Monday, October 10, 2011
Ranking the four trophies for MLS teams
Over the last week we've seen two of the four trophies MLS teams can win awarded. First Seattle won their third straight US Open Cup (in front of a record crowd I should ad), then LA Galaxy won their 2nd straight supporters shield. The other two trophies are MLS Cup and the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Side note: Seattle was the first team to win 3-straight USOC since 1969 and only the 4th ever. They are also the first MLS team to win three straight of any title.
Side note 2: LA becomes the third straight team to win consecutive Shields [D.C. United (2006-07) and Columbus (2008-09)]. LA also ties D.C. United with their fourth Shield overall
Both those results got me to thinking, which of the four trophies MLS teams can win is the most important? I know that how I rank them isn't how an objective person would rank them, so I'll attempt to do both.
The Objective Ranking
1. MLS Cup - Let's face it, 95% of the people out there in the US would only know the MLS Cup. This is how MLS determines it's champion. Most MLS fans when they refer to the champion of any given MLS season will point to the MLS Cup winner. That basic awareness makes this by far the most important title a MLS team can win.
2. CONCACAF Champions Cup - The CCL comes second because the rest of the world would notice. Continental champs has a nice ring to it. The winner also gets into the Club World Cup and in front of a world wide audience. But let's face it, most of the prestige of a MLS team winning this Cup will come from knocking off Mexican club teams and out-dueling a league that has dominated MLS (for the most part).
3. US Open Cup - Our domestic cup title, equivalent to the FA Cup in Europe. Almost 100 years of history. A knockout cup that anyone in domestic soccer can win and a true title with a Championship game.
4. Supporters Shield - The holder of the best regular season record in any given MLS season. Let's face it, many soccer fans won't get this one, let alone your average Joe. "Who cares about the best record in the regular season?" they would say, "it's all about the playoffs." Much to my chagrin this is the US of A.... playoffs matter, the regular season doesn't mean much beyond home field advantage in the dance.
Buzz World Rankings
My personal feeling about cups are a different matter however.
1. CONCACAF Champions League - For me the hardest title to win. It's the hardest to get into, only 4 MLS teams instead of 8 or even 10 in MLS playoffs. It has the toughest competition against the best of Mexico and the champions off all the other North American leagues. And perhaps most of all no MLS team has ever won it (although MLS teams did win the CONCACAF Champions Cup before there were as many teams and the group format). The first MLS team to bring home this bad boy will go down in history and grab some world wide glory.
2. Supporters Shield - It's quite simple, for me the best team any given MLS season is actually the supporters shield winner. Yes, I get that it's not the title. But wining the SS means you had the best club for the entire season. It means more wins, better football, and better enjoyment for the longest period of time. The best team wins this one, no middle of the pack team can. The SS takes the most pure winning talent over the longest run.
3. MLS Cup - Only important for me at all because it's the domestic league "champion." If it weren't for the "title" this would fall well below the USOC, because really it's a 8 (ok now 10) team postseason, knockout tournament. It's win three games for a Cup, or 4 if you are a wild card this year. A mediocre .500 team can get hot and win this thing. The best team does not always win. Sure playoffs are fun, but single game knockout in anything but the NFL... meh.
4. US Open Cup - I would so love to put this trophy above MLS Cup, but I just can't. Even in my world the domestic league title is worth more than the cup title. But dang do I love the Open Cup. It's got history, tradition, glory for the little guy, and it's very American, inclusive and democratic. Everyone can get into the Cup and anyone can win it. Getting into the MLS Cup is harder, if just barley, but winning the US Open Cup is harder. If you face a lower league team it's their Super Bowl and greatest win ever to knock you off. For MLS teams it's usually just four wins to the title, and yes the bidding for home field can un-level the playing field, but this is still a heck of a tournament. It's a shame the audience in the stands and on TV is so terrible.
So there's my list, where do you rank the four trophies?