kids encyclopedia robot

MLS Cup facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
MLS Cup logo.svg
Founded 1996
Region Major League Soccer (CONCACAF)
Current champions Columbus Crew
(3rd title)
Most successful team(s) LA Galaxy
(5 titles)
Television broadcasters
  • United States:
  • MLS Season Pass
  • Fox/Fox Deportes
  • Canada:
  • International:
  • Broadcasters

The MLS Cup is the annual championship game of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the culmination of the MLS Cup Playoffs. The game is held in November or December and pits the winner of the Eastern Conference Final against the winner of the Western Conference Final. The MLS Cup winner is awarded the title of league champion.

MLS uses a playoff tournament following the regular season to determine its annual league champion, a method common to every other major North American sports league. This format differs from most football leagues around the world, which consider the club with the most points at the end of the season to be the champion; MLS honors that achievement with the Supporters' Shield.

A U.S.-based team that wins the MLS Cup is awarded one of the country's four berths in the following season's CONCACAF Champions League. The three Canadian teams of MLS can only qualify for the Champions League through the Canadian Championship—if any of them should win the MLS Cup, the Champions League berth tied to game is passed on to the highest-placed U.S.-based team in the overall regular season table that did not already qualify.

The inaugural MLS Cup was held on October 20, 1996, in which D.C. United defeated the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy are the most successful team in MLS Cup history, winning a record fifth title in 2014.

Three trophy designs have been used for the MLS Cup: the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy from 1996 through 1998, a redesigned Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy from 1999 through 2007, and the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy since 2008.


The winner of Major League Soccer's MLS Cup, the final match of the MLS Cup Playoffs, determines that season's league champion. The playoff tournament is organized by the league at the conclusion of the regular season in a format similar to other North American professional sports leagues. The tournament is open to the top nine clubs of the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The first MLS Cup final was played on October 20, 1996. To date, the record for the most championships is held by the Los Angeles Galaxy with five cup titles. The record for the most championships lost is held by the New England Revolution, who lost the game five times during their history. The championship has been won by the same team in two or more consecutive years on three occasions.


Season Date Champions Score Runners-up Venue Attendance U.S. television
1996 October 20 D.C. United  †3–2 * Los Angeles Galaxy Foxboro Stadium 34,643 ABC
1997 October 26 D.C. United 2–1 Colorado Rapids RFK Memorial Stadium 57,431
1998 October 25 Chicago Fire 2–0 D.C. United Rose Bowl 51,350
1999 November 21 D.C. United 2–0 Los Angeles Galaxy Foxboro Stadium 44,910
2000 October 15 Kansas City Wizards 1–0 Chicago Fire RFK Memorial Stadium 39,159
2001 October 21 San Jose Earthquakes 2–1 * Los Angeles Galaxy Crew Stadium 21,626
2002 October 20 Los Angeles Galaxy  †1–0 * New England Revolution Gillette Stadium 61,316
2003 November 23 San Jose Earthquakes 4–2 Chicago Fire Home Depot Center 27,000
2004 November 14 D.C. United 3–2 Kansas City Wizards 25,797
2005 November 13 Los Angeles Galaxy  †1–0 * New England Revolution Pizza Hut Park 21,193
2006 November 12 Houston Dynamo  †1–1 (4-3) † New England Revolution Pizza Hut Park 22,427
2007 November 18 Houston Dynamo 2–1 New England Revolution RFK Memorial Stadium 39,859
2008 November 23 Columbus Crew 3–1 New York Red Bulls Home Depot Center 27,000
2009 November 22 Real Salt Lake  †1–1 (5–4) † Los Angeles Galaxy Qwest Field 46,011 ESPN
2010 November 21 Colorado Rapids  †2–1 * FC Dallas BMO Field 21,700
2011 November 20 Los Angeles Galaxy 1–0 Houston Dynamo Home Depot Center 30,281
2012 December 1 Los Angeles Galaxy 3–1 Houston Dynamo Home Depot Center 30,510
2013 December 7 Sporting Kansas City  †1–1 (7–6) † Real Salt Lake Sporting Park 21,650
2014 December 7 Los Angeles Galaxy 2–1 * New England Revolution StubHub Center 27,000
2015 December 6 Portland Timbers 2–1 Columbus Crew Mapfre Stadium 21,747
2016 December 10 Seattle Sounders FC 0–0 (5–4) Toronto FC BMO Field 36,045 Fox
2017 December 9 Toronto FC 2–0 Seattle Sounders FC BMO Field 30,584 ESPN
2018 December 8 Atlanta United FC 2–0 Portland Timbers Mercedes-Benz Stadium 73,019 Fox
2019 November 10 Seattle Sounders FC 3–1 Toronto FC CenturyLink Field 69,274 ABC
2020 December 12 Columbus Crew 3–0 Seattle Sounders FC Mapfre Stadium 1,500 ^ Fox
2021 December 11 New York City FC 1–1 (4–2) † Portland Timbers Providence Park 25,218 ABC
2022 November 5 Los Angeles FC 3–3 (3–0) † Philadelphia Union Banc of California Stadium 22,384 Fox
2023 December 9 Columbus Crew 2–1 Los Angeles FC Field 20,802
* Match went to extra time
Match decided by a penalty shoot-out after extra time
Bold Team won the MLS Supporters' Shield
Italics Team won the U.S. Open Cup or the Canadian Championship
Both Team won the MLS Supporters' Shield AND U.S. Open Cup or the Canadian Championship
^ Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seating at the 2020 MLS Cup final match was limited to 1,500 fans.

