Sounders aiming for rare MLS feat with quest for back-to-back league titles

The Seattle Sounders have coined “Defend Our Cup” as their official motto for their Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs run as they aim to win their second consecutive league championship, and history shows it to be a difficult mission indeed.

Carrying a 2-0 aggregate lead over the Houston Dynamo into their home leg of the Western Conference Championship on Thursday (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN 1, TVAS 2), the Rave Green are the odds-on pick to win the West and face either Toronto FC or Columbus Crew SC in next month’s MLS Cup final. If they can earn two more positive results over the next two weeks, they’ll join elite company in the league’s record books.

Only three teams in MLS history have won back-to-back MLS Cups. Here are the dynasties that the Sounders are looking to follow:

D.C. United, 1996-97

The team that set the standard in the league’s early years, D.C. won three of the first four MLS championships and Bruce Arena was in charge for their double-dip dominance of the first MLS two seasons, headlined by Marco Etcheverry, Eddie Pope and Jaime Moreno.

Though he had to lead his team through an uneven start to its existence in the opening months of ‘96, the Black-and-Red were a freight train by the time the postseason began. United made the inaugural MLS Cup final an unforgettable affair by storming back from a 2-0 deficit to edge the LA Galaxy 3-2 in a driving rainstorm at the old Foxboro Stadium, the first home of the New England Revolution. (MLS Cup was held at a predetermined site from 1996-2011, and has since been hosted by the finalist with the best regular-season record.)

A year later, D.C. were a behemoth. They rolled to the league’s best regular-season record, swept both of their Eastern Conference playoff series and then defeated the upstart Colorado Rapids in front of a huge home crowd at RFK Stadium in the championship game.

Houston Dynamo, 2006-07

Few teams in sports history have ever gotten off to a better start in a new home than the Dynamo, who came into being when the original San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston ahead of the 2006 campaign.

Carrying a proven veteran core that had won the Supporters' Shield in Quakes colors the previous year, La Naranja won their first title by edging the Revolution 4-3 in an MLS Cup penalty-kick shootout after trading extra-time goals in a 1-1 draw at Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas.

In 2007 they defended their trophy in a cup final rematch with the Revs, a Dwayne De Rosario goal the winner in a riverting 2-1 victory at RFK.

LA Galaxy, 2011-12

David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane led this LA squad, which has a strong claim to the title of best team in MLS history.

The Galaxy, who would also go on to win the 2014 trophy with many of the same faces, beat Houston in both the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cups, both of which took place at their StubHub Center home.

First Donovan scored the winner in a tightly-contested 1-0 win in ‘11, and a year later he netted a PK to lead a comeback from an early deficit as Keane and Omar Gonzalez also scored in a 3-1 triumph that marked the final MLS game in Beckham’s career.