Supporters' 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, 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.

Supporters' Shield
Given forMajor League Soccer team with the best record in the regular season
Presented byThe Supporter's Shield Foundation
First award1999
Most winsD.C. United and LA Galaxy
(4 shields each)
Most recentLos Angeles FC (1st shield)

D.C. United and LA Galaxy, with four Supporters' Shields each, have won the most shields of any MLS team. Los Angeles FC are the 2019 holders of the Supporters' Shield, winning it for the first time.


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 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 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]

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 the assistance of ESPN commentator Phil Schoen making a donation. In the end, nearly $3,000 was donated to commission the trophy, which was made by artist Paula Richardson out of sterling silver sheet metal, for $2,200.[2]

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

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 2014 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:

  1. Most wins
  2. Goal difference (GD)
  3. Goals for (GF)
  4. Fewest disciplinary points
  5. Road goals
  6. Road goal difference
  7. Home goals
  8. Home goal difference
  9. Coin toss (two teams) or drawing of lots (three or more teams)

These are standard MLS regulations for breaking ties in point totals.[3]

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.[4] If the Supporters Shield winner also wins the MLS Cup, the team with the second highest regular season point total qualifies as well.[5] 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 seven occasions (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2011 and 2017) 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.


Season Winner Record Points[B] /
Pts per game
MLS Cup result Win # Coach
Games Won Lost Tied[A]
1996 Tampa Bay Mutiny 322012 58 / 1.81 Lost conference finals (DC) 1 Thomas Rongen
1997 D.C. United 322111 55 / 1.72 Won MLS Cup 1 Bruce Arena
1998 Los Angeles Galaxy 32248 68 / 2.12 Lost conference finals (CHI) 1 Octavio Zambrano
1999 D.C. United 32239 57 / 1.78 Won MLS Cup 2 Thomas Rongen
2000 Kansas City Wizards 321679 57 / 1.78 Won MLS Cup 1 Bob Gansler
2001 Miami Fusion 261655 53 / 2.04 Lost semifinals (SJ) 1 Ray Hudson
2002 Los Angeles Galaxy 281693 51 / 1.82 Won MLS Cup 2 Sigi Schmid
2003 Chicago Fire 301578 53 / 1.77 Lost MLS Cup (SJ) 1 Dave Sarachan
2004 Columbus Crew 3012513 49 / 1.63 Lost conference semifinals (NE) 1 Greg Andrulis
2005 San Jose Earthquakes 3218410 64 / 2.00 Lost conference semifinals (LA) 1 Dominic Kinnear
2006 D.C. United 3215710 55 / 1.72 Lost conference finals (NE) 3 Piotr Nowak
2007 D.C. United 301677 55 / 1.83 Lost conference semifinals (CHI) 4 Tom Soehn
2008 Columbus Crew 301776 57 / 1.90 Won MLS Cup 2 Sigi Schmid
2009 Columbus Crew 3013710 49 / 1.63 Lost conference semifinals (RSL) 3 Robert Warzycha
2010 Los Angeles Galaxy 301875 59 / 1.97 Lost conference finals (FCD) 3 Bruce Arena
2011 Los Angeles Galaxy 3419510 67 / 1.97 Won MLS Cup 4 Bruce Arena
2012 San Jose Earthquakes 341969 66 / 1.94 Lost conference semifinals (LA) 2 Frank Yallop
2013 New York Red Bulls 341798 59 / 1.74 Lost conference semifinals (HOU) 1 Mike Petke
2014 Seattle Sounders FC 3420104 64 / 1.88 Lost conference finals (LA) 1 Sigi Schmid
2015 New York Red Bulls 3418106 60 / 1.76 Lost conference finals (CLB) 2 Jesse Marsch
2016 FC Dallas 341789 60 / 1.76 Lost conference semifinals (SEA) 1 Óscar Pareja
2017 Toronto FC 34205969 / 2.02 Won MLS Cup 1 Greg Vanney
2018 New York Red Bulls 342275 71 / 2.09 Lost conference finals (ATL) 3 Chris Armas
2019 Los Angeles FC 342149 72 / 2.12 Lost conference finals (SEA) 1 Bob Bradley
   Team also won the MLS Cup.


Shield winners

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 SC 3 0 2004, 2008, 2009
New York Red Bulls 3 0 2013, 2015, 2018
San Jose Earthquakes 2 2 2005, 2012 2002, 2003
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
Tampa Bay Mutiny 1 0 1996
Miami Fusion 1 0 2001
Toronto FC 1 0 2017
Los Angeles FC 1 0 2019
New York City FC 0 2 2017, 2019
New England Revolution 0 1 2005
Chivas USA 0 1 2007
Houston Dynamo 0 1 2008
Real Salt Lake 0 1 2010
Colorado Rapids 0 1 2016
Atlanta United 0 1 2018
  • Defunct teams in italics.

Performance in CONCACAF competition

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.[6]

A Shield winner has never reached the final of a CONCACAF competition. On three separate occasions, D.C. United has reached the tournament semifinal 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.[7]


Champions Runners-up Third place
  • 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

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[1] F
2019 New York Red Bulls[2] QF
2020 Los Angeles FC TBD
  1. ^ 1: Toronto FC participated in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League by virtue of their Canadian Championship win, not the Supporters' Shield.
  2. ^ 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


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. "MLS 101: Supporters' Shield",, retrieved July 14, 2015
  2. Gates, Ryan (February 15, 2011). "A History of the Supporter's Shield". Stumptown Footy. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  3. "Competition Rules and Regulations". Major League Soccer. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  4. 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.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  5. MLS announces competition changes for 2006
  6. "Qualifying Format Unveiled for 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League". CONCACAF. May 14, 2008. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  7. "CONCACAF Champions Cup/League History" (PDF). CONCACAF. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 16, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
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