Records and statistics

MLS Cup titles

As of the 2022 season, a total of 30 teams have competed in MLS. Nineteen of these teams have appeared in a cup final, with fifteen of these teams having won the MLS Cup. In the table below, teams are ordered first by the number of appearances in an MLS Cup Final, then by the number of wins, and finally by alphabetical order. In the "Years of Appearance" column, bold years indicate a winning MLS Cup appearance.

Apps Years Club Wins Losses Win % Years of appearance (in MLS Cup Finals)
9 27 LA Galaxy 5 4 .556 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014
5 27 D.C. United 4 1 .800 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004
4 27 Columbus Crew 3 1 .750 2008, 2015, 2020, 2023
4 17 Houston Dynamo FC 2 2 .500 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012
4 14 Seattle Sounders FC 2 2 .500 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020
3 27 Sporting Kansas City 2 1 .667 2000, 2004, 2013
2 25 San Jose Earthquakes 2 0 1.00 2001, 2003
3 25 Chicago Fire FC 1 2 .333 1998, 2000, 2003
3 16 Toronto FC 1 2 .333 2016, 2017, 2019
3 12 Portland Timbers 1 2 .333 2015, 2018, 2021
2 27 Colorado Rapids 1 1 .500 1997, 2010
2 18 Real Salt Lake 1 1 .500 2009, 2013
2 6 Los Angeles FC 1 1 .500 2022, 2023
1 6 Atlanta United FC 1 0 1.00 2018
1 8 New York City FC 1 0 1.00 2021
5 27 New England Revolution 0 5 .000 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2014
1 27 New York Red Bulls 0 1 .000 2008
1 27 FC Dallas 0 1 .000 2010
1 13 Philadelphia Union 0 1 .000 2022

MLS Cup finalists records in CONCACAF competition

For most of the league's history, the MLS Cup champions and runners-up have earned berths into the CONCACAF Champions League, though only U.S. teams are eligible to fill these slots. Canadian teams, even MLS Cup participants, must qualify by winning the separate Canadian Championship; as of 2020, the only Canadian winner has been 2017 MLS Cup champion Toronto FC, who also won the Canadian Championship that year.

