What is the Supporters’ Shield in MLS?

What is the Supporters' Shield in MLS

The Supporters’ Shield is an award in Major League Soccer that recognizes the team with the best record during the regular season through a match point system. Not only is there an award for identifying the best regular-season record for a soccer team, but having the best record helps with the MLS Cup Playoffs and CONCACAF Champions League. Here is the complete breakdown of the MLS Supporters’ Shield Award.


An Brief History of the Shield

In 1996, which was the first year of MLS, there were only ten teams. Winning the shield was nothing more than getting the top seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs during that year. In 1997, Tampa Bay Mutiny supporter, Nick Lawrus, came up with awarding the team with the best record. The name was Supporters’ Scudetto’s, which meant little shield, but later changed to Supporter’s Shield.


After 1997, there were committees to create a trophy and recognize the best team during each season. However, during this early MLS history, money was tight, so it wasn’t easy to secure funding. Phil Schoen of ESPN put money into creating the trophy, which took off with more people donating money to make a physical award to give the team the best record each season. D.C. United technically got the first trophy award in 1999 since it took time to secure funding, but the other teams in the 90’s also received recognition for having the best record.


As the years went by, the importance of the Shield grew with the fanbase as the league got more popular. Starting in 2006, the winner of the Supporters’ Shield receives an invitation to the CONCACAF Champions League and gets a bye in the MLS Cup playoffs and home-field advantage.


Who Won the First Supporters Shield?

The Tampa Bay Mutiny won the first Supporters’ Shield back in 1996 in the standings. They had the best record that year, with 20 wins and 12 losses.


Who Was the Supporters’ Shield Winner in 2021?

Who Was the Supporters' Shield Winner in 2021

The New England Revolution won the Supporters’ Shield award in 2021 with 73 points. They had 22 wins, five losses, and seven draws. In addition to that, they had a goal difference of 24.


The next closest team with points in the Eastern Conference had 54 points, the Philadelphia Union. The Colorado Rapids was out in the Western Conference, with 61 points.


A Complete List of Supporters’ Shield Winners in MLS History

A Complete List of Supporters' Shield Winners in MLS History

  1. Tampa Bay Mutiny (1996)
  2. D.C. United (1997)
  3. Los Angeles Galaxy (1998)
  4. D.C. United (1999)
  5. Kansas City Wizards (2000)
  6. Miami Fusion (2001)
  7. Los Angeles Galaxy (2002)
  8. Chicago Fire (2003)
  9. Columbus Crew (2004)
  10. San Jose Earthquakes (2005)
  11. D.C. United (2006)
  12. D.C. United (2007)
  13. Columbus Crew (2008)
  14. Columbus Crew (2009)
  15. Los Angeles Galaxy (2010)
  16. Los Angeles Galaxy (2011)
  17. San Jose Earthquakes (2012)
  18. New York Red Bulls (2013)
  19. Seattle Sounders FC (2014)
  20. New York Red Bulls (2015)
  21. FC Dallas (2016)
  22. Toronto FC (2017)
  23. New York Red Bulls (2018)
  24. Los Angeles FC (2019)
  25. Philadelphia Union (2020)
  26. New England Revolution (2021)


How Many Teams Have Won the Supporters Shield also Became MLS Cup Winners that Year?

How Many Teams Have Won the Supporters Shield also Became MLS Cup Winners that Year

Since 1996, which was the first year of MLS, seven teams won the Supporter’s Shield who also won the MLS Cup. With the conclusion of the MLS Cup in 2021, where the New England Revolution did not win the cup after winning the shield, the odds of winning the cup after getting the shield is 27%.


Here is the list of the teams that recently won the shield and cup.


  1. Toronto FC in 2017
  2. LA Galaxy in 2011
  3. Columbus Crew in 2008
  4. LA Galaxy in 2022
  5. Kansas City Wizards in 2000
  6. D.C. United in 1999
  7. D.C. United in 1997


Which MLS Teams Have Won the Supporters’ Shield and then Lost in the MLS Cup?

As of March 2022, only one MLS team won the Supporters’ Shield and lost the MLS Cup in the finals.


  1. Chicago Fire FC in 2003


Is there a Benefit in Winning the Supporters Shield for the MLS Cup Postseason?

Is there a Benefit in Winning the Supporters Shield for the MLS Cup Postseason

A team that wins the Supporters’ Shield and the team with the best record in the opposite conference receives a bye during the first round of playoffs. In addition to that, both of these teams have a home-field advantage during the playoffs. If the team that won the Supporters’ Shield makes it to the MLS Cup Final, that game will occur at their home venue.


Is there a Cash Incentive to Winning the Supporter’s Shield?

Is there a Cash Incentive to Winning the Supporter's Shield

The soccer club that holds the best record via points during the regular season gets a financial bonus during the year. The financial reward turns into an end-of-year bonus for the players on the team.


How Does the Supporters’ Shield Help with CONCACAF Champions League?

Since 2006, having the best season record allows teams a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. The format goes that the team that won the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup get automatic berths into the CONCACAF Champions League. Winning the CONCACAF Champions League moves a team into the FIFA World Cup playoffs.


What Do Fans Think of the Shield?

Fans of the Premier League are familiar with the match point system to determine a winner. The team with the most match points wins that year via who had the best record. MLS offers the best of both worlds when they recognize the best team each year through the regular season and postseason, which is different from the Premier League.


They (MLS) offer the Supporters’ Shield for the regular season while offering a playoff format cup, which most North American fans are familiar with when watching other sports. The playoff format adds a second level to the season where the best team doesn’t always win, making the season interesting.


For example, the Revs in 2021 had the best record out of all MLS teams. However, during their first round of playoffs, they lost to New York City FC, which shocked fans. NYCFC, later on, went to win the MLS Cup that year, which made it exciting for fans of MLS to see a team upset a powerhouse in the playoffs and win the championship.


The 2020 Almost Cancellation of the Shield

Due to Covid-19 impacting the world in 2020, the shield was almost canceled in MLS. Since the season was moved around, an in-balance number of games took place, and matches didn’t have fans, there was an announcement that the shield would not occur. However, The Supporters’ Shield Foundation got pushback from fans and players about the decision to get rid of the shield that year that they brought it right back.


Conclusion: MLS Supporters’ Shield

In summary, the Supporters’ Shield is an annual award that goes to the team with the best soccer record in the standings. Winning this award is similar to winning in the English Premier League, where the team with the best record wins that season. Getting a trophy for your squad to recognize the accomplishment is a big deal to franchises, the city, players, and fans.


Not only is winning the trophy a big deal, but it also comes with multiple advantages. Outside of a financial bonus for having the best record, the MLS team receives a bye and home-field advantage for the remainder of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Finally, the team that earns the Supporters’ Shield also gets an automatic invitation to the CONCACAF Champions League.


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