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What was the thinking behind not awarding the Supporters’ Shield intially?

We were able to construct a timeline behind the process by talking to the heads of the Supporters Shield Foundation.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Los Angeles FC Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: The Supporters Shield Foundation has decided to reverse their decision. You can read their statement here:

The Foundation met with their fellow ISC members to poll as a group to make this decision. The story below reflects how they reached their initial decision.

By now you’ve probably heard about plans not to award the Supporters’ Shield this year. The reaction to that decision by the Supporters Shield Foundation — a fan-run group entrusted with managing the trophy — has been mixed, to say the least.

Although the Foundation has offered a few public statements explaining the decision, exactly how and when it was made has not been entirely clear. Even before this had all played out, I reached out to the the organization in an effort to find out more about the process.

I was connected with the Foundation’s president, Steve Ferrezza, and vice president, Drew Picard, who helped me reconstruct a timeline and provided some added insight into the decision-making process.

While things remain in flux — the group solicited feedback and promised a decision by Friday — I think this story will help form a more complete picture of how the Foundation came to this decision.

While this decision was only recently announced, discussions about potentially not awarding it go back to a July board meeting. The board consists of five members. Three of those members are elected, one is the vice-president of the Independent Supporters Council to serve as a bridge between the organizations, and one member is a representative from the supporters that currently hold the trophy. So this year that person is an LAFC fan.

At that meeting, they made the decision to not award the Shield in 2020 and to instead use 2021 as a year to raise awareness of the Shield’s history for all new and old supporters across MLS. At the time of the decision, MLS still had not announced any games beyond the MLS is Back tournament. Once those games began being announced, the Foundation decided to wait to see how the MLS season would unfold before making any sort of announcement.

As the season wore on, the Foundation continued that wait-and-see approach regarding what to do about the Shield. All the while, MLS continued to schedule additional games in batches that included Canadian MLS teams playing each other and most other teams limited to a small number of regional opponents. It was becoming increasingly clear that the 2020 season would be far from normal.

To make things even more unbalanced, the Colorado Rapids had some games postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak. And then some more. And then it was a lot. The Foundation knew they had to release a statement, so they approached MLS to discuss what they wanted to do.

It’s important to point out that even now MLS has not announced how the final standings will be determined, and how they plan to weigh total points and points per game.

MLS’s statement from Oct. 17th regarding the Supporters Shield

Major League Soccer has been notified by the Independent Supporters Council of their decision to not award the Supporters’ Shield this season.

Everyone involved in MLS understands that the 2020 season — like every major professional sports league — was unprecedented in our history. The club that finishes at the top of our regular season will have persevered through a highly challenging year. As in previous seasons, this team will be the top seed in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, earn a berth in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League and receive the bonus that goes to the club that finishes first overall in the regular season standings. Most of all, the millions of people who follow and support our league, teams and players will always remember the club that finished as 2020 MLS regular season leader.

The Foundation put forward their statement to the Independent Supporters Council on Oct. 2 asking for feedback. If you haven’t gathered by now, the ISC and Supporters Shield Foundation are two linked but separate entities. Following the discussion with ISC members, the Foundation approached the league with their full statement ready to announce the decision. And that’s where things got even more complicated.

The league asked the Foundation to revise their public statement. So, the Foundation removed the parts of the statement that pointed out the imbalanced schedule and the fact that certain teams would not play a “full” 2020 season. This part of the statement was later released, and can be read here. Notably, despite what the MLS statement says, the ISC does NOT award the Supporters’ Shield. The Foundation does.

So, where does that leave us and what happens now? Well, things are still very much up in the air. Drew and Steve stressed to me that they’ve heard the feedback from fans and members of the ISC and are reevaluating their steps to make sure everyone feels included in this decision. They will respond to whatever the voting members have to say. If the majority want to award the Shield, they will respect that decision. Each team gets one vote. Some teams have more than one supporters’ group represented in ISC, but those groups need to come together to cast one vote. That’s how all ISC decisions are made.

Steve stressed that there is no vast conspiracy about awarding the Shield to a Canadian team, as some have speculated, and pointed out that the trophy was made in Toronto and Toronto FC already won it in 2017.

The Foundation told me that they will have more concrete rules in place for future seasons, should something like 2020 happen again. But for all of our sakes, let’s hope it never comes to that.

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