Whether or not the Seattle Sounders finish with the most regular-season points this year, they won’t technically win the Supporters’ Shield. The fan-run organization that awards the Shield announced on Saturday that it won’t be giving it out due to the “inability for supporters to be in attendance.”
With no supporters’ group to take charge of the Shield next year, the Supporters’ Shield Foundation said it hopes to take the trophy on tour to help educate fans about its history.
An announcement from the Supporters' Shield Foundation board: pic.twitter.com/JSF8mmUXFp— Supporters' Shield Foundation (@SupporterShield) October 17, 2020
The Cascadia Cup Council used similar reasoning to not award its rivalry trophy this year.
Fans have always been a driving force behind the Supporters’ Shield, first conceiving of it in 1997 — a year after the inaugural MLS season. Fans then raised the required funds to commission a physical trophy and first awarded it to the 1998 LA Galaxy. The 1996 and 1997 winners were also formally recognized as winning the award. The Sounders won it for the first — and so far only — time in 2014, clinching it with a dramatic 2-0 win over the second-place Galaxy in the regular-season finale.
Beyond the lack of fan involvement in the awarding of the trophy, the competition for the Shield has never been more uneven than it will be this year. Not only will teams end up facing an almost completely different set of opponents, but they are likely to play an unequal number of games.
Sensible as the decision may be, it appears the Independent Supporters Council was not consulted on the decision. Although membership in the ISC is mandated to be part of the Supporters’ Shield Foundation, the two organizations have separate leadership structures.
Finishing with the best regular season record won’t be without benefit, of course. MLS confirmed that in addition to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, the winning team will still collect the cash bonus promised to the Shield winners in the CBA. Although the full text of the new CBA have not yet been released, the summary noted a significant increase in overall performance bonuses. In the previous CBA, the Shield winners split $130,000.