At its core, the Cascadia Cup is a competition created by and for fans. The three groups who created it — Emerald City Supporters, Timbers Army and the Southsiders — not only paid for the physical trophy themselves, but even created a legal entity in order to ensure that fans always controlled it.
Given that history, it’s hardly surprising that the three supporters’ groups unanimously decided to effectively put off awarding the Cascadia Cup until fans are able to attend games again.
A joint statement from the groups also reiterated that the process for awarding the trophy in the future will be predicated on all three teams being able to play home games against one another:
Shortly after the formal announcement of the “MLS is Back Tournament,” representatives of the Cascadia Cup Council unanimously agreed that matches played behind closed doors, including any future matches played in MLS stadiums where supporters are not present, will not count towards Cascadia Cup Standings in 2020. In order to continue the supporter-owned, supporter-driven Cascadia Cup’s tradition of competitive balance, each club must complete both home and away matches against each of the other clubs, and the 2020 season will be measured in the same manner as any prior season where all three teams were in the same league.
While there is sure to be some grumbling about this decision, I think it’s the right one. What makes this competition special is the way fans have engaged with it. Simply put, awarding the trophy in front of an empty stadium would just feel wrong. It would also feel rather pointless.
I’m sure there will be those who will argue that playing without fans is no more illegitimate than awarding the trophy when only two teams were eligible — as was the case in 2009-10 when the Sounders were playing in MLS without the Timbers or Whitecaps — but I beg to differ. While I agree those seasons were probably less legitimate than the other 14 times the Cup was awarded, at least fans were still able to present the trophy and celebrate it in person.
On a similar level, I’d argue that MLS should also put off naming a Supporters’ Shield winner this year.
At its core, the Cascadia Cup and Supporters’ Shield are ways for the league and players to engage with fans. If fans aren’t there to share in the revelry, the competition loses most of what makes it special. Playing behind closed doors and without fans may be a necessity, but there’s no reason we need to pretend that it’s normal or that it is a fan-centric approach. There should be no shame in admitting that.