A unique piece of silverware will be making a tour stop at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday prior to the Rapids home opener against Philadelphia.
Fans that attend the Centennial 38 Supporters Group (C38SG) tailgate on the south side of the stadium on March 9 will have a chance to see and take photographs with the trophy that, for many, identifies the real champion of Major League Soccer: the Supporters' Shield.
For 18 years MLS has followed the tradition of all other professional sports teams in the United States and recognized its champion as the winner of MLS Cup Championship game. But in many league's around the world, the team that wins the league is the one with the best record throughout the season.
Founded in 1999 by MLS fans, the Supporters' Shield was created as “an award created by the fans to recognize the single table winner," said Sean Dane, President of Supporters' Shield Foundation and a leader in the Kansas City Cauldron, in a statement. "It is unique in the landscape of American sports. I think it highlights what makes the supporters culture in the league great. It also highlights the ability of Major League Soccer to work in partnership with its’ supporters in a way unseen in other sports."
The Supporters' Shield Foundation was formed this past offseason in partnership with the Independent Supporters Council (ISC) to raise awareness of the Shield’s history, protect the commercialization of the shield, and ensuring its movement from team to team each season. Its officers are elected annually by the ISC.
One of the first tasks supporter groups across MLS - including C38SG - undertook via ISC was to fund, design and deliver the new shield, which replaces the former trophy for the 2013 season. The new Supporters' Shield, designed by Kyle Stewart and made in Toronto by Award Co., is made of sterling silver and stainless steel and weighs over thirty-five pounds. It features the names of each team that has had the most points at the end of each of MLS' first 17 seasons, and has space to add at least 25 years of future winners.
The ISC has now organized the Supporters' Shield Tour so each supporter group that helped fund it, can see what their work has accomplished.
The Supporters' Shield, which is passed from holding supporters to the new winners, will visit each of the 19 MLS markets this year. The tour started in San Jose last week to recognize the 2012 Supporter Shield winner, and is making its second stop at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday.
The Colorado Rapids, winners of MLS Cup 2010, have never won the Supporters Shield. The closest the team has ever finished to the top of the overall regular season standings was in 2002, finishing in third overall with 43 points, eight points behind Supporters Shield winners, LA.
More information can be found at supportersshield.org and independentsupporterscouncil.com.