|Awarded for||Regular season champion|
|Presented by||Major League Soccer|
|Currently held by||New York Red Bulls (1st title)|
The Supporters' Shield is an annual award given to the Major League Soccer team with the best regular season record, as determined by the MLS points system. Akin to the minor premiership of Australasian sports (called a "premiership" by the A-League) and similar to the President's Trophy of the NHL, the Supporters' Shield has been annually awarded at the MLS Supporters' Summit since 1999, and has been recognized as a major trophy by the league. Since 2006, the Supporters' Shield winner has earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.
With four regular season titles each, D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy have won the most Supporters' Shields of any MLS team. The New York Red Bulls are the defending 2013 Supporters' Shield winners.
Supporters conceive and fundraise for trophy
When Major League Soccer had its inaugural season in 1996, the league resembled its contemporary North American leagues. After the regular season, the campaign culminated with the MLS Cup Playoffs, en route to the league's championship match, the MLS Cup. The club with the best regular season record received nothing more than the top seed in the playoffs.
Nick Lawrus, a Tampa Bay Mutiny fan, originally proposed the notion of a "Supporters' Scudetto", as a result of the Mutiny earning the best regular season record but failing to win the 1996 MLS Cup final. A committee composed of members of all MLS supporter's teams changed the name to "Supporters's Shield" but, due to disagreements between members of the committee, the proposal failed to come to fruition.
The following year, another group led by a soccer enthusiast Sam Pierron tried to revive the idea by giving an award to the regular season champions. Since MLS refused to fund the idea, Pierron began fundraising to purchase a trophy with the help of supporters from various MLS clubs. Fundraising was boosted with the assistance of ESPN's MLS commentator (at the time) Phil Schoen donating for the award. In the end, nearly $3,000 was donated to purchase a trophy, which ended up costing $2,200.
The money donated to create and purchase the trophy was not fulfilled until the tail end of the 1999 season, when the second MLS Supporters' Summit was held. At the summit, the Los Angeles Galaxy were awarded with the first ever Shield. Also engraved on the Shield were the previous winners of the award from 1996 through 1998.
Shield Awarding and Tiebreakers
Since the 2000 season, the system of awarding points in Major League Soccer is the same as the international standard, three points for a win, one for a draw, and no points for a loss. As of the 2013 season, new rules are in place for breaking ties. In the event of an end-of-season tie in total accumulated points, the following tie-breakers will be used:
- Most Wins
- Goals For (GF)
- Goal Difference (GD)
- Fewest Disciplinary Points
- Road Goals
- Road GD
- Home Goals
- Home GD
- Coin Toss (2 teams) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more teams)
These are standard MLS regulations for breaking ties in point totals.
Throughout the early to mid-2000s, the Shield received little praise or recognition from MLS or the general public, as the league awarded the MLS Cup winner and runner-up with spots in continental tournaments.
First Shield incentives arrive
In February 2006, USSF decided that the Supporters' Shield winner and the MLS Cup winner would represent the United States in the CONCACAF Champions League, formerly the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. If the Supporters Shield winner also wins the MLS Cup, the team with the second highest regular season point total qualifies as well. When the Champions Cup became the CONCACAF Champions League, the United States Soccer Federation gave the Supporters' Shield winner and the MLS Cup winner both direct Group Stage spots into the tournament.
On six occasions (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2011) the winner of the Supporters' Shield has won the MLS Cup that same year. In 2011, the league announced that the Shield winner's opponent in the MLS Cup quarterfinals would be the lowest-seeded team remaining.
