Major League Soccer has grown over its 25 years, once a league of just only 10 teams and in danger of folding in 2001, the league has turned into a sporting juggernaut and by 2023 will be a 30 team league. MLS has an average attendance of, in a pre-pandemic world, 21,305 fans per game, more than the NHL (17,456), and more than established soccer countries like France and Argentina. It is also important to note that 18 teams play in their own Soccer Specific Stadium, facilities built for their respective clubs, so fans have a much better experience than in 1996 where all the teams played in NFL stadiums.
If there is something Major League Soccer has enforced heavily during the last 10 years is it’s supporters' culture. Each team has a supporters group and some teams have up to three or four. Teams like the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, D.C. United, and Atlanta United have helped highlight and showcase the strong supporters' culture and passion, there is for soccer in the United States.
This ranking is based on the total number of social media followers each MLS team has, it does not mean that these teams are more popular than others when it comes to attendance or TV ratings, but it is an indicator of where each team's social footprint is at. You will be surprised to see that many initial MLS teams are far behind some of their recent counterparts, so some MLS marketing departments better get that awareness moving!
26. Nashville SC - 147K Social Media Followers
The new kid on the block Nashville SC entered MLS in 2020 and are going through the growing pains of an inaugural season. Their supporter's group “The Backline” make the most noise in their current home of Nissan Stadium, where the first game was attended by a record 59,069 fans.
While the club has yet to play a full season and the roster is made up of established MLS players, the team will look to make a splash in the years to come. Nashville SC will open up their own 27,000 seat stadium sometime in 2022, and will also look to cause headlines when they sign a 3rd DP. They might be last on the list, but only because they have just arrived at the party.
25. Colorado Rapids - 291K Social Media Followers
In 25 years, the Colorado Rapids have never really made a dent in the Colorado area despite a stadium to themselves and a rebrand. The Rapids did win an MLS Cup in 2010 and despite that achievement, they never really gained traction in the city.
Between that MLS Cup in 2010, the team has had some stinkers for seasons and has not qualified for the playoffs in the last 3 campaigns. The Centennial 38 is the club's supporters group and to be honest, they deserve better for their support than what the Rapids front office has given them. U.S. national team hero Tim Howard was the last major signing the team made and even then Howard was well past his prime.
24. FC Cincinnati - 306K Social Media Followers
FC Cincinnati began play in MLS in 2019 and made quite a splash in their first season, they signed Fanendo Adi as their first DP and by May they fired their coach after a slow start. They averaged a little over 27,000 fans per game and are home to seven supporters groups.
The team is trying to pay back that support by signing a few players during the off-season and are in the pack of the Eastern Conference this season. In 2021 they hope to open their new Soccer Specific Stadium for 26,000 fans and are looking to become Eastern Conference contenders.
23. Minnesota United FC - 412K Social Media Followers
Minnesota United FC is the definition of a well supported small market team. They consistently play in front of sold-out crowds in their 19,000 seat stadium. The fans are loud and after two tough seasons made a huge splash in 2019 and 2020 are in the front pack of the Western Conference.
The club has three supporters groups and is starting to make waves in the international market by signing young South Americans like Uruguay’s Thomas Chacón and Boca Juniors' Emanuel Reynoso. The future looks bright for the club and the fans are making the environment just right for the Loons!
22. New England Revolution - 415K Social Media Followers
The Revolution was one of MLS's inaugural teams, their first major signing was none other than World Cup hero Alexi Lalas. In the early years of MLS, it was common to see 22-23,000 fans per game at the old Foxboro Stadium. That slowly began to change and the Revs began playing in front of sparse crowds, as the team only qualified twice for the playoffs in the league's first six years.
As MLS progressed and the DP rule began to be implemented by every team the Revolution seemed way behind the pack, fan frustration mounted and the team was in danger of a rebrand, moving, and losing its fan base altogether. Things have changed in New England, Bruce Arena is now their coach and the team has invested heavily in top talent signing Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil. The Fort, home to three long time supporters clubs, have something to cheer for again and the team has had a revival as of late.
21. Philadelphia Union - 442K Social Media Followers
The Union has been in MLS since 2010, and while the team has been on the rise in the last few years due to a change in club philosophy, they have somewhat made a footprint in the Phili area. The Union calls Subaru Park home and plays in front of healthy crowds of 15-17,000.
The Sons of Ben are the club's supporters group and have been the voice of the Union from day one through the ups and downs. The club has changed its style and has become a home for young talent and this has propelled the team to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.
