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Supporters' Shield

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Supporters' Shield
Awarded forMajor League Soccer team with the best record in the regular season
Presented byThe Supporters' Shield Foundation
First award1999, 1996 (retroactively)
Most winsD.C. United and LA Galaxy
(4 shields each)
Most recentFC Cincinnati (1st shield)

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. The Supporters' Shield has been annually awarded at the MLS Supporters' Summit since 1999 (with the winners between 1996 and 1998 awarded retroactively), and has been recognized as a major trophy by the league. It echoes the practice of the top European leagues in which the team with the best record is the champion. Since 2006, the Supporters' Shield winner has earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League if they are an American-based team.

D.C. United and LA Galaxy, with four Supporters' Shields each, have won the most shields of any MLS team. FC Cincinnati are the 2023 holders of the Supporters' Shield, winning it for the first time.


Conception and fundraising[edit]

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 postseason championship match, the MLS Cup. The club with the best regular season record received nothing more than the top seed in the playoffs.

In 1997, soccer fan Nick Lawrus on a listserv proposed the notion of a "Supporters' Scudetto", as a result of the Tampa Bay Mutiny earning the best regular season record but failing to win the 1996 MLS Cup Final. A committee composed of members of all MLS teams' supporters changed the name to "Supporters' Shield" but, due to disagreements between members of the committee, the proposal failed to come to fruition.[1][2]

The following year, another group led by soccer enthusiast Sam Pierron tried to revive the idea by giving an award to the regular season champions.[1] 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 donations from ESPN commentator Phil Schoen and MLS commissioner Doug Logan. In the end, nearly $3,000 was donated to commission the trophy, which was a chevron made by artist Paula Richardson out of sterling silver sheet metal, for $2,200.[3][4]

The process to create and purchase the Supporters' Shield was not completed until the tail end of the 1999 season. Although D.C. United were the first MLS club to win the award, the first-place finishes between 1996 and 1998 have all been awarded the honor retroactively, with their names included on the shield at the time of its creation.[5]

Throughout the early to mid-2000s, the Shield received little praise or recognition from MLS or the general public,[citation needed] as the league awarded the MLS Cup winner and runner-up with spots in continental tournaments.

First Shield incentives arrive[edit]

In February 2006, USSF decided that the Supporters' Shield winner and the MLS Cup winner would represent the United States in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.[6] If the Supporters Shield winner also wins the MLS Cup, the team with the second highest regular season point total qualifies as well.[7] 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 eight occasions (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2011, 2017, and 2022) the winner of the Supporters' Shield also 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.


As the Shield began to become more prized and grow in significance along with "supporter culture" growing throughout the league, the idea of creating a new Supporters' Shield began at the MLS Supporters Summit during the 2010 MLS Cup in Toronto. The idea continued to gain traction at the then recently formed Independent Supporters Council (ISC) the following two years in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. The Supporter's Shield Foundation was created out of the ISC meeting in Portland in 2012 with a mission to fund the creation of a new shield and to promote and manage the trophy going forward. The cost of the new Shield was quoted at $18,000 with a majority of the funds raised through the "I Support the Shield" scarf drive that culminated in the sale of 2000 supporter scarves.

With the fundraising complete, in early 2013 the new Supporter's Shield was created. The new shield weighs 35 pounds (16 kg) and is made of sterling silver and stainless steel. The outside of the shield contains a Telstar football design while the middle of the shield pays homage to the chevron design of the original trophy. The middle of the trophy was designed to be expandable as its winners' names are added to it annually around the chevron. The newly designed shield was first awarded to the New York Red Bulls on the final day of the 2013 MLS season.[4]

2020 cancellation and reinstatement[edit]

On October 17, 2020, Major League Soccer announced that, following a decision made by the ISC, the Supporters' Shield would not be awarded at the end of the 2020 regular season, largely in part due to the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the league. In an official announcement, the Supporters' Shield Foundation stated, "After much consideration and discussion, the Supporters' Shield Foundation has decided to forego awarding the Supporters' Shield for the 2020 season. This is not an easy decision to make. With the inability for supporters to be in attendance and fill their stadiums with passion, however, we feel as though the current climate goes against the spirit of the Shield."[8]

This decision caused a great amount of backlash from the MLS community, and was criticized by several members of MLS clubs, including Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney (whose team was top of the Supporters' Shield standings at the time of the decision).[9] Following these negative responses, on October 23 the Supporters' Shield Foundation announced they had reversed their original decision, and the Shield was reinstated for the 2020 season.[10] The Philadelphia Union won the Supporters' Shield, but were unable to use the actual shield due to a delay in shipping from Los Angeles. A temporary replacement was fashioned from a repurposed Captain America shield with a vinyl cover by the Union's fabricator shop and lifted by the players.[11]


FC Cincinnati players celebrate after clinching the Supporters' Shield in 2023.