|Playoff Result||Win #|
|1996||Tampa Bay Mutiny||32||20||12||—||58 / 1.81||Lost Conference Final (DC)||1|
|1997||D.C. United||32||21||11||—||55 / 1.72||Won MLS Cup||1|
|1998||Los Angeles Galaxy||32||24||8||—||68 / 2.12||Lost Conference Final (CHI)||1|
|1999||D.C. United||32||23||9||—||57 / 1.78||Won MLS Cup||2|
|2000||Kansas City Wizards||32||16||7||9||57 / 1.78||Won MLS Cup||1|
|2001||Miami Fusion||26||16||5||5||53 / 2.04||Lost Semifinal (SJ)||1|
|2002||Los Angeles Galaxy||28||16||9||3||51 / 1.82||Won MLS Cup||2|
|2003||Chicago Fire||30||15||7||8||53 / 1.77||Lost MLS Cup (SJ)^||1|
|2004||Columbus Crew||30||12||5||13||49 / 1.63||Lost Conference Semifinals (NE)||1|
|2005||San Jose Earthquakes||32||18||4||10||64 / 2.00||Lost Conference Semifinals (LA)||1|
|2006||D.C. United||32||15||7||10||55 / 1.72||Lost Conference Final (NE)||3|
|2007||D.C. United||30||16||7||7||55 / 1.83||Lost Conference Semifinals (CHI)||4|
|2008||Columbus Crew||30||17||7||6||57 / 1.90||Won MLS Cup||2|
|2009||Columbus Crew||30||13||7||10||49 / 1.63||Lost Conference Semifinals (RSL)||3|
|2010||Los Angeles Galaxy||30||18||7||5||59 / 1.97||Lost Conference Final (FCD)||3|
|2011||Los Angeles Galaxy||34||19||5||10||67 / 1.97||Won MLS Cup||4|
|2012||San Jose Earthquakes||34||19||6||9||66 / 1.94||Lost Conference Semifinals (LA)||2|
|2013||New York Red Bulls||34||17||9||8||59 / 1.74||Lost Conference Semifinals (HOU)||1|
|4||Los Angeles Galaxy|
|2||San Jose Earthquakes|
|1||Tampa Bay Mutiny|
|Kansas City Wizards|
|New York Red Bulls|
- Defunct teams in italics.
Performance in CONCACAF competition
Before 2006, Shield winners were not necessarily guaranteed a berth into CONCACAF competitions. Most regular season champions to earn berths into CONCACAF competitions typically earned them from earning a berth into the MLS Cup, or earning a berth due to the number of berths allocated to the United States for MLS. Most times, the United States was allocated two berths into the tournament, which went to the MLS Cup champion and runner-up.
Since 2007, the Shield winner replaced the MLS Cup runner-up as the second American representative for the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. In 2008, with the arrival of the newly formatted CONCACAF Champions League, the Shield winner, along with the MLS Cup winner both earned direct byes into Group Stage of the Champions League.
A Shield winner has never reached the final of a CONCACAF competition. On three separate occasions, D.C. United has reached the tournament semi-final after winning the Shield, the furthest that any Shield winner has progressed in CONCACAF competition. United also holds the record for the earliest exit in a CONCACAF competition as the Shield winner, being eliminated from Group Stage in the 2008–09 edition of the Champions League.
- QR1 = Qualification First Round
- PR = Preliminary round
- GS = Group Stage
- R16 = Round of 16
- QF = Quarterfinals
- SF = Semifinals or Consolation match
- F = Final
- Performance table
|1997||Did not qualify|
|1999||Los Angeles Galaxy||QR1|
|2002||Kansas City Wizards||SF|
|2003||Los Angeles Galaxy||QF|
|2005||Did not qualify|
|2011–12||Los Angeles Galaxy||QF|
|2012–13||Los Angeles Galaxy||SF|
|2013–14||San Jose Earthquakes||TBD|
|2014–15||New York Red Bulls||TBD|
- A. ^ From 1996 until 1999, tied games were decided by a golden goal, culminating with a shootout
- B. ^ From 1996 to 1999, 3 points were awarded for a win in 90 minutes, 1 point for a shootout win, and 0 point for a loss in 90 minutes or shootout. Since the 2000 season, 3 points are awarded for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 point for a loss.
- "MLS 101: Supporters' Shield", NYCFC.com, retrieved 13 November 2013
- Gates, Ryan (February 15, 2011). "A History of the Supporter's Shield". Stumptown Footy. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
- "Competition Rules and Regulations". Major League Soccer. MLSSoccer.com. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
- Meagher, Tom (February 23, 2006). "Jeepers, Some Wishes Really Do Come True!". We Call it Soccer. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- MLS announces competition changes for 2006
- "Qualifying Format Unveiled for 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League". CONCACAF. CONCACAF.com. May 14, 2008. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- "CONCACAF Champions Cup/League History". CONCACAF. CONCACAF.com. Retrieved January 6, 2012.