Under the strictest definition of the term, only one MLS team has ever won the illustrious treble, the title awarded to a club that wins three major trophies in one season.
That would be the 2017 edition of Toronto FC, who swept all before them by winning the Canadian Championship, their domestic cup competition, then securing the Supporters’ Shield as first-place regular-season finishers in MLS before churning through the postseason to hoist MLS Cup with an impressive 2-0 win over the incumbent Seattle Sounders in their cup final rematch.
It was an exceptional accomplishment, the first of its kind in league history, and the comparatively long list of those who’ve won two, but not three trophies in a single campaign underlines that.
D.C. United won both the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup in 1996, then won both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in ‘97 and ‘99 (though the Shield was not formally commissioned until ‘99, making the league’s first three regular-season champs retroactive winners).
The Chicago Fire did the Open Cup-MLS Cup double in 1998. The Kansas City Wizards won both the Shield and MLS Cup in 2000, as did the LA Galaxy in 2002 and 2011 and Columbus Crew SC in 2008. The Seattle Sounders won both the Open Cup and the Shield in 2014, an achievement matched by FC Dallas in 2016.
None of them could quite reach the third summit, though several got mighty close. You’d have to encompass lesser trophies to find unconventional trebles; the ‘96, ‘98 and ‘99 D.C. teams also won their Atlantic Cup rivalry matchups with the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls). The same can be said for the Galaxy with their California Clasico duels with the San Jose Earthquakes in ‘02 and ‘11, the ‘98 Fire with their Brimstone Cup meetings with the Dallas Burn (now FCD) and Columbus with the Trillium Cup (vs. TFC) in ‘08.
Toronto FC coaches, execs and former players with their 2017 treble hardware | USA Today Sports Images
But those rivalries mostly comprise regular-season games, and that’s just not as high of a bar to vault, is it?
Digging even deeper, the 2011 Sounders won the Open Cup, edged Portland and Vancouver to lift the Cascadia Cup and also defeated the reigning MLS champions Colorado Rapids in the Seattle Sounders FC Community Shield, a one-off meeting between the previous season’s USOC and MLS Cup winners that, for better or worse, didn’t catch on.
Which brings us to the present day. LAFC’s dominance has raised the possibility of them winning a double this year; they’re runaway leaders in the Shield race and will in all likelihood be MLS Cup favorites come the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Their dramatic loss to the Portland Timbers in the Open Cup quarterfinals, however, means no treble for the Black-and-Gold in 2019.
But another team might just still be able to pull one off: Atlanta United.
The Five Stripes outlasted Club America to win this week’s Campeones Cup, the one-game annual clash between the league champions of MLS and Liga MX that debuted last year. They’ll host Minnesota United for the Open Cup final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium later this month, and are odds-on picks to secure a high seed in the East side of the MLS postseason bracket come fall.
If ATLUTD can win USOC, then survive and advance to defend their MLS Cup title in November, should they be credited with a treble? It’s a fun debate, and probably hinges on whether you see a one-game competition like Campeones Cup as too light to count for these purposes, or give them credit for defeating a far tougher opponent than most other treble contenders of the past have had to face.
What’s your take?