This two-part series will serve as your crash course to all 22 MLS teams (plus one). If you’re one of our valued regulars, this serves as an appreciation gift. You are the reason for our very existence, so we hope you’ll find everything you need to know for our inaugural season in here or at least enough to keep you from sounding like a total newbie to the game. If you happen to be a total newbie to the game, thanks for joining us (really--there can never be too many soccer fans around here) and we’d like to welcome you with a complimentary guide that will help you learn the aspects of the complicated--but beautiful--game. Study accordingly.
We’re asssuming that you made your way through Lesson 1 (perhaps more practically referred to as our Eastern Conference Guide). If by some unfortunate circumstance you haven’t, you can easily right your wrong by clicking on any of the bolded words in this paragraph or click here. Sadly the East was only the beginning. We’ll face each club only one time (if you read the guide you know there’s one exception). Those squads are little more than temporary attractions to us, but the Western Conference is a whole different story. We face these teams twice (with another couple of exceptions), once at home and once on the road. These are the teams we’ll battle against for a playoff spot. This is our conference and these are our competitors.
This guide is organized in the following format:
Team Name (Final position in 2016 Western Conference)
Link to SBNation blog covering club
Basic information about the team, such as kit color, stadium, trophies they’ve won, date of inception, and some interesting facts.
Games against Minnesota United: Date (Home/Away)
And off we go...
Colorado Rapids (2)
The breakout team of the 2016 season, the Rapids went from bottom of the Western Conference in 2015 to runner-up in both the regular season and playoffs. One of the original clubs from 1996, Colorado plays its home games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a soccer-specific stadium. They wear maroon kits with white sleeves (unless they get a major redesign for this season) and have a rather famous owner. Stan Kroenke is the well-known man behind the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (one the Wild’s biggest rivals in the NHL), a lacrosse team in Colorado, Arsenal (England), and of course the Rapids.
Games against Minnesota United: March 18 (Away), April 23 (Home)
FC Dallas (1)
They’ve won the Supporters’ Shield (awarded to the top MLS team in the regular season, regardless of conference) the past two years, but have yet to win MLS Cup as a franchise. Founded as the Dallas Burn, one of the originals, the club plays games in soccer-specific Toyota Stadium (not to be confused with the Chicago Fire’s Toyota Park). Their red-hooped jerseys were taken all the way to the U.S. Open Cup Final in 2016, where they won 4-2 in a thrilling match against the New England Revolution. FC Dallas also has a top-ranked academy, providing the team with plenty of young talent.
Games against Minnesota United: April 8 (Away), September 23 (Home)
Houston Dynamo (10)
The worst team in the Western Conference last year is looking to bring victory back to BBVA Compass Stadium this season. Though technically an expansion side who began play in 2006 (also the season where they won their first MLS Cup--and they defended the title the next year), the club is a relocated version of the San Jose Earthquakes (who are still playing--confusing, right?). They wear instantly recognizable orange kits.
Games against Minnesota United: April 15 (Away), July 19 (Home), September 30 (Away)
LA Galaxy (3)
With the most MLS Cups in their trophy case (5) of any Major League Soccer club, the Galaxy have a prestigious past. They began play as an original in 1996 and play games at StubHub Center (the site of many USMNT matches and where the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers will make their temporary home). They’ve had several national and international superstars don the navy-sashed white shirt, including Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Giovani dos Santos, and David Beckham.
Games against Minnesota United: May 21 (Home), October 15 (Away)
Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) (N/A)
They’re an expansion team slated to begin play in 2018, but we’ll make them our eleventh team in this guide (because you don’t need a profile of Minnesota United--right?). Construction on Banc (it is actually spelled that way) of California Stadium, their future ground, is already underway. Their uniform is likely to feature black and gold, the colors of their crest. Big-name investors such as Will Ferrell, Mia Hamm, and Magic Johnson are already on board, so big things are expected out of the franchise.
Portland Timbers (7)
They won the 2015 MLS Cup, but couldn’t snag a playoff place in their title defense. The Timbers are hoping to make a comeback this season and Minnesota United will be one of their first tests. The Loons are set to participate in a preseason tournament at Providence Park, as they have for the past couple of years, and play there again in the season opener. The 2011 expansion side’s dark green (avoid calling it emerald green--see Seattle Sounders) kits are well-known, as is the Timbers name. Portland was the former host of an NASL club of the same name.
Games against Minnesota United: March 3 (Away), June 21 (Home)
Real Salt Lake (6)
RSL are the constant runners-up of American soccer competitions. They’ve won MLS Cup once, but since their inception in 2005, second-place finishes have come in MLS Cup, the U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield, and CONCACAF Champions’ League. They play home matches at Rio Tinto Stadium and wear maroon and blue kits.
Games against Minnesota United: April 1 (Home), June 17 (Away)
San Jose Earthquakes (9)
Part two of the confusing Houston Dynamo-Earthquakes relationship: The San Jose Clash (later renamed the Earthquakes) were one of the original 1996 teams. That club moved to Houston and became the Dynamo for the 2006 season. Two years later, in 2008, Major League Soccer gave San Jose another team, named the Earthquakes. Their baffling history has given them two MLS Cups, but success in recent years has been hard to come by. They don blue and black kits.
Games against Minnesota United: April 29 (Home), October 22 (Away)
Seattle Sounders (4)
The Sounders regularly draw 40,000+ supporters from the Emerald City to CenturyLink Field and that support is beginning to show in results. Seattle won MLS Cup in 2016 with a dramatic penalty shootout in the cold of Toronto. The Major League Soccer incarnation of the Seattle Sounders began play in 2009, but the Sounders’ name goes back much farther to teams of the old North American Soccer League (not the current one of the same name). They wear bright green and blue kits. Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver have a highly-competitive rivalry called the Cascadia Cup, one of the most entertaining “derbies” in American soccer.
Games against Minnesota United: August 5 (Home), August 20 (Away)
Sporting Kansas City (5)
We’ve got a history with the (not-so) lovely folks at SKC. A disappointing home defeat to them in the U.S. Open Cup last year has insured that the rivalry flame is lit. Many anticipate this club to be our true rival and the three matches between us and them will certainly be entertaining. Sporting Kansas City are yet another original, having started in 1996 as the Kansas City Wiz. They’ve won two MLS Cups, but have had success in the Open Cup as well, winning that three times. They wear light/navy blue uniforms and play at Children’s Mercy Park.
Games with Minnesota United: April 29 (Home), June 3 (Away), October 7 (Home)
Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
One of the clubs the Minnesota Thunder faced in their old USSF Second Division days, the Whitecaps are the only Canadian club in the Western Conference. BC Place may seem a long way away, but competition between the ‘Caps and the Loons could be intense. They wear white and light blue uniforms and are infamous for their horrific first season in 2011 when they won just one of their first twelve games.
Games against Minnesota United: June 24 (Home), September 13 (Away)
We'll have plenty more ways to educate yourself in the ways of American soccer as we approach the start of the season. Keep your eyes on our front page and Twitter for the latest Minnesota United news.
It seems like most Loons fans see Sporting Kansas City as our chief rival. Do you? What're your thoughts on the clubs profiled above? We want to know, so sound off in the comments section below...