. The hosts thought they had one hand on the trophy when Jesús David Murillo gave them the lead with just seven minutes remaining however, Jack Elliott would equalize just two minutes later. The Englishman would then bag in the fourth minute of injury time in extra time, only for Bale to net a 128th-minute equalizer, which would spark scenes of jubilation at BMO Stadium.
That would see the tie head to a penalty shootout, and it was LAFC who kept their nerve, winning 3-0 and sealing the MLS Cup for the first time. This season, they will aim to become the first team to retain the trophy in over a decade. They will have to do so without their superstar Welshman Bale, however, who announced his retirement from football at the culmination of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Over the years, a handful of teams have risen to the top of the league and established themselves as “dynasties” due to their consistent success. Let’s take a look at the five most successful teams in MLS history and explore some of their greatest accomplishments. You may even find a new team to support.
Los Angeles Galaxy
The Los Angeles Galaxy is the most successful team in MLS history. They have won five MLS Cups (2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014), four Supporters’ Shields (1998, 2002, 2010, 2011), and two U.S. Open Cups (2001, 2005). They have also appeared in eight MLS Cup finals—the most by any team—and were the last team to successfully retain the trophy after winning it back to back in 2011 and 2012, a feat their city rivals look to match in 2023.
Notable players include former Real Madrid, Manchester United, and England star David Beckham (2007-2012), as well as Landon Donovan (2005-2014), Robbie Keane (2011-2016), and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2018-2020).
D.C. United has been one of the top teams in MLS since its inception in 1996 and has won four MLS Cups (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004), four Supporters’ Shields (1997, 1999, 2006, 2007), three U.S. Open Cups (1996, 2008, 2013). They were also the first American team to ever win the CONCACAF Champions Cup title when they lifted the trophy back in 1998. Notable players include Jaime Moreno (1996-2010) and Marco Etcheverry (1996-2003).
They are currently managed by former England striker Wayne Rooney, who also played for the club in 2018 and 2019. Last season, they finished rock bottom of the league table and will be hoping for a huge improvement in the upcoming campaign.
The Houston Dynamo joined Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2006 but has already established itself as one of the top teams in the league with two titles—the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup Championships—and back-to-back Supporters’ Shield titles in 2008 and 2009. Notable players include Brian Ching (2006-2013) and Brad Davis(2006-2015).
The Dynamo last reached the MLS Cup final back in 2012 however came up short against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center. They too had a disappointing season last term, finishing fourth bottom.
San Jose Earthquakes
The San Jose Earthquakes have been one of the most successful teams since joining Major League Soccer in 1996 with two MLS Cup wins—in 2001 against LA Galaxy and 2003 against Chicago Fire—two Supporter’s Shields titles—in 2005 & 2012—and one U.S Open Cup victory in 2001 over Los Angeles Galaxy. Notable players include Chris Wondolowski (2005–2020) and Ramiro Corrales (1996–2013).
The Chicago Fire joined Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 1998 but quickly became a powerhouse with two MLS cups —in 1998 against D . C . United, 2000 against KC Wizards —one US Open cup —in 1998 —and one Supporter’s Shield title —in 2003. Notable players include Peter Nowak (1998-2002), Chris Armas (1998-2007), and Cuauhtemoc Blanco (2007–2009).
These five teams have helped shape Major League Soccer into what it is today through their consistent success over multiple decades. Whether it’s winning multiple trophies or producing some of the best players to ever grace an MLS pitch these clubs deserve their place amongst the all-time greats.