Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin was watching MLS games on Saturday when he first heard the news that there may not be a Supporters’ Shield trophy in 2020.
“I was literally sitting on my couch watching MLS games and I saw kind of a weird almost like an Onion-type of article that (the Supporters’ Shield postponement) was happening,” Curtin said after Monday night’s 2-1 Union win at New England.
The Union’s win on Monday night sets up a key match in Chester on Saturday night between the second place Union and the first place Toronto FC. Just three points separate the two teams and the Union have an advantage on goal differential so a win could put them in the top spot with three games left.
“We literally talk every day in training now about testing ourselves against the best teams and trying to be the best team in the league and fighting for the Supporters’ Shield, which is something I thought the league held in high regard,” Curtin said. “And then it just disappeared.”
While the league, which doesn’t oversea the trophy, later clarified that the Champions League berth and prize money would still be awarded to the team that finishes with the best regular season record, the loud backlash — particularly from teams in the running and their fanbases — has led the Supporters’ Shield Foundation that overseas the trophy to reconsider.
The Supporters' Shield Foundation board would like to provide an update:— Supporters' Shield Foundation (@SupporterShield) October 19, 2020
We are currently holding meetings with supporter group representatives about the original decision in light of new information and feedback we have received.
A public update will be forthcoming.
At issue is the timing of the announcement and the lack of transparency and communication in that process. Curtin noted that in conversations with Sons of Ben leadership they “had no idea or interaction with” the committee that made the decision to pull the plug on the trophy.
Fans, players and coaches took particular issue with the statement released with the announcement stating that fans not being able to be present at most games was a factor in the decision.
Agree. It’s always been an unbalanced schedule and our players have put their health on the line this year. Fans are still supporting their teams and more than some random committee which no one knew existed. Perhaps it’s time MLS casts the “Supporters” Shield into the shadows. https://t.co/Glk6MI2Gpe— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) October 18, 2020
Whether there is a trophy in it in the end or not, the incentive to finish in first place makes Saturday and one at third place Columbus Crew the following Sunday both vital games.
“We’re gonna still try to push for the best record in our league, just like Toronto is, we need to call it something different, then we should do that; players need to come up with something to call it,” Curtin said.