When the LA Galaxy released their new primary jersey for 2016 this Thursday, astute observers noticed a small, but significant change. Over the crest, where the team previously sported a star for each of its MLS Cup wins–five total –there’s now just one gold star.
It’s part of an overall update in the jersey-star convention for MLS this season.
Some quick background: In the early days of the league, an informal system emerged of each MLS Cup-winning team adding a star to their jerseys above the team crest. Then the whole thing got formalized in 2006, with a change.
That's when the year’s defending MLS Cup champion started sporting a scudetto—a small championship shield—as well as a star for each previous Cup win. Then, in 2012, the system changed again—instead of a scudetto, the defending Cup champion would sport a gold star, along with silver stars for any other previous wins.
Now, there's yet another update. Here’s how it works: The season following a team’s MLS Cup championship, they’ll sport the large gold star on their jersey as defending champions. The star will also include the year of their title. They’ll also sport a silver star under that for any previous MLS Cup championships, up to four silver stars total. If they don't win another Cup title, then the following year, they'll revert to a silver star for each win.
But now, on the fifth win, all the silver stars disappear in favor of one gold star, without any year on it. (Right now, the Galaxy is the only team with five Cup titles so far, so they're the only team to sport this.)
So, Portland Timbers fans, what does this mean for you? As you can see on this detail from this year’s away kit, the Timbers are rocking one gold star as defending champions of their first MLS Cup title, in 2015.
Next year, if Portland wins another Cup, they’ll again sport a gold star, plus a silver star for their previous title. If they don’t win another cup, they’ll sport one silver star to represent the 2015 championship.
It’s easier to explain in graphic form, though--so here's a chart.