Top 10 most famous soccer teams in America

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Jason Ence

February 23rd, 2022

America’s soccer history might not be as rich or extensive as other nations around the world, but there are clubs that you absolutely must be aware of as a fan of the beautiful game.

Here are the 10 American soccer teams you should know about!

10. Sporting Kansas City

Nickname: The Wizards
Founded: 1995
League: MLS

Originally founded as the Kansas City Wiz, Sporting KC spent many years branded as the Kansas City Wizards. The only professional sports team in the state of Kansas, Sporting has won two MLS Cups, in 2000 and 2013.

They also have won the U.S. Open Cup, the biggest American domestic cup tournament, four different times, lifting the trophy named after their founding owner, Lamar Hunt. Their four triumphs are tied for most all time with Seattle and the Chicago Fire.

Kansas City claimed their only Supporters’ Shield, given to the team with the most points in the regular season, in 2000. American keeper Tony Meola won the league’s MVP award, as he set league records with 16 clean sheets, and by going 681 minutes without conceding a goal.

9. Columbus Crew

Nickname: The Crew
Founded: 1994
League: MLS

With one of the most passionate fanbases in all of American sports, The Crew have claimed the MLS Cup twice, including the 2020 campaign. They also have a U.S. Open Cup victory, and in 2021 they claimed the Campeones Cup, defeating the champions of Mexico’s Liga MX.

In 2017, their owner announced plans to move the franchise to Austin, Texas. In response, the fans began a campaign to “Save the Crew” and were successful in their efforts, and the club was eventually purchased by an ownership group led by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

They opened a brand new stadium in 2021, and their fans could not be happier.

8. Seattle Sounders

Nickname: The Sounders
Founded: 2007
League: MLS

Despite being a franchise for less than 15 years, the Sounders already have a rich history. The team, who shares their stadium with the Seattle Seahawks, is urged on by their rabid fanbase and have won two MLS Cups in the past six seasons. They have also made the playoffs in every season of their existence.

Seattle has also won four U.S. Open Cup titles, as well as the 2014 Supporters Shield. They have advanced as far as the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. They are bitter rivals of both Portland and Vancouver, with the three clubs vying annually for the Cascadia Cup.

7. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Nickname: The Rowdies
Founded: Originally in 1975, re-established in 2008
League: USL Championship

When discussing America’s soccer history, the story cannot be told without discussing the Rowdies. The original franchise played in the North American Soccer League for 10 years before the league folded.

During that time, they won the NASL title in their first season and reached the finals two other times. They often played in front of crowds upwards of 40,000 fans. At the same time, Tampa Bay fielded a dominant indoor soccer team. They won two NASL indoor titles, finishing runner-up two other times.

After the NASL folded, they continued to play as an independent team, bouncing to various leagues before folding finally in 1993. Many of their players joined the Tampa Bay Mutiny, one of the MLS' first 10 teams, which began play in 1994.

In 2008, FC Tampa Bay was founded to play in the new NASL, and in 2012 the rights to the Rowdies name were purchased. The Tampa Bay Rowdies won the 2012 NASL title, and later joined the USL, America’s second-tier soccer league. Last season, they reached the USL Championship Final, but fell 3-1 to Orange County SC.  

6. New England Revolution

Nickname: The Revs
Founded: 1996
League: MLS

One of MLS’ inaugural 10 teams, The Revolution have appeared in five MLS Cup finals in their history, including three straight seasons from 2005 to 2007. Unfortunately for them, they have failed to win any of them, the most appearances of any club without claiming hardware.

They have claimed silverware via the U.S. Open Cup, claiming victory in the 2007 season. They also won the North American SuperLiga, a now-defunct competition that pitted the top two teams from MLS against the top two from Liga MX, in 2008.

2021 saw the Revolution achieve their best success in nearly a decade, winning the first Supporters’ Shield in club history. Albeit in more matches than any other season, the Revolution also set an MLS point record with 73 on the season.

5. D.C. United

Nickname: Black and Red
Founded: 1994
League: MLS

United are another founding club of MLS, and were a dominant force in the early years. Between 1996 and 1999, they won eight different pieces of silverware, including three MLS Cups, a U.S. Open Cup, two Supporters’ Shields, a CONCACAF Champions League title, and the now-defunct Copa Interamericana title. Their victory in the CONCACAF Champions League makes them one of just two American teams to ever win the competition.

Winners of 13 trophies in their history, they are long removed from any success. They did claim another pair of U.S. Open Cups in 2008 and 2013, but the last of their four MLS Cup victories came in 2004.

They won their record-tying fourth Supporters’ Shield in 2007. They have failed to make the playoffs in three of the past five seasons, and have not advanced past the first round since 2015. That said, their period of dominance over the first 10 years of the league makes them one of the most successful clubs in American history.

4. Los Angeles Galaxy

Nickname: The Galaxy
Founded: 1994
League: MLS

Yet another inaugural MLS team, the Galaxy were the first MLS team to become a global name when British superstar David Beckham joined them in 2007. The club has also been the most successful in the history of the league. They hold a record five MLS Cup titles in nine appearances, a record-tying four Supporters’ Shields, two U.S. Open Cups, and the other CONCACAF Champions League victory in American history. In fact, the Galaxy have participated in more CCL finals (three) than all other American clubs combined (two).

