The story of Major League Soccer in recent seasons is one of expansion and growth. Since the beginning of the 2017 campaign, eight teams have been introduced, including a Charlotte FC franchise that kicks off its inaugural campaign against D.C. United on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).

Given the whims of ownership and MLS' raft of roster rules, there's no "right" way to come into MLS. There are, however, some do's and don'ts. An expansion club that follows these eight strategies will be hoisting an MLS Cup in no time, we guarantee it.*


Do: Hire the former coach of Barcelona

Atlanta United burst onto the scene in 2017, spending big money for Designated Players like Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron. The club averaged more than 48,000 fans per game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and with that raucous support, as they became only the third expansion franchise to make the playoffs in their inaugural season.

Tying everything together was Gerardo "Tata" Martino, the Argentine manager who previously headed up the Blaugrana as well as his native national team and Paraguay, too. Martino knit together a squad featuring MLS stalwarts including Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz, rookies like Julian Gressel, and the South America cohort (Martinez, Almiron, Hector Villalba, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, and more) into a high-flying tapestry. In his last match, Atlanta won the 2018 MLS Cup.

Martino walked away to manage Mexico. The ATL has yet to regain its form.


Don't: Scour Scandinavia for your first-ever roster

Vadim Demidov joined from Brann in Norway. Bashkim Kadrii arrived from FC Copenhagen. Finn Rasmus Schuller wandered to the land of 10,000 lakes from BK Hacken in Sweden. Josh Gatt jetted in from Molde. None of them found much success with Minnesota United as they struggled to a 19th-place finish in the league, besting only D.C. United on goal differential, in 2017.

While it's possible for a franchise to focus its recruiting efforts in one geographic region and achieve results (see: Atlanta's Paraguayan connection), the Loons proved that Scandinavia is not the move.


Do: Have your new, soccer-specific stadium ready for Year 1

A team's first season is as much about winning on the field as it is is about winning hearts and minds off it. To that end, having a place to play that's truly a team's own, a permanent solution it can build from, is of paramount importance.

LAFC's resplendent Banc of California Stadium fits the bill. The club packed a sellout 22,000 fans per game into the venue, including very fun, very boisterous 3252 supporters union. The season ended on a sour note with a shocking 3-2 home loss in the first game of the playoffs, but BoC was here to stay.