Sixteen different teams have won at least one Supporters' Shield, with the LA Galaxy and D.C. United level with the most wins at four each. Seven teams have gone on to win the MLS Cup after winning the Supporters' Shield, with both the Galaxy and D.C. achieving this double twice. While three teams have secured a Supporters' Shield and U.S. Open Cup double, no American team has won all three major domestic trophies (the Supporters' Shield, MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup). However, in the 2017 season, Toronto FC managed the Canadian version of this achievement, lifting the Supporters' Shield, MLS Cup and Canadian Championship.

Season Teams Winner Record Points[B]
Playoffs result Coach
Games Won Lost Tied[A]
1996 10 Tampa Bay Mutiny 32 20 12 58 (1.81) Lost Conf Finals (DC) Thomas Rongen
1997 10 D.C. United 32 21 11 55 (1.72) Won MLS Cup Bruce Arena
1998 12 Los Angeles Galaxy 32 24 8 68 (2.12) Lost Conf Finals (CHI) Octavio Zambrano
1999 12 D.C. United (2) 32 23 9 57 (1.78) Won MLS Cup Thomas Rongen
2000 12 Kansas City Wizards 32 16 7 9 57 (1.78) Won MLS Cup Bob Gansler
2001 12 Miami Fusion 26 16 5 5 53 (2.04) Lost Semifinals (SJO) Ray Hudson
2002 10 Los Angeles Galaxy (2) 28 16 9 3 51 (1.82) Won MLS Cup Sigi Schmid
2003 10 Chicago Fire 30 15 7 8 53 (1.77) Lost MLS Cup (SJO) Dave Sarachan
2004 10 Columbus Crew 30 12 5 13 49 (1.63) Lost Conf Semifinals (NE) Greg Andrulis
2005 12 San Jose Earthquakes 32 18 4 10 64 (2.00) Lost Conf Semifinals (LA) Dominic Kinnear
2006 12 D.C. United (3) 32 15 7 10 55 (1.72) Lost Conf Finals (NE) Piotr Nowak
2007 13 D.C. United (4) 30 16 7 7 55 (1.83) Lost Conf Semifinals (CHI) Tom Soehn
2008 14 Columbus Crew (2) 30 17 7 6 57 (1.90) Won MLS Cup Sigi Schmid
2009 15 Columbus Crew (3) 30 13 7 10 49 (1.63) Lost Conf Semifinals (RSL) Robert Warzycha
2010 16 Los Angeles Galaxy (3) 30 18 7 5 59 (1.97) Lost Conf Finals (DAL) Bruce Arena
2011 18 Los Angeles Galaxy (4) 34 19 5 10 67 (1.97) Won MLS Cup Bruce Arena
2012 19 San Jose Earthquakes (2) 34 19 6 9 66 (1.94) Lost Conf Semifinals (LA) Frank Yallop
2013 19 New York Red Bulls 34 17 9 8 59 (1.74) Lost Conf Semifinals (HOU) Mike Petke
2014 19 Seattle Sounders FC 34 20 10 4 64 (1.88) Lost Conf Finals (LA) Sigi Schmid
2015 20 New York Red Bulls (2) 34 18 10 6 60 (1.76) Lost Conf Finals (CLB) Jesse Marsch
2016 20 FC Dallas 34 17 8 9 60 (1.76) Lost Conf Semifinals (SEA) Óscar Pareja
2017 22 Toronto FC 34 20 5 9 69 (2.02) Won MLS Cup Greg Vanney
2018 23 New York Red Bulls (3) 34 22 7 5 71 (2.09) Lost Conf Finals (ATL) Chris Armas
2019 24 Los Angeles FC 34 21 4 9 72 (2.12) Lost Conf Finals (SEA) Bob Bradley
2020 26 Philadelphia Union 23 14 4 5 47 (2.04) Lost first round (NE) Jim Curtin
2021 27 New England Revolution 34 22 5 7 73 (2.15) Lost Conf Semifinals (NYC) Bruce Arena
2022 28 Los Angeles FC (2) 34 21 9 4 67 (1.97) Won MLS Cup Steve Cherundolo
2023 29 FC Cincinnati 34 20 5 9 69 (2.03) Lost Conf Finals (CLB) Pat Noonan
   Team also won the MLS Cup.
   Team also won the U.S. Open Cup / Canadian Championship.
   Team also won the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup / Canadian Championship.


Luciano Emílio won the Golden Boot in 2007, the second year of D.C. United's back-to-back Shield winning seasons.

