So here’s the plan: I want to choose an MLS team to follow and perhaps cheer for next season. As I was watching the U.S. National team play, I realized that I’ve limited my soccer knowledge intake to European football. If I want to back an MLS team and have a greater appreciation for my country’s team, I better learn the terminology on this side of the pond as well. And just to note as I was honing my Americas soccer learning curve, I realized that the Western hemisphere isn’t much different from its counterpart. This made me even more excited about the MLS. I’ve come a long way since my first game. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about international play in the Americas.
CONFEDERATIONS AND LEAGUES
CONCACAF: acronym stands for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. It is one of six continental confederations affiliated with FIFA.
CONMEBOL: acronym for the South American football region and is another of FIFA’s six continental affiliated confederations.
USL: United Soccer Leagues. There are four divisions of the USL: MLS is the highest division (which is its own entity),
followed by USL First Division (formerly known as the A-League), USL Second Division, and Premier Development League (PDL). Interesting to note that there is promotion and relegation between both the USL first and second division, but no promotion and relegation between MLS and USL first division.
USASA: United States Adult Soccer Association. Considered the fifth level of soccer, underneath the PDL. League is considered semi-professional but does have clubs compete in the U.S. Open Cup.
MLS: Major League Soccer, the highest division of professional soccer in the United States.
MLS Cup: the recognized champion of the MLS, determined in a postseason, playoff format.
MLS Supporter’s Shield: awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the MLS regular season. Point system is standard for soccer (three points for a win and one for a draw). Similar to the President’s Trophy in the NHL. This is often viewed as the true MLS champion, as most soccer leagues around the world do not play a postseason like MLS does to determine its champion.
MLS Scudetto: a shield worn by the winner of the
MLS cup. Idea taken from the Italian league, Serie A. Once a team has won more than one title, a star is added to the scudetto.
NASL: North American Soccer League. Operated from 1968 to 1984. Most famous for the New York Cosmos who signed world-renowned soccer star, Pele. Notable: the clipboard’s home city of Rochester, NY produced a championship in 1970 with the Rochester Lancers.
Primera Division/Liga: highest division in Mexican league soccer.
CONCACAF Gold Cup: international competition between all member nations of CONCACAF. The other continents have their own tournaments, like Euro and the African Cup. U.S and Mexico have been dominant in this tournament, winning eight of the last nine. U.S. is the current defending champion (2007).
CONCACAF Champions League: competition held each year in this region between club teams from all CONCACAF affiliated countries. Will eventually expand to include twenty-four teams. Top teams in their respective leagues qualify, with Mexico and the U.S. leading the way with four total teams. The two teams who play for the MLS cup qualify, and then the Supporters’ Shield winner and runner-up also qualify for an American spot. It should be noted that Canada, despite having teams playing in the MLS, sends the winner of the Canadian Championship to the tournament, which makes it possible for the MLS to have more than four teams playing.
U.S. Open Cup: competition that involves all professional levels of American soccer. This is similar to FA cups around
the world that also pit their premier teams versus lower division teams. Imagine Major League Baseball playing minor league clubs every few weeks out of the regular season for a trophy. How fun would that be? MLS teams have won thirteen of the last fourteen cups since their inception in 1996. The only non-MLS team to win since 1996? The Clipboard’s own Rochester Rhinos defeated MLS’s Colorado Rapids in 1999. Current champion is D.C. United.
North America Superliga: competition between the best clubs in America, Canada and Mexico. The newest of the competitions, only winners have been Pachuca and the New England Revolution. This one confuses me a little bit. How is it different from the CONCACAF Champions League?
Copa Sudamericana: an international club competition between the CONMEBOL and CONCACAF regions. A little different from the CONCACAF Champions League because it actually involves clubs from South America. The format and selection of teams seems a little unstable, with qualifying matches being considered as well as invitations. This does not look like a competition frequented by American teams.
Canadian Championship: competition to determine the Canadian representative in the CONCACAF Champions League. Only three Canadian teams exist: Toronto FC of MLS and Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact of the USL First Division.