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When Major League Soccer debuted in 1996, it had a definite aesthetic. There were bright uniforms that wouldn’t have felt out of place at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Most of the matches were played on NFL fields—sometimes with the yardage lines in full flower—and the style of play was bruising. An entertaining Instagram account chronicled that first year, including a rain-soaked final between the L.A. Galaxy and D.C. United that remains a classic.
After hosting the 1994 World Cup (establishing a national league was a requirement) and starting with 10 teams, MLS experimented with some tweaks to what’s known worldwide as “the beautiful game.”