Champions Runners-up Semi-finals or Consolation match
  • QR1 = Qualification First Round
  • PR = Preliminary round
  • GS = Group stage
  • R16 = Round of 16
  • QF = Quarter-finals
  • SF = Semi-finals or Consolation match
  • CON = Consolation match
  • F = Final
Year MLS Cup Champions Result MLS Cup Runners-up Result
1997 D.C. United CON LA Galaxy F
1998 D.C. United F Colorado Rapids QR1
1999 Chicago Fire CON D.C. United CON
2000 D.C. United CON LA Galaxy F
2002 Kansas City Wizards[1] SF did not qualify
San Jose Earthquakes QF Chicago Fire QF
2003 D.C. United SF Kansas City Wizards QF
2006 LA Galaxy QF New England Revolution QF
2007 Houston Dynamo SF did not qualify[2]
2008 Houston Dynamo SF
2008–09 Houston Dynamo QF New England Revolution PR
2009–10 Columbus Crew QF New York Red Bulls PR
2010–11 Real Salt Lake F LA Galaxy PR
2011–12 Colorado Rapids GS FC Dallas GS
2012–13 LA Galaxy SF Houston Dynamo QF
2013–14 LA Galaxy QF Houston Dynamo GS
2014–15 Sporting Kansas City GS Real Salt Lake GS
2015–16 LA Galaxy QF did not qualify[3]
2016–17 Portland Timbers GS
2018 Toronto FC[4] F Seattle Sounders FC[5] QF
2019 Atlanta United FC QF did not qualify[6]
2020 Seattle Sounders FC R16 did not qualify[7]
2021 Columbus Crew QF did not qualify[2]
2022 New York City FC SF did not qualify[2]
2023 Los Angeles FC F Philadelphia Union[8] SF


The Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy, first version (1996–1998) and second version (1999–2007)

Culminating the championship, the winning team is presented with a trophy, known as the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy, named for the contributions and investment to American soccer and MLS by Philip Anschutz. Typically, the award presentation is held on a podium in the center of the field, where the league commissioner will award the team with the cup.

Before the actual award presentation, the finalists are awarded with silver medals with the league's logo imprinted on them. The champions are then presented with gold medals, before the trophy is handed to the winning team's captain.

In cup history, the MLS Cup champions have been awarded with three different trophies. For the first three MLS Cup finals, the winning team was awarded with the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy, named for Rothenberg's contributions to American soccer. The Rothenberg Trophy was a dark gold trophy that had two handles around a soccer ball, with the league's logo imprinted on the plaque. In 1999, the Rothenberg Trophy was redesigned with a soccer ball placed on a beacon. In 2008, the trophy was redesigned again to its present state and renamed the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.


LA Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo- Western Conference Finals panorama
Dignity Health Sports Park has hosted six MLS Cup finals.

In MLS Cup history, eight matches have been played in the Greater Los Angeles area (once at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, six times at Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly StubHub Center and Home Depot Center) in Carson, California, and once at Banc of California Stadium). Four markets are tied for having hosted the MLS Cup final the second-most number of times, with three matches each: the Greater Boston metro area (twice contested at Foxboro Stadium and once at Gillette Stadium, both in Foxborough, Massachusetts), Washington, D.C. (all played at RFK Stadium), Toronto (all held at BMO Field) and Columbus (all held at the Historic Crew Stadium).

Through the 2011 season every MLS Cup had been played at a predetermined site (i.e., announced before the playoff participants were known). On the day before the 2011 Cup, MLS announced that starting in 2012, Cup finals would be hosted by the participant with the highest point total during the regular season. As is the case with awarding the Supporters' Shield, if the two finalists are tied on points, the team with the most wins hosts the final. For example, at MLS Cup 2022, Los Angeles FC and the Philadelphia Union both finished with 67 points, but LAFC had two more wins and thus hosted the final.

Before the 2012 Cup and the change to awarding the final to the participant with the higher point total, only three teams played the match on their home field. In the 1997 MLS Cup final, D.C. United won the match in their home stadium over Colorado Rapids, RFK Stadium. The same occurrence applied in the 2002 MLS Cup final, where the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the New England Revolution 1–0, in the Revolution's home stadium Gillette Stadium. As a result, the 1997 and 2002 MLS Cup finals drew the largest crowds in MLS Cup history prior to the 2012 change to the higher seed hosting. In 2011, the LA Galaxy won their 2011 MLS Cup match in their home stadium (Home Depot Center), 1–0, over the Houston Dynamo. The Galaxy became the second team (and first since D.C. United in 1997) to win the Cup at home.

