The MLS Cup is the conclusion of the MLS Cup Playoffs to determine a winner for that season. The MLS league is a combination of teams in the United States and Canada, and the league is broken down into the Eastern and Western Conference. As of 2022, there are 28 teams, which means there are 14 teams at each conference. There will be more teams in the future.
So, when was the first MLS Cup, and who won that game? How does the MLS Cup playoff structure work, how does the final game compare to other sports in viewership, and who has the most MLS cup totals? Here is the complete breakdown of the MLS Cup.
A Brief History – The First MLS Cup
The MLS began in 1993 and had its first season in 1996. Back in 1996, there were only ten soccer teams in Major League Soccer. D.C. United won the very first MLS Cup that season against the L.A. Galaxy.
How Do the MLS Cup Playoffs Work?
Seven Eastern and Western conference teams make the playoffs in Major League Soccer each season. Each match is a single-elimination style, which means you are out of the playoffs once you lose.
Since there are uneven teams in each conference to make the playoffs, the best record team in the Eastern and Western conferences receives a bye during the first week. That means the other six teams have to play against each other in a single-game elimination before the next round begins. The team that had a bye during that first round then plays the worst record to start the next round of playoffs.
How Popular is the MLS Cup?
The MLS has had a slow and sometimes challenging history with popularity and viewership. Back in 1996, there were only ten teams, and the sport didn’t capture as much mainstream media attention as the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL. However, the MLS continues to grow the sport, which has allowed it to expand to more cities since 1993.
The 2021 MLS Cup (Audi 2021 Cup) had an average of 1.14 million people watching it on ABC. The peak during that game came out at 1.6 million. The 2020 MLS cup had an average of 1.07 million people watch that game, up 30% in 2019.
How Does the MLS Cup Compare to Other Popular U.S. Sports?
MLS has to compete against the MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL for recognition. Here are the T.V. ratings for each sport’s most recent championship games compared to the MLS Cup 1.14 million average view rating.
- MLB 2021 World Series Game 6: 13.9 million
- NBA 2021 Finals Game 6: 12.5 million
- NHL 2021 Stanley Cup Finals Game 5: 3.51 million
- NFL 2021 Super Bowl: 99 million
What MLS Team Has the Most Cups?
The Los Angeles Galaxy holds the record with five MLS Cups. In second place in D.C. United with four and third place is between a handful of teams with two cup wins.
Is there a Name for the Cup?
The MLS Cup Champion receives an award at the center of the field after the game, known as the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Phillip F. Anschutz was a pioneer in growing the sport of soccer (football) in the United States. During the early years of the sport, he owned a few teams and took financial losses when the sport was struggling the most to keep everything afloat.
As the sport grew in popularity, Phillip F. Anschutz began pushing for soccer-specific stadiums for teams. In addition to that, he also would push for more soccer marketing within the United States to help the league grow. He also received a medal for his work and contributions from the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Who Won the 2021 MLS Cup?
New York City F.C. won the 2021 MLS Cup against the Portland Timbers. NYCFC beat the Timbers during a penalty shootout since the game needed extra time since it was a 1-1 tie after regular playing time. Also, this was the first MLS Cup for NYCFC.
How is the MLS Cup Host Team Determined?
The team with the most number of regular-season points hosts the MLS cup. Points breakdown by wins, losses, and ties during the regular season. Soccer clubs receive three points for a win, no points for a loss, and one point for a draw.
When Does the MLS Cup Playoffs Take Place?
Early in 1996, the MLS cup would conclude with a winner in October. However, the expansion of more teams has come with more rounds of wild card games, which means that the postseason takes longer to conclude. Today, the MLS cup ends in December.
What Stadium Gets to Host the MLS Cup Final?
From 1996 to 2011, the MLS Cup Final would play the game at a neutral site, the same as the NFL Super Bowl game. In 1996, the first MLS cup occurred at Foxborough Stadium, the old home to the New England Revolution team. That game was between D.C. United and L.A. Galaxy, which had D.C. win that game.
Since 2012, the stadium that hosts the game is whatever team remains with the best standing point record for the regular season.
What are the Conferences in MLS?
As of 2022, 28 teams are in the MLS. The 28 teams are separated into the Eastern and Western Conference. There will be more teams in the future joining MLS since the sport is growing strong with popularity.
- Atlanta United F.C.
- C.F. Montreal
- Charlotte FC
- Chicago Fire FC
- Columbus Crew
- D.C. United
- F.C. Cincinnati
- Inter Miami C.F.
- New England Revolution
- New York Red Bulls
- Orlando City SC
- Philadelphia Union
- Toronto F.C.
- Austin FC
- Colorado Rapids
- FC Dallas
- Houston Dynamo FC
- LA Galaxy
- Los Angeles FC
- Minnesota United F.C.
- Nashville SC
- Portland Timbers
- Real Salt Lake
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Seattle Sounders F.C.
- Sporting Kansas City
- Vancouver Whitecaps F.C.
What is the Supporters’ Shield in MLS?
Since 1999, The Supporters’ Shield in MLS represents the team with the best record. Winning the Supporters’ Shield earns a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League. In addition to that, the winner of the CONCACAF league automatically qualifies for a quarterfinals spot in the FIFA World Club Cup.
Conclusion: What is the MLS Cup
In summary, the MLS Cup is an annual event that occurs each season. Each year, a select number of teams between the Eastern and Western Conference enter a postseason tournament with a single game elimination. Finally, the team that wins the season’s final game receives the MLS cup and is the winner.