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This is the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Behold. (Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

MLS Cup History - How Much Do You Know?


The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowl victories, the very first World Series was won by Boston, and the Stanley Cup bares the name of every player who ever hoisted it. I was able to tell you all of those off the top of my head — not a single fact check whatsoever — but what do you know about the MLS Cup history? Who won it first? Who’s won it the most? What is the name of the actual trophy?

If you know the answer to any of those questions (without looking them up) then your already ahead of me. I’ve only been following the MLS for less than a year, so I don’t know much at all, but I intend to change that right now. During this post, I’ll be going through the MLS Cup history, breaking down the near 18-year span of soccer championships.

Let’s start at the obvious beginning, 1996, the first year of the MLS. To put this in perspective, and to make us all feel old: I was seven years old when this happened. Only ten teams were part of that inaugural season, and consequentially eight of those teams made the playoffs, the worst being the Columbus Crew, who went 11-17-4 (the last number is Shoot-out Wins; back then, the MLS did not allow ties — it was “anti-American”).

On October 20th, 1996, the very first game in the MLS Cup history was between the United and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Get ready for a theme, at least one of these teams played in 11 of the 17 previous championships games.

The game took place at a soggy Foxboro Stadium, the former site of the New England Patriots and the MLS’ own N.E. Revolution. A crowd of 34,643 watched as Eduardo “The Tank” Hurtado headed in the first goal in the 5th minute. The United, coached by Bruce Arena, fought back to an even score, 2-2, at the end of the 90 minutes, sending the first championship into extra time. Only four minutes into overtime, D.C.’s Eddie Pope scored the Golden Goal making the United the first winners of the MLS Cup.

Ready for some important trivia knowledge that may one day win you a bet? The first MLS Cup MVP/Man of the Match belongs to a man with no goals and two assists, Marco Etcheverry. From all the stuff I’m reading online, Etcheverry may be the greatest player to ever play for the United. They could sure use him now.

It was a pretty good game overall, lots of excitement in spite of the weather, but don’t just take my word for it, by the amazing power of the internet you can watch the entirety of the match. Three things to notice from that footage: A) The clock that counts down instead of up, 2) the fans at the game, not a single one can be seen wearing team licensed gear, and D) those Galaxy jerseys (O_O ).

Dec 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham (23) passes the ball past Houston Dynamo forward Calen Carr (3) during the first half of the 2012 MLS Cup game at the Home Depot Center. (Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports)

There have been a few changes to the actual trophy over the years. It’s been redesigned twice, and two different people have had their names engraved on it. The trophy was originally named the “Builder” of soccer in America, Alan Rothenberg, who is credited for getting the 1994 World Cup to be held in the States. For the first three years, the “Cup” was portrayed by a dark gold ball with weird, obscure handles. Then in 1999 it was altered to something more modern. But in 2008 it was remade to actually look like a cup, and the name was changed to the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Anschutz was a co-founder of the league and owner of several teams, including the LA Galaxy.

But why was the name changed? I have no clue. I can’t find a single source that says why. It just happened. If you know, please tell me in the comments or tweet it to @MLSMultiplex.

Anyways, D.C. United would play in all of the first four finals and win all of them except for in 1998 when the  Chicago Fire, coached by a young Bob Bradley, became the first expansion team to win a MLS championship.

Every one of the teams had a season worth remembering, after all, they made it to the Final. However, the poor New England Revolution will have the memory of three consecutive unsuccessful trips to the Cup. Just like the NFL’s Buffalo Bills of the 90′s, there will always that feeling of failure.

The two most recent years, the LA Galaxy beat the Houston Dynamo to bring their championship total to four, which ties them with the D.C. United for the most in MLS history.

Saturday’s MLS Cup Final features Real Salt Lake against Sporting KC. Both teams have one Cup already in the cabinet: RSL in 2009, SKC in 2000.


Year Winner Score Runner-up
1996 D.C. United 3-2 * Los Angeles Galaxy
1997 D.C. United 2-1 Colorado Rapids
1998 Chicago Fire 2-0 D.C. United
1999 D.C. United 2-0 Los Angeles Galaxy
2000 Kansas City Wizards 1-0 Chicago Fire
2001 San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Los Angeles Galaxy
2002 Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 * New England Revolution
2003 San Jose Earthquakes 4-2 Chicago Fire
2004 D.C. United 3-2 Kansas City Wizards
2005 Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 * New England Revolution
2006 Houston Dynamo 1-1 ^ New England Revolution
2007 Houston Dynamo 2-1 * New England Revolution
2008 Columbus Crew 3-1 New York Red Bulls
2009 Real Salt Lake 1-1 ^ Los Angeles Galaxy
2010 Colorado Rapids 2-1 * FC Dallas
2011 Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 Houston Dynamo
2012 Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1 Houston Dynamo

* – Game went into extra time              ^ – Game was finished on penalty shots


Tags: D.C. United Los Angeles Galaxy MLS MLS Cup Real Salt Lake Sporting KC

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