At the half-time mark of the 2015 season of the Major League Soccer (MLS), North American football is prospering. Spectator numbers have increased by twelve percent in mid-June compared to last season, the sporting quality continues to improve, and the excitement in the battle for the twelve play-off places has also heightened. With a background of the two prestigious victories by the US national team -- 4-3 over World Cup bronze medallists Netherlands and a 2-1 defeat of World Cup champions Germany at the beginning of June -- the clear conclusion reads: Football in the United States of America and Canada continues to gain strength. Besides the MLS, the US Open Cup, a US event which has continued since 1913, also enjoys particular attention this year.
DC United, the team in the capital Washington, have confirmed their renewed strength. The team that won the last of their four championship titles in 2004 are in top position of the overall table and dominated among the ten teams in the Eastern Conference in the first half of the season. After 18 matches played DCU lead the eastern group by seven points from championship runners-up New England Revolution (24 points from 17 matches) and Orlando City (20 from 16). Last year the team from the capital also stormed to the top during the regular season, in which the places for the play-offs are awarded, but were then eliminated in the semi-finals involving the best eastern teams. However, with a 2-1 against New England on June 21, the club with the red-black colours proved their current strength.
But in the overall table (Supporter’s Shield Race) the all time second-most successful MLS team is pursued by five teams from the Western Conference -- Seattle Sounders FC (29 points from 17 matches), Vancouver Whitecaps (29 from 17), Portland Timbers (25 from 16), who are ahead of champions Los Angeles (25 from 18) and Sporting Kansas City (24 from 15). The New England Revs, second in the Eastern Conference, follow in seventh position in the overall classification. The western group obviously has a better sporting level since Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City switched from the Eastern to the Western Conference at the start of the year. DC United are now benefiting to a certain extent from the power vacuum in the east.
The two newly integrated MLS teams, New York City FC and Orlando City FC, have produced contrasting performances in the Eastern Conference. The club from Florida holds third position in the east (20 from 16) with five wins and five draws, but New York City, the partner club of Manchester City, have yet failed to fulfil expectations in eighth place (17 from 16). The local derby against MLS rivals New York Red Bulls ended with a 2-1 defeat. But after a long drought in the spring New York City have recently achieved three wins, while the Red Bulls went through a weak streak with four defeats in a row.
Nevertheless New York City, as well as Orlando, have attracted a more than average interest among fans. In the attendance table the Seattle Sounders are leading, as they did last year, with an average of 40.217 (in 9 home matches) ahead of Orlando (35,770) and New York City (26,533). Toronto FC, fourth in the Eastern Conference (19 points from 13 matches), also enjoy a distinctive increase with an average of 25,384 spectators. When analysing one must realise that the stadiums in the MLS are smaller compared to the major European leagues. In Seattle not all stands of CenturyLink Field, also home to the American Football team of the Sea Hawks, are opened so the Sounders reach an almost 100 percent capacity. Several stadiums, built specifically for football, have a capacity of just about 20,000 to 25,000 spectators, as for instance the Red Bull Arena in New York (25,200) and the StubHub Center in Carson, where record-winning champions LA Galaxy play.
A discrepancy between sporting success and spectator interest can be determined at DC United, which triggers the least interest so far with an average of 14,458 spectators. Though the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium offers a great backdrop, it has become slightly dated (built in 1959) and no longer meets the demands of an ideal venue. On June 2, 2013, the US team beat Germany 4-3 there on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the US Football Association. Stands with a capacity of 20,000 spectators are opened for DCU home matches.
The MLS continues with expansion. It is planned to increase the league to 24 teams by 2020. Miami, where David Beckham is strongly committed, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Minnesota are discussed as new sites. Teams in Miami and Minnesota are playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL), in competition to the MLS. Thus New York Cosmos are still existing, world-famous 35 years ago when then superstars such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer were contracted. The teams of MLS and NASL meet in the US Open Cup. On June 17, Cosmos beat rivals New York City 4-3 on penalties (2-2 after extra time). The second New York duel is scheduled for July 1, when the Red Bulls will meet Cosmos in the round of 16. Reigning Cup champions Seattle were eliminated by the Portland Timbers who will now meet Real Salt Lake. Charlotte Independence, a team from the United Soccer League (USL) upset runners-up New England and will face Chicago Fire in the quarter-finals.