After MLS adopted its current criteria for awarding the MLS Cup match, the first three Cup finals were won by the hosts. The 2012 MLS Cup saw a rematch of the 2011 Cup at the same site, with the Galaxy successfully defending the title with a 3–1 win. In 2013, Sporting Kansas City became the third team to win the cup in their home stadium (Sporting Park) when they beat Real Salt Lake in the penalty kicks, which was the longest shootout in MLS Cup history. Then, in 2014, the Galaxy defeated the New England Revolution 2–1 at the renamed StubHub Center in a match that was also notable as the final competitive match for U.S. national team all-time leading goal scorer Landon Donovan. The pattern was broken in 2015, however, when the Portland Timbers defeated the Columbus Crew in the Crew's home stadium.

Through the 2011 season, MLS typically announced the championship location either prior to the start of its respective season, or even a few weeks into the campaign. For the 2011 championship, the league selected Home Depot Center in Carson, California, making it a fourth time the league's championship had been hosted at the venue.

To date, the coldest MLS Cup final was the 2013 championship game played in Kansas City, Kansas at Sporting Kansas City's Sporting Park where the temperature was 20 °F (−7 °C). The hottest MLS Cup final was the 2005 championship game played in Frisco, Texas at FC Dallas's Pizza Hut Park where the temperature was 75 °F (23 °C).

The 2010 edition of the MLS Cup was the first final in league history to be played outside of the United States. The match was played in Canada at Toronto's BMO Field, the home ground of MLS club Toronto FC.


Pizza Hut Park 2006 MLS Cup
Pizza Hut Park, now Toyota Stadium, hosted the 2005 and 2006 MLS Cups.
Name Location Hosted Years hosted
Dignity Health Sports Park Carson, California 6 2003, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014
RFK Stadium Washington, D.C. 3 1997, 2000, 2007
BMO Field Toronto, Ontario 3 2010, 2016, 2017
Historic Crew Stadium Columbus, Ohio 3 2001, 2015, 2020
Lumen Field Seattle, Washington 2 2009, 2019
Toyota Stadium Frisco, Texas 2 2005, 2006
Foxboro Stadium Foxborough, Massachusetts 2 1996, 1999
Children's Mercy Park Kansas City, Kansas 1 2013
Gillette Stadium Foxborough, Massachusetts 1 2002
Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta, Georgia 1 2018
Providence Park Portland, Oregon 1 2021
Rose Bowl Pasadena, California 1 1998
BMO Stadium Los Angeles, California 1 2022 Field Columbus, Ohio 1 2023

Italics indicate a stadium that is now inactive.

Most Valuable Player

Following each championship, a player on the winning club is awarded with the title of being the Most Valuable Player (MVP). Usually, but not necessarily, the winner of the award is the player who scores the game-winning goal, or sets up the game-winning goal. This is the case of the 2007, 2008, 2010, 2017, 2019 and 2020 recipients, who all scored game-winning goals, or assisted multiple goals for the winning side.

Exceptions to this occurred in 2000, 2009, 2016, and 2021 where the Most Valuable Player award went to goalkeepers Tony Meola, Nick Rimando, Stefan Frei, and Sean Johnson, respectively. Meola and Frei, with the Kansas City Wizards and Seattle Sounders FC, both earned shutouts for their respective teams in the cup. Rimando and Johnson made two saves in a penalty shoot-out to give Real Salt Lake the title over the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York City FC the title over Portland Timbers, respectively.