Shield winners[edit]

Team Winners Runners-up Year(s) won Year(s) runners-up
LA Galaxy 4 4 1998, 2002, 2010, 2011 1996, 1999, 2009, 2014
D.C. United 4 1 1997, 1999, 2006, 2007 1998
Columbus Crew 3 0 2004, 2008, 2009
New York Red Bulls 3 0 2013, 2015, 2018
San Jose Earthquakes 2 2 2005, 2012 2002, 2003
Los Angeles FC 2 0 2019, 2022
Sporting Kansas City 1 4 2000 1997, 2004, 2012, 2013
Chicago Fire 1 2 2003 2000, 2001
FC Dallas 1 2 2016 2006, 2015
Seattle Sounders FC 1 1 2014 2011
Toronto FC 1 1 2017 2020
Philadelphia Union 1 1 2020 2022
New England Revolution 1 1 2021 2005
Tampa Bay Mutiny 1 0 1996
Miami Fusion 1 0 2001
FC Cincinnati 1 0 2023
Colorado Rapids 0 2 2016, 2021
New York City FC 0 2 2017, 2019
Chivas USA 0 1 2007
Houston Dynamo 0 1 2008
Real Salt Lake 0 1 2010
Atlanta United FC 0 1 2018
Orlando City SC 0 1 2023
  • Defunct teams in italics.

Performance in CONCACAF competition[edit]

Before 2006, Shield winners were not 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 the group stage of the Champions League.[12]

Toronto FC and Los Angeles FC are the only Shield winners to reach the final of a CONCACAF competition. However, as a Canadian team, Toronto FC qualified for the tournament by winning the Canadian Championship and not the Supporters' Shield. D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls hold the record for the earliest exit in a CONCACAF competition as the Shield winners, being eliminated from the group stage in the 2008–09 and 2014–15 editions of the Champions League, respectively.[13]


Champions Runners-up Semi-finals
  • QR1 = Qualification first round
  • PR = Preliminary round
  • GS = Group stage
  • R16 = Round of 16
  • QF = Quarter-finals
  • SF = Semi-finals or consolation match
  • F = Final

Performance table

Season Shield winner Result
1997 Did not qualify
1999 Los Angeles Galaxy QR1
2000 D.C. United SF
2002 Kansas City Wizards SF
2003 Los Angeles Galaxy QF
2004 Chicago Fire SF
2005 Did not qualify
2007 D.C. United SF
2008 D.C. United SF
2008–09 D.C. United GS
2009–10 Columbus Crew QF
2010–11 Columbus Crew QF
2011–12 Los Angeles Galaxy QF
2012–13 Los Angeles Galaxy SF
2013–14 San Jose Earthquakes QF
2014–15 New York Red Bulls GS
2015–16 Seattle Sounders FC QF
2016–17 New York Red Bulls QF
2018 Toronto FC[a] F
2019 New York Red Bulls[b] QF
2020 Los Angeles FC F
2021 Philadelphia Union SF
2022 New England Revolution QF
2023 Los Angeles FC F
2024 FC Cincinnati R16
  1. ^ Toronto FC participated in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League by virtue of their Canadian Championship win, not the Supporters' Shield.
  2. ^ Due to the restructuring of the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, the United States' berths were allocated to the 2017 and 2018 MLS Cup winners and the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Open Cup winners, and the 2017 and 2018 Supporters' Shield winners were not guaranteed a berth. As Toronto FC won MLS Cup 2017, the vacated berth was reallocated to the New York Red Bulls as the U.S.-based non-champion with the best aggregate record for the 2017 and 2018 MLS regular seasons.

See also[edit]


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 points 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 points for a loss.


  1. ^ a b "MLS 101: Supporters' Shield". NYCFC.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2024. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  2. ^ "Shield bearers". Columbus Alive. October 15, 2008. Archived from the original on June 10, 2024. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  3. ^ Gates, Ryan (February 15, 2011). "A History of the Supporter's Shield". Stumptown Footy. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Crandall, October 11, 2016. "From internet message board to valued prize: How the Supporters' Shield got its start". MLSsoccer.com. Archived from the original on May 4, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ West, Phil (2016). The United States of Soccer. The Overlook Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4683-1241-6.
  6. ^ 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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ MLS announces competition changes for 2006
  8. ^ "Supporters' Shield will not be awarded in 2020 following decision by ISC". MLSsoccer.com. October 17, 2020. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  9. ^ "Vanney rips Supporters' Shield decision". TSN.ca. October 18, 2020. Archived from the original on June 10, 2024. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  10. ^ "Supporters' Shield to be awarded in 2020 following reversal of decision". MLSsoccer.com. October 23, 2020. Archived from the original on October 26, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Mashall, Tom (November 11, 2020). "Captain America to the rescue! Philadelphia Union celebrate with fake Supporters' Shield". ESPN. Archived from the original on June 10, 2024. Retrieved November 3, 2022.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ "CONCACAF Champions Cup/League History" (PDF). CONCACAF. CONCACAF.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 16, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2012.