20. Real Salt Lake - 470K Social Media Followers
RSL as they are known is another small market yet very well supported club. “The Riot” the club's supporters group has been providing the atmosphere at Rio Tinto Stadium since 2008. For a team with no real soccer tradition, Real Salt Lake has been able to create a very unique history in MLS.
They have 1 MLS Championship and were a 2011 CONCACAF Champions League finalist, losing a very close game to Monterrey of Mexico. The club has had MLS legends like Jason Kries and Javier Morales on their roster and Rio Tinto always has an electric atmosphere when they play. The club's anthem is “Believe” a song composed by Branden Steineckert, drummer of punk band Rancid, and a supporter of Real Salt Lake.
19. Columbus Crew - 504K Social Media Followers
The Columbus Crew were one of the league's first 10 teams, many experts felt that the Columbus franchise would be a disaster, given that they were not one of the initial host cities of the 1994 World Cup. Well, the Crew may be the most important team in the league's history. Why? The Crew built the first of its kind Soccer Specific Stadium, that experiment led the way to every stadium that was built afterward.
The Crew have gone through a rebrand and almost a possible move to Austin but “The Nordecke” have stayed firm with the team and with new ownership and a move to a brand new stadium, yes the Crew will make history again when they move to a downtown Soccer Stadium, their second, they truly have a place in MLS history.
18. San Jose Earthquakes - 566K Social Media Followers
The Quakes have a long-standing history with Soccer in the United States, the team played way back in the NASL and was the team George Best played for. When MLS started in 1996 the team was named the Clash, and within 3 years they retook their Earthquakes name and history. San Jose later would surprise many in American Soccer when they signed Landon Donovan and won 2 MLS Cups with one of U.S. Soccer’s all-time best players.
The Earthquakes were a bit of nomads during the teen years of MLS, until in 2015 Earthquakes Stadium opened and their 3 supporter groups have a place worthy of cheering on the home team. The team is now coached by Argentine Matías Almeyda and the team has been rejuvenated.
17. D.C. United - 592K Social Media Followers
Few clubs in American soccer history have the tradition that D.C. United has. The club has won 13 titles in their 25 years being the early dynasty of MLS. Winners of the first 3 of 4 MLS Cups and winners of two international tournaments the D.C. teams of the late ’90s were highly respected. D.C. fans were spoiled early and the team had some of the highest attendance numbers in the early years of the league.
As the years progressed and D.C. became stagnant the club seemed to age just like their old home of RFK Stadium. While the fans kept coming, but not in those high 20,000 numbers of the late ’90s, D.C. United needed to find a proper home for the new MLS that has been emerging. The Screaming Eagles, the club's supporters group, now call Audi Field their home and the new state of the art facility is a place truly worthy of D.C. United 's history.
16. Vancouver Whitecaps - 622K Social Media Followers
The Whitecaps are one of MLS’s three Canadian teams, they began play in 2011 and have been one of the better-supported teams in the league. They play their home games at BC Place, where the stadium can contract to be more intimate to support the average 17,000 fans who come to see the Whitecaps.
The club is home to four supporters clubs and they bring passion to every Caps home game. The team has struggled over the last few seasons and is looking to get into the playoffs in 2020, one thing is for sure the club has support.
15. Chicago Fire - 624K Social Media Followers
The Chicago Fire came into MLS with a bang in 1998, becoming one of few expansion teams to win the championship in their first season. In recent years the club has struggled to attract fans and have fallen off the pecking order of MLS elite clubs. That has changed as the team has moved back to Soldier Field, in an effort to be closer to the city, and have rebranded to mark a new beginning.
The team is home to the Section 8 supporters club, with a mix of European and South American support it’s amazing how songs from Poland and chants from Argentina flow out of the supporter's section with great ease. The team has made some young signings and want to be a contender to attract all those fans that came out in the early days.
14. F.C Dallas - 644K Social Media Followers
F.C. Dallas is another MLS founding club, they started as the Dallas Burn and then changed their name in 2005 to be more appealing to the soccer fan. While they are higher on the list when it comes to social media fans F.C.Dallas has always struggled for support at the gate in MLS. Whether it be in the Cotton Bowl or their own Toyota Stadium, having fans at games has always been an issue for the club. It's sad given F.C. Dallas has fielded some of the most attractive teams in MLS history.
The club has two supporters clubs that provide the atmosphere in the stadium. Toyota Stadium even includes the National Hall of Fame for Soccer so going to a game, for a soccer fan, should be quite attractive. The club has won a few U.S. Open Cups and even challenged for MLS Cup on a few occasions.