List of MVP award recipients

Year Winner Position Club
1996 Bolivia Marco Etcheverry Midfielder D.C. United
1997 Bolivia Jaime Moreno Forward D.C. United
1998 Poland Peter Nowak Midfielder Chicago Fire
1999 United States Ben Olsen Midfielder D.C. United
2000 United States Tony Meola Goalkeeper Kansas City Wizards
2001 Canada Dwayne De Rosario Forward San Jose Earthquakes
2002 Guatemala Carlos Ruiz Forward Los Angeles Galaxy
2003 United States Landon Donovan Forward San Jose Earthquakes
2004 United States Alecko Eskandarian Forward D.C. United
2005 Guatemala Guillermo Ramírez Midfielder Los Angeles Galaxy
2006 United States Brian Ching Forward Houston Dynamo
2007 Canada Dwayne De Rosario Midfielder Houston Dynamo
2008 Argentina Guillermo Barros Schelotto Midfielder Columbus Crew
2009 United States Nick Rimando Goalkeeper Real Salt Lake
2010 United States Conor Casey Forward Colorado Rapids
2011 United States Landon Donovan Forward Los Angeles Galaxy
2012 United States Omar Gonzalez Defender Los Angeles Galaxy
2013 France Aurélien Collin Defender Sporting Kansas City
2014 Republic of Ireland Robbie Keane Forward Los Angeles Galaxy
2015 Argentina Diego Valeri Midfielder Portland Timbers
2016 Switzerland Stefan Frei Goalkeeper Seattle Sounders FC
2017 United States Jozy Altidore Forward Toronto FC
2018 Venezuela Josef Martínez Forward Atlanta United FC
2019 Spain Víctor Rodríguez Midfielder Seattle Sounders FC
2020 Argentina Lucas Zelarayán Midfielder Columbus Crew
2021 United States Sean Johnson Goalkeeper New York City FC
2022 United States John McCarthy Goalkeeper Los Angeles FC
2023 Colombia Cucho Hernández Forward Columbus Crew

Players with multiple MLS Cup titles

At least 40 players have won two MLS Cups, mostly for teams with sequential or near-sequential titles (D.C. 1996–1999, San Jose 2001 and 2003, LA Galaxy 2002 and 2005, and 2011–2012, and Houston 2006–2007). Brian Mullan is the only player to have won the Cup with four different teams, while players that have won it with three different teams include: Craig Waibel, Alejandro Moreno, Ezra Hendrickson, and Darlington Nagbe.

MLS Cups Players (years won)
6 Landon Donovan (2001, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014)
5 Jeff Agoos (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003)
Todd Dunivant (2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014)
Brian Mullan (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010)
4 Darlington Nagbe (2015, 2018, 2020, 2023
Jaime Moreno (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004)
Craig Waibel (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007)
Dwayne De Rosario (2001, 2003, 2006, 2007)
Eddie Robinson (2001, 2003, 2006, 2007)
Josh Saunders (2003, 2005, 2011, 2012)
3 Richard Mulrooney (2001, 2003, 2007)
Marco Etcheverry (1996, 1997, 1999)
Brian Kamler (1996, 1997, 1999)
John Maessner (1996, 1997, 1999)
Clint Peay (1996, 1997, 1999)
Eddie Pope (1996, 1997, 1999)
Richie Williams (1996, 1997, 1999)
Chris Albright (1999, 2002, 2005)
Brian Ching (2003, 2006, 2007)
Jesse Marsch (1996, 1997, 1998)
Alejandro Moreno (2002, 2006, 2008)
Ezra Hendrickson (2002, 2004, 2008)
Pat Onstad (2003, 2006, 2007)
Chad Marshall (2008, 2016, 2019)
Juninho (2011, 2012, 2014)
Omar Gonzalez (2011, 2012, 2014)
Robbie Keane (2011, 2012, 2014)
A. J. DeLaGarza (2011, 2012, 2014)
Leonardo (2011, 2012, 2014)
Hector Jiménez (2011, 2012, 2020)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: MLS Cup para niños

  • MLS Cup Playoffs
  • MLS rivalry cups
  • Campeones Cup
  • CONCACAF Champions League
  • List of MLS Cup broadcasters
  • List of MLS Cup finals
  • List of MLS club post-season droughts
  • List of MLS Cup referees
  • List of MLS Cup winning head coaches
kids search engine
MLS Cup Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.