Why Supporters Shield is so important to the Red Bulls

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Everyone wants to win Supporters Shield. Some prominent voices in the game have suggested the honor (for best regular season record in MLS) should be held in higher regard than MLS Cup.

But it would mean even more to the New York Red Bulls, who have one little hoof on that bad boy going into the final weekend.

Simply put – and outrageous as it sounds – New York has won so precious little in its time with Major League Soccer.  Hard to believe, but this would be the organization’s first – Its one and only! – significant trophy in 18 years of existence.

Honors, such that they are? There was the MLS Cup runner-up medal in 2008, when Sigi Schmid’s Columbus Crew took down a New York team that made its way rather surprisingly into the league final. And then there was … well, no, that’s about it.

U.S. Open Cup crowns? Nope. (But the team was an Open Cup runner-up back in 2003.)

As for the Atlantic Cup, the trophy awarded to regular season series winner between New York and D.C. United? No … let’s not even go there. It’s a swell rivalry, but that’s not a major trophy.

There were two regular season conference crowns, but that’s barely recognizable as an MLS “achievement,” particularly considering that for one of those seasons (the 2000 campaign), New York only had to finish better than three other clubs.

Let’s hope they didn’t have a banner raising ceremony for that one.

So there has been a remarkable and embarrassing lack of hardware for a club that exists in the nation’s largest media market – and one afforded a shady leg up by the league office whenever possible in those early years. By the way, while awaiting its first major trophy, the organization has gone through 13 coaches, more than a dozen legitimately high profile stars, nine general managers and three owners. How are those for contrasting numbers – 0 major trophies versus 25 coaches, GMs and owners?

Now New York is the only club that controls its Supporters Shield fate. Mike Petke and crew will raise the trophy with a win over Chicago this Sunday on national TV (Spanish-language UniMas). A tie might even be enough, or possibly even a loss (although that seems unlikely).

The entire run-down of playoff-clinching scenarios along with the Supporters Shield scenarios are here from MLSSoccer.com.