13. Montreal Impact - 813K Social Media Followers
The Montreal Impact are as European as they come in MLS, it’s french-speaking surroundings, there are smoke bombs in the supporter's section and there have been some great players over the years like Didier Drogba and Marco Di Vaio. It’s truly one of the most unique destinations for all MLS traveling fans, it feels like you're in a classic European stadium.
The Impact is home to four major supporter groups and boy do they provide a proper soccer atmosphere. The team has had its ups and downs, but they are trying to once again be that team that almost won the Concacaf Champions League in 2015. Their manager is as French as they come, it's none other than Thierry Henry, so look for an Impact resurgence in the years to come.
12. Portland Timbers - 814K Social Media Followers
The Timbers are one of, if not, the best-supported clubs in MLS. Their stadium Providence Park is one of the places to be in if you want to see soccer in the United States. The Timbers Army, the club's supporter group, is one of the loudest in the league and their TiFo is just amazing!
The Timbers have paid back that support with 1 MLS Cup and winning the MLS is Back tournament. They have a bit of a Latin flavor with club legends Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, and Sebastián Blanco on the roster and since they arrived in MLS in 2011 they have been a fixture in the league. If you want to see authentic passion go to a Timbers game!
11. Houston Dynamo - 872K Social Media Followers
Okay, try to follow us here, the Houston Dynamo are really the San Jose Earthquakes in some way. In 2005 the league, struggling to survive, moved the San Jose team to Houston after AEG, the team's owners suffered huge losses with the San Jose team because of their stadium deal. The club moved in 2006 and won back to back MLS Cups and were heavily supported upon arrival.
Over the last few years support has been stagnant and the club is looking to attract more fans back to BBVA Stadium. The club is home to the Hustle Town supporters group, a mix of various supporters clubs, who provide American, European, and Latin flavor support. The owners have invested in some talent and are looking to get the club back to its winning ways.
10. Sporting KC - 887K Social Media Followers
What a difference a stadium and a change in culture makes. No club in MLS turned it around in regards to support and atmosphere than Sporting Kansas City. The team began in 1996 as the Kansas City Wiz and was a flop from the start at the gate, for years Kansas City was the worst attended team in MLS drawing as low as 4,000 fans on a Saturday night.
In 2011 the club, now under new ownership, rebranded and opened one of the country's most elegant soccer stadiums, Children's Mercy Park, and like that the team was rejuvenated. Sellout crowds are now the norm in Kansas City and the club is home to eleven affiliated supporters clubs that are located in one area, The Cauldron. The team may not be the biggest spender in the league, but they have a team-first mentality, one that KC fans are very proud of and it shows every home game.
9. Toronto FC - 969K Social Media Followers
Toronto FC was MLS's first experiment in Canada back in 2005 and while the team has always been well supported, the team was DOA as they failed to make the playoffs in their first eight seasons! When the DP era began the club invested heavily in rebuilding the franchise and since then has claimed one MLS Cup in 2017.
The supporters of Toronto FC are as rowdy as they come and some of the leagues loudest. Opposing teams hate making that trip north as TFC uses the energy of their 12th man to win games consistently.
8. New York Red Bulls - 1.1M Social Media Followers
In 1996 MLS wanted New York to be its flagship team, the league allocated Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, and Roberto Donadoni. The then MetroStars would be one of the league's most competitive and well-supported teams. Well, the support was there at first, but the early years of the team can be considered total disasters. In '96 the team made the playoffs only to have a mediocre '97 and '98 seasons to having one of the worst seasons in MLS history in 1999. When 2000 came the club was struggling to maintain what it had in '96 and as the league entered its dark years no team struggled more than the New York team at the gate.
In 2006 Red Bull bought the team and in 2010 built what has been called the best Soccer Specific Stadium in MLS, Red Bull Arena. They even signed world-class players such as Rafa Márquez, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, and homegrown players like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tyler Adams, Tim Ream, and Matt Miazga. The Empire Supporters Club is the team's long time supporters group and they have been through a lot, but they still sing, jump, and celebrate with the team despite some tough years. Despite some decent seasons but with no MLS Cup in 25 years, the Red Bulls continue to look for that first championship that will finally put the club on the map.
7. Los Angeles Football Club - 1.1M Social Media Followers
Although tied with the Red Bulls in total social media followers LAFC is higher up because it took the Red Bulls 25 years to get to 1.1M while LAFC did it in three. One of MLS's best supported teams the team came into the league with a splash by having high profile owners like Will Ferrell, “Magic” Johnson, and Mia Hamm. The club signed Mexican superstar Carlos Vela and young dynamic players like Uruguayans Diego Rossi and Brian Rodríguez.
