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A brief history of Supporters’ Shield winners and their success

A look at the history the Philadelphia Union are up against as Supporters’ Shield winners for the 2021 season

Soccer MLS Cup - LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo
The LA Galaxy in 2012 became the first and still are the only team to lift MLS Cup the season after winning the Supporters’ Shield
Photo by Ira Black/Corbis via Getty Images

The success of past Supporters’ Shield winners varies quite considerably after they win the trophy awarded annually for the best record in MLS.

There’s the case of Toronto FC, which won their first shield in 2017 and then missed the playoffs the following season. Or there’s the case of the New York Red Bulls, which has won the trophy three times in the past decade, with consistently good seasons following each.

Or there’s the case of the Miami Fusion, which folded a couple months after winning the shield in 2001. The first shield winner, Tampa Bay Mutiny, also folded after the 2001 season.

Most teams have a slight fall-off in MLS play as they chase Champions League glory, a glory which no MLS team has found since 2000 when the LA Galaxy won the tournament. LA Galaxy also has the distinction of being the last and only team to lift MLS Cup the season after winning Supporters’ Shield. Just DC United in 1998 and LA Galaxy in 1999 has made the MLS Cup final the following year.

For more of the recent history the Union are up against for the 2021 season, here’s how the past eleven Shield winners have fared after their regular-season successes.

2010: The Los Angeles Galaxy won their third Supporters’ Shield in the Union’s inaugural season, under head coach Bruce Arena. They were eliminated in the Conference Finals of the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs and fell out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals in 2011.

2011: The Galaxy clearly enjoyed the taste of victory, winning their second-straight Supporters’ Shield in 2011. This year, they won the MLS Cup, but were eliminated from the Champions League in the semifinals. In 2012, they finished fourth in the Western Conference but lifted the MLS Cup yet again.

2012: The Supporters’ Shield made its way to San Jose for the second time in 2012, while the Earthquakes followed it with a semifinal loss in the MLS Cup Playoffs to the Galaxy. The following season, they finished 10th overall in the league, beginning a four-season streak of failing to make the playoffs. They fell out of the Champions League in the Quarterfinals.

2013: The New York Red Bulls took home their first Supporters’ Shield in 2013, following it with a Conference Semifinals loss in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The following season, they placed fourth in the Eastern Conference, were eliminated in the Conference Finals of the MLS Cup Playoffs and fell out of the Champions League in group play.

2014: Seattle won their first Supporters’ Shield in 2014, and fell out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in the Conference Finals to the Galaxy. The Sounders’ also won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this year. The following season, they would place fourth in the Western Conference, and fall out of the playoffs in the Conference Semifinals, making it to the same point in the Champions League.

2015: NYRB brought home another shield in 2015, this time under new Head Coach Jesse Marsch (Marsch now coaches Union Homegrown Brenden Aaronson at Red Bull Salzburg). The Red Bulls fell to the Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup Conference Finals. In 2016, the team finished first in the Eastern Conference and third overall in MLS. They fell out of the playoffs Conference Semifinals and the Champions League in the Quarterfinals.

2016: FC Dallas won both the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup in 2016 while falling out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in Conference Semifinals to Seattle. They qualified for the Champions League this season as the 2015 Western Conference Champions and lost in the Semifinals. In 2017, Dallas placed 13th in MLS and failed to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. They fell out of the 2018 Champions League in the Round of 16.

2017: The only team to ever win the Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, and a domestic cup came in the form of 2017 Toronto FC. Toronto would go on to win the Canadian Cup in 2018 while failing to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. They would finish as runner-up in both the Champions League and the Campeones Cup.

2018: NYRB brought home another Supporters’ Shield while losing to Atlanta United in the MLS Cup Conference Finals. They would finish 12th overall the following season, losing in the first round of the playoffs, and falling out of Champions League play in the Quarterfinals.

2019: Los Angeles Football Club took home their first trophy in their second season of play, bringing home the Shield before falling out of playoff contention in the Conference Finals against Seattle. They would finish the 2020 Champions League as runner-up, finishing 12th overall in the MLS and losing in the first round of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.

2020: The Philadelphia Union took home their first trophy in 2020, before falling to the New England Revolution in the first round of the playoffs. Their performance in the 2021 season and 2021 Champions League is yet to be decided