Just like seven previous seasons, the 2015 MLS season is opening with new expansion teams and that brings a familiar question to the minds of many fans, how well can these new teams do in their inaugural year? This can be an especially important questions for MLS Fantasy managers who may be looking capitalize on some unknown quantities. So how well did the previous 11 expansion teams do in their inaugural seasons?
This will be a two part post. This post will provide an overview for each expansion year and the following post will provide some charts and additional breakdowns of points and MLS Cup success. Credit goes to /r/FantasyMLS user /u/irishbball49 for giving me the idea for this article. So blame him for the following history lesson. 🙂
The 1998 season saw the introduction of the first two expansion teams, Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion. This brought the total number of teams in MLS to 12. Of these two teams, Chicago was the most successful finishing the season with a record of 20-12-0, 2nd in the Western Conference, and 3rd overall. Miami was not as fortunate, finishing with a record of 12-20-0, 5th in the Eastern Conference, and 8th overall (there were not draws at this point in MLS). While Chicago’s regular season success is impressive, what’s even more impressive is that they also won the MLS Cup. This was the most successful performance by an expansion team and Chicago’s success was attributed to its award winning defense, their successful Polish forwards, and the coaching of Bob Bradley. Miami also made it to the Cup playoffs, but were knocked out in the Semifinals.
The league was not expanded again until 2005 when Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA were added to once again bring the total teams in MLS to 12. Unfortunately, they did not achieve anywhere near the success as the ’98 teams did. RSL finished the season with a record of 5-22-5, 5th in the Western Conference, and 13th overall. They also scored the fewest goals in the league. Chivas finished the season with a record of 4-22-6, 6th in the Western Conference, and 14th overall. Additionally, they conceded the most goals.
The 2007 season began a run of quick MLS expansion by adding seven teams over the next six years, but also a run of mostly disappointing inaugural seasons. This season saw Toronto FC join the league ranks, bringing the total number of teams to 13, but with little success. Toronto finished the season with a record of 6-17-7 and last in both the Eastern Conference and the overall standings.
The 2008 season saw the return of the San Jose Earthquakes (after the original team moved to Houston), they did not enjoy the same success as their former incarnation. San Jose finished the season with a record of 8-13-9 and last in both the Western Conference and overall standings.
During this period of expansion, the only standout performance was by the Seattle Sounders in 2009. The Sounders finished the season with a record of 12-7-11, 3rd in the Western Conference, and 4th overall. Seattle was also the first expansion team to qualify for MLS Cup in its 1st season since 1998. However, like the Miami Fusion, they were knocked out in the Semifinals.
The 2010 season welcomed the Philadelphia Union to MLS but, like most other Eastern Conference teams that season, they struggled. Philadelphia finished the season with a record of 8-15-7, 7th in the Eastern Conference, and 14th overall.
Two teams were added in the 2011 season, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. Even with the increased number of teams entering the Cup race, neither team made the cut, but Portland enjoyed significantly more success only missing the cut off by 5 points. Portland finished the season with a record of 11-14-9, 6th in the Western Conference, and 12th overall. Vancouver finished the season with a record of 6-18-10, 9th in the Western Conference, and 18th overall.
The final expansion was in 2012 and added Montreal Impact to the league to bring the total number of teams to 19. I’m sure you’ve caught the pattern by now so it will be no surprise that they had limited success. Montreal finished the season with a record of 12-16-6, 7th in the Eastern Conference, and 12th overall.
This ends my quick overview of each year and my attempt to gibe everyone some background about each expansion year before we look at some charts. However, it’s already clear that most expansion teams have had a rough start. Check back in the coming days for Part two and I’ll provide some charts and my final thoughts.