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The sport known worldwide as “football” is called “soccer” in the United States, to distinguish it from American football, an entirely different game. Although soccer is the world’s most popular sport, it has never reached the popularity level in the United States of more established sports like American football, baseball, basketball and auto racing. Soccer has nevertheless grown in popularity over the last few decades. It is extremely popular as a youth sport and alive and well on a high school and college level.

In the world of international football as promulgated by FIFA, the United States is a member of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). While the American men’s team has never won a World Cup tournament, the national women’s team has won two such championships, and three women’s Olympic titles. The United States hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1994.

The United States Soccer Federation administers professional soccer in the country. After several decades during which a number of professional soccer leagues, including an indoor league, came into being only to fail, today’s Major League Soccer (MLS) league now operates with a 16-team structure, including one team in Canada. The 30 game regular season runs from March through November, followed by a championship series leading to the MLS Cup championship game.

The MLS team structure is as follows:

Eastern Conference:

  • Chicago Fire
  • Columbus (Ohio) Crew
  • D.C. United
  • Kansas City Wizards
  • New England Revolution
  • New York Red Bulls
  • Philadelphia Union
  • Toronto (Canada) FC

Western Conference:

  • C.D. Chivas USA (Carson, California)
  • Colorado Rapids
  • FC Dallas
  • Houston Dynamo
  • Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Real Salt Lake
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Seattle Sounders

Because salaries are much lower in American soccer than in many other sports, a number of top American soccer players play in other countries, while at the same time international stars are difficult to attract to American teams. Nevertheless, after years of struggle, American professional soccer is enjoying excellent game attendance, media coverage, and sponsorship.

Women’s soccer is popular in the United States at all levels. The professional league is called Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and fields eight teams in the United States: the Atlanta Beat, the Boston Breakers, the Chicago Red Stars, FC Gold Pride (in the San Francisco Bay area), the Philadelphia Independence, Sky Blue FC (New York and New Jersey), and the Washington Freedom. The WPS season runs from April through September.

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