FC Cincinnati won the Supporters Shield with the best record in the MLS regular season, an award its coach claims is better than the MLS Cup. It is Cincinnati’s first trophy since its inception. Having joined MLS in 2019, this is, of course, FC Cincinnati’s best finish in an MLS regular season. Pat Noonan, the manager of FC Cincinnati, discussed what winning the award meant for the club.

“For that group to be the top team over the course of the season I think is very meaningful,” Noonan told reporters on Monday. The only problem is that the MLS Cup is the league’s official award. Granted, the Supporters Shield winner does earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup Round One. However, even before the MLS Cup Playoffs started, a total of nine MLS teams already have a spot in the tournament. Therefore, the MLS Supporters Shield does not have any direct benefits.

To be fair to Noonan, it is a major achievement to finish atop a league after its entire campaign. Almost every soccer league in the world determines a champion in that way. MLS is one of the few that does have a tournament to determine an outright champion. Noonan argues that the tournaments have increased parity. Consistency is more impressive in his eyes.

Cincinnati coach prioritizes Supporters Shield to MLS Cup

Still, given the overall importance of the MLS Cup, it carries more weight in the grand scheme of status for teams in the United States and Canada. MLS fans remember teams that win the MLS Cup. Fewer people remember who won the MLS Supporters Shield. Again, this is not to take away from the achievement of winning the award. However, there are bigger things at stake.

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FC Cincinnati will have the opportunity to win both of those awards this season. Moreover, FC Cincinnati’s performance in the regular season sets up an easier path to the MLS Cup. Cincinnati is the home team for its best-of-three series against the Wild Card winner from the Eastern Conference. Then, should it advance, Cincinnati has home-field advantage in each round because it is the Supporters Shield winner.

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