When Major League Soccer, the men's professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, first began play in 1996, the league only had a total of 10 teams, all based in the U.S. The league added its first two expansion teams in 1998, the Miami Fusion and the Chicago Fire, but with the struggles that the league faced in its early years, the league contracted back down to 10 teams, and its overall viability seemed to be in serious doubt. The MLS had lost an estimated $250 million during its first five years, and would end up losing more than $350 million between 1996 and 2004.

However, the league's downward trajectory seemed to change directions in 2002, thanks to the performance by the United States in the 2002 World Cup, and the aggressive marketing undertaken by the league, to highlight the talent of its American-born players. Between 2002 and 2009, the league added five more teams, and made moves to resolve many of the financial losses they were taking overall. After adding four more teams between 2009 and 2012, which include the league's further expansion into Canada (after creating a franchise in Toronto in 2007), MLS commissioner Don Garber raised the stakes for the now-booming league, stating in 2013 that the MLS will expand to 24 teams by the year 2020.

In December of 2015, the MLS actually expounded on that previous statement, announcing plans to grow to 28 teams. The first round of expansion included placing franchises in Atlanta and Minnesota, giving the league 22 clubs, effective as of the 2017 season. The Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) would join the league in 2018, and plans were laid to create an expansion team in Miami, beginning play in 2019, and raising the number of clubs in the league to 24.

Minnesota, whose team name is the Minnesota United FC, actually played their inaugural game on Friday, March 3rd, featuring the debut of the #1 overall SuperDraft pick (Abu Danladi), two club idols and USMNT hopefuls (Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra), a selection of northern European imports and a handful of experienced MLS alumni. Unfortunately, they didn't quite get the results they were looking for; it was quite the opposite, actually.  Minnesota lost to the Portland Timbers by the score of 5-1, marking the biggest loss by an MLS expansion team making its debut. Prior to that game, no MLS expansion team had lost by more than two goals in their first game. Atlanta, whose team name will be the Atlanta United FC, will play its games in the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium when it opens later this year. They clearly hope to have a better debut than Minnesota did.

In 2017, the MLS has plans to announce the cities which will be awarded the 25th and 26th teams, with two more winning bids revealed thereafter. The 12 cities in contention for the next four teams are: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis and Tampa/St. Petersburg. Tampa previously had an MLS team -- the Tampa Bay Mutiny -- which played from 1996 and 2001, and former American soccer star Landon Donovan is a member of the ownership group trying to bring the MLS to San Diego.