With the Galaxy in the MLS playoffs, we'll try to answer some of the pertinent questions as the postseason moves on.
What most other countries call “champion” -- including all the big leagues in Europe and most in South America, too -- Major League Soccer calls “Supporters' Shield winner,” except it means so much less.
Play the season, add up all the points, and the team on top -- the Galaxy this year and last (and in 1998 and 2002) -- wins the Shield and is seeded first for the playoffs. They even get this nifty trophy, but it's the MLS Cup championship that really matters, even if it only requires three or four wins.
Winning one doesn't have anything to do with winning the other, as we've seen the past two seasons, when eighth-place Real Salt Lake and seventh-place Colorado celebrated MLS Cup victories. With so much parity and so little scoring, anyone who makes the playoff field has a realistic shot at the championship, and the team that prevails more often is the hot side, not necessarily the best.
How have Supporters' Shield winners fared in the postseason? They've been hit and miss.
Five have captured both trophies (D.C. United in 1997 and 1999, Kansas City in 2000, the Galaxy in 2002 and Columbus in 2008), which means 15 have failed. Only one other Shield winner has reached the title game -- Chicago lost to San Jose in the 2003 final -- and five others have come within one win of playing for the title.
Four Shield winners (Columbus in 2004 and 2009, San Jose in 2005 and D.C. United in 2007) failed to get out of the first round, and four (Galaxy in 1998, Chicago in 2003, San Jose in 2005 and Columbus in 2009) were knocked out by the team that went on to win MLS Cup.