The 3252 is the club's supporters group and boy do they provide an atmosphere. Flairs, smoke bombs, jumping in unison make LAFC games a place to be in Los Angeles. The new kids in town have already won the Supports Shield and were semifinalists in the MLS is Back tournament. They have played in front of sell crowds since their inception and in a short time have become one of MLS’s flagship teams.
6. Inter Miami - 1.2M Social Media Followers
Inter Miami came into 2020 with a lot of style in MLS, the long-awaited David Beckham franchise finally arrived in the league. On social media, the Beckham effect took its toll as the team jumped to over 1 million followers in the lead up to their season. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we may not see Inter Miami play in front of a crowd at all in 2020.
Seeing if all that social media buzz will translate to butts in the seats most likely will not be measured this season, a bitter pill for MLS who worked very hard to get a team in Miami and do the marketing necessary to create a buzz. One the field things have been slow, the team lost its first five games and only recently won its first. Inter Miami has been more in the news for transfer rumors for big-name players that have yet to materialize than for their actual play.
5. Orlando City - 1.4M Social Media Followers
When you sign Kaká you can be sure that his massive social media following will follow as well, so it’s hard to determine how many of these 1.4M are not Brazilians and Kaká fans. Still, Orlando City has played in MLS since 2015 and while results have been mixed they have been well supported.
The Wall, the name of the club's supporters section, has a lot to cheer for these days as the team with superstars like Nani and under the guidance of Óscar Pareja were runners up in the MLS is Back tournament and fans are hopeful for better years to come. A much-needed boost for the franchise that has yet to make the MLS playoffs.
4. Atlanta United - 1.7M Social Media Followers
Big signings, sell-out crowds, and championships that is what Atlanta United fans have gotten used to in their short existence. The Atlanta team announced they were serious about being a top club from day one when they signed Gerardo Martino to coach the team in their first two seasons. Martino attracted young South American players and the teams attacking style have fans abuzz game in and game out.
Support? Well, Atlanta United have played to crowds as low as 42,000 and as high as 77,000 to say that this is not the best-supported team in MLS or in any pro sports league is an understatement. This team is downright popular and has been embraced by the Atlanta sports culture like no other team. The new standard for success in any sport is called Atlanta United.
3. Seattle Sounders - 1.6M Social Media Followers
Support and tradition that is what the Sounders have. The team plays in front of 33,000 fans each home game at CenturyLink Field. No matter if rain or shine the march to the stadium by the Sounders supporters is one of the best sights in all of MLS.
The team on the field has been a massive success, winning two MLS Cups and four U.S. Open Cups. High profile players like Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller, Raúl Ruidíaz, and Nicolás Lodeiro have played or are playing for the club. While Atlanta United may have stolen some of their thunder, the Sounders have been doing it longer and are the benchmark of consistency when it comes to support.
2. New York City FC - 3.2M Social Media Followers
NYCFC much like Inter Miami came into MLS with a splash, but unlike Inter Miami they did it off the backs of signing big-time players. David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo. That splash caused a buzz in the New York market and the team has maintained a consistent show of support. While they do play in an unideal location, Yankee Stadium, the club is looking to build a stadium of its own in the near future.
Support for the team has been high and the club has had decent seasons to maintain the support. While they are not bringing in “name” players they continue to compete week in and week out and have made the playoffs the last three seasons. Being competitive is a must if you want fans in your stadium in New York, it’s a lesson the New York Red Bulls for example have learned the hard way.
1 . Los Angeles Galaxy - 4.1M Social Media Followers
The Beckham effect part 1. When David Beckham announced his arrival to the Galaxy in 2007, at the dawn of the social media revolution, the Galaxy were already an established team in MLS. The Galaxy had already won two MLS Cups, players like Jorge Campos, Eduardo Hurtado, Cobi Jones had already suited up for them. But the Beckham train was something completely new to the league and the team, his star power attracted players to MLS and the Galaxy eventually signed Robbie Keane.
Since then the Galaxy has won three more MLS Cups, the most of any team in MLS, continue to play to healthy crowds, and even had Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their ranks. The Galaxy fans have been calling Dignity Health Sports Park home since 2003 and continue to demand nothing but the best from the club. The Galaxy were prime time since day one in MLS and continues to be one of the best-supported clubs to this day.
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