[MLS SPOTLIGHT] If the Los Angeles Galaxy parlays its fourth Supporters’ Shield trophy into its third MLS Cup title, it will buck the percentages. Seattle, the only team with a chance of catching the Galaxy for the best regular-season record, lost that chance Saturday when Philadelphia handed it a 2-0 defeat at CenturyLink Field. By doing so, in some bizarre way, the Sounders may have enhanced their odds of winning MLS Cup.
Of the previous 15 teams that posted the best regular-season record to win the Supports' Shield, five (33.3 percent) have gone on to double up as MLS Cup winners. Only one other team has gotten as far as the championship game.
D.C. United won both titles twice within three seasons (1997 and 1999), and Kansas City repeated the feat in 2000. Los Angeles, which roared through the 1998 season but fell in the playoffs to Chicago, posted the best record in 2002 and went on to edge New England, 1-0, at the Revs’ then-new facility, Gillette Stadium. (That is the only time in league history a team has won the title on the home field of its MLS Cup opponent.)
The Galaxy’s 2002 double marked the fourth time in the first seven years of league play that the best regular-season team also lifted MLS Cup, but it’s happened only once since then. The trend has been reversed: of the seven Supporters' Shield winners from 2004 to 2010, four have been knocked out in the first round.
Not until the Crew’s inaugural league title in 2008 did a Supporters’ Shield winner also capture the league championship. (In 2003, Chicago posted the best record and reached the title game, but fell to San Jose, 4-2, at Home Depot Center).
If the Galaxy can do the business at its Home Depot Center on Nov. 20, it will become the second team to host and win the title game after posting the best regular-season record; D.C. United beat Colorado at RFK Stadium in
If LA gets to the final and loses, the champion will duplicate the Galaxy’s triumph at Gillette nine years ago.
Here’s a complete list of regular-season champions and how they fared in the playoffs:
1996: Tampa Bay Mutiny – Lost to D.C. United*, two games to none, in Eastern Conference finals.
1997: D.C. United – Defeated Colorado, 2-1, in MLS Cup.
1998: LA Galaxy – Lost to Chicago*, two games to none, in Western Conference finals.
1999: D.C. United – Defeated the Galaxy, 2-0, in MLS Cup.
2000: Kansas City Wizards – Defeated Chicago, 1-0, in MLS Cup.
2001: Miami Fusion – Lost to San Jose*, six points to three, in MLS semifinals.
2002: LA Galaxy – Defeated New England, 1-0 (OT), in MLS Cup.
2003: Chicago Fire – Lost to San Jose, 4-2, in MLS Cup.
2004+: Columbus Crew – Lost to New England, 2-1 aggregate, in Eastern Conference semifinals.
2005: San Jose Earthquakes – Lost to Galaxy, 4-2 aggregate, in Western Conference semifinals.
2006: D.C. United – Lost to New England, 1-0, in Eastern Conference final.
2007: D.C. United – Lost to Chicago, 3-2 aggregate, in Eastern Conference semifinals.
2008: Columbus Crew – Beat the MetroStars, 3-1, in MLS Cup.
2009: Columbus Crew – Lost to Real Salt Lake*, 4-2 aggregate, in Eastern Conference semifinals.
2010: LA Galaxy –Lost to FC Dallas, 3-0, in Western Conference final.
2011: LA Galaxy -- ????
*- asterisk denotes Supporters’ Shield winner lost to eventual MLS Cup champion.
+In 2004, the Crew and Kansas City both finished with 49 points; the Crew were named Supporters’ Shield winner by virtue of a tiebreaker.