Countdown to First Kick: 17

Countdown to First Kick: 17 Another MLS candle lit

As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.

17 –  Number of birthday candles lit for Major League Soccer this season

Technically, the league was born on December 17, 1993. That’s when MLS was officially unveiled to the world, along with its first logo, in fulfillment of FIFA’s requirement for hosting the 1994 World Cup.

But a ball wouldn’t be kicked until nearly 28 months later when Eric Wynalda scored a memorable 88th-minute game-winner at Spartan Stadium as the San Jose Clash defeated D.C. United on April 6, 1996.

These are very different times. The season now kicks off in early March and there are a record 19 teams in 2012. First Kick on March 10 will be an international event with matches kicking off in both Canada and the USA.

And while they were just happy to get the league off the ground in 1996, with every attendance number scrutinized by the turnstyle spin, fans and media today are more focused on whether MLS will finally overtake Mexico and lay claim to the CONCACAF Champions League.

The novel and widely debated single-entity system that was introduced 17 years ago has withstood the test of time, and it has arguably given life to the most competitive top-flight soccer league in all the world.

In fact, most every MLS club, save perhaps the expansion Impact and two other rebuilding sides, has designs on hoisting that MLS Cup trophy in 2012.

Which means we’re all in for another entertaining, wild ride. Would you expect anything less from a league in its late teens?

The first matches of the 2012 season will take place in Colorado and Vancouver on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 6 pm ET.  GET TICKETS!

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