Due in large part to the draw that is the city of Los Angeles, and the money backing the club, the Galaxy have long had more star power than any other team in the league.

Premier League stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, and Robbie Keane have donned the colors of Galaxy, but it was American legend Landon Donovan who was the mainstay for a long time. Donovan played the majority of his career with the club, and is the league record holder for assists and league titles, and had the league’s MVP award named after him.

As other clubs in the league have gained more spending power, and some of the MLS rules have been changed, the Galaxy have seen their success dwindle. Their last MLS Cup came in 2014, and they have not won a Supporters’ Shield in a decade.

They have also missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. That said, they are part of one of MLS’ best rivalries with cross-city club LAFC, with whom they compete in “El Trafico” every year.

3. New York Cosmos

Nickname: The Cosmos
Founded: Originally in 1970; re-established in 2010
League: None (hiatus)

When you ask people of a certain generation who the first American soccer team was that actually made them pay attention, many will tell you it was the Cosmos. The legends surrounding the club, as well as the painful downfall of the organization, have inspired documentaries and continues to hold a special place in American soccer history.

The Cosmos were founded in 1970, and were built not as a club but as a business venture. After corporate investment in 1972, they brought in some of the biggest names in the world. One of the greatest players of all time, Pele joined the team in 1975.

He was soon joined by legends like Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Shep Messing, and Giorgio Chinaglia, as they elevated the status of the original NASL and became “the most glamorous team in world football.” They claimed five NASL titles between 1972 and 1982, and won three Trans-Atlantic Cups in four years in the early 1980s.

The Cosmos’ success also convinced other superstars, such as Johan Cruyff and George Best, to join the league. However, Pele’s retirement in 1977 led not just to a downturn in interest for the league, it caused the Cosmos themselves to go into free-fall. Without their biggest name, the league lost their TV contract with ABC, and a salary cap was implemented.

As their big names defected rather than take diminished wages, the club’s power faded as quickly as it was built. The final nail in the coffin was the loss of financial backing from owners Warner Communications in 1982.

The Cosmos participated for one season in the Major Indoor Soccer League after the NASL folded, but 1985 saw the club fold as a professional organization. The name remained one of value and there were numerous attempts to revive the club, including by MLS. Former general manager G. Peppe Pinton, who owned the name and logo, refused to ever let it fall into the hands of an MLS club.

In 2009, he sold the rights to the name and logo to Paul Kemsley, and a year later there was an invitation for the new club he founded to join MLS. However, they declined and instead joined the NASL in 2013. The club had initial success, winning the 2015 NASL Championship, but they were sued by French star Eric Cantona for failure to pay him for his front office role.

Financial struggles have plagued the renewed club, and when the NASL folded for a second time in 2017, the club shut down with them. They did return in 2020 for a season in the NISA, but when COVID-19 shut down sports, the club went on hiatus.

While they are still a club at this point, it remains to be seen if, not when, they will appear on a pitch again.

2. U.S. Men's National Team

Nickname: The Yanks
Founded: 1885

Unlike our other “teams you need to know” articles from other nations, the two most famous teams in America are their national teams. We start with the men’s team, which has appeared in 10 World Cups in their history and are currently in contention to qualify for the 2022 edition.

While they have never won a World Cup, the USMNT has made their mark on the tournament. Their most famous result was in the 1950 World Cup, when “The Miracle on Grass” saw them secure a 1-0 defeat over England in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition. While they would fail to participate in the World Cup for another 44 years, the appearance gave them a place on the world stage.

The team became a mainstay in the World Cup during the 1990s and 2000s, led by names such as Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Their best performance was in 2002, when they reached the quarterfinal and fell 1-0 to Germany in a controversial match where they were denied a clear penalty.

On the regional level, the USMNT has been the main rival of Mexico for dominance of CONCACAF. They have claimed seven CONCACAF Gold Cup titles in 16 appearances, including winning the 2021 version of the tournament. They have been invited to four Copa America tournaments, pitting them against the nations of South America, and reached the semifinals twice.

1. U.S. Women’s National Team

Nickname: The Stars and Stripes
Founded: 1985

Founded after the passing of Title IX, the U.S. Women’s national team is by far the most successful soccer organization in American history. Participants in each of the eight official FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, the USWNT have claimed the trophy in four of them, and have reached the semifinals in all eight competitions. This includes victory in the most recent edition of the tournament in 2019.

The team holds the longest streak in FIFA history as the world’s top-ranked team, doing so for six-and-a-half years, between 2008 and 2014. They have never been ranked lower than second, and have been the top-ranked team in the world since the middle of 2017.

The USWNT has also won four Olympic gold medals in seven appearances, including three straight between 2004 and 2012. However, they have failed to win the gold since that span. They also have won eight of their nine appearances in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Dominated by stars such as Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, and Carli Lloyd, the USWNT has been a world-wide draw for fans, both male and female. Their tours often sell out wherever they go, as they continue to dazzle with their open style of play and star power.