MLS Cup: The Philip F. Anschutz trophy is the winner's prize

MLS Cup trophy with MLS in background - December 2018

At some point on Sunday, either Toronto FC or the Seattle Sounders will joyfully hoist a large, shiny, twin-handled piece of silverware into the sky at CenturyLink Field, and savor the feeling of being the 2019 MLS Cup champions (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TSN, TUDN, TVAS).

But what about that trophy, anyway?

That gleaming bauble up for grabs is officially known as the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. It's been the prize for winning the league title since 2008, when it replaced the second iteration of its predecessor, the Alan I. Rothenberg Cup.

The Basics

Its namesake is Phil Anschutz, the highly successful Denver-based businessman and LA Galaxy owner, who helped found MLS and steadfastly helped keep it afloat through the toughest times at the turn of the century.

Crafted from sterling silver by the renowned Tiffany & Co., it stands two feet tall, on a seamless base of 4 5/8 inches. It sports 11 facets on the front and back, symbolizing the 22 players that participate in a soccer match, and it's already seen some interesting adventures.

The gold star represents the championship, and it also typically becomes a permanent fixture of the winning team's crest with a star for each MLS Cup won.

If you heft its 33-pound bulk aloft and peer at the bottom, you'll find a map of North America, with a star identifying the location of each MLS Cup-winning market.

Name Change

Called the “driving force” and “the heart and soul of Major League Soccer” by Commissioner Don Garber at the time of the trophy's unveiling, Anschutz and his companies at one point operated as many as six of the league's 10 clubs after the contraction of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion FC franchises in 2002. (The Anschutz Entertainment Group still owns and operates the LA Galaxy.)

With Anschutz's steady support, the fledgling league would eventually find its feet and set off on a sustained era of growth and consolidation that continues to this day.

Nearly a decade ago, league leaders decided to honor his legacy by commissioning a new trophy that would bear his name. The move was blessed by Rothenberg, the leader of the United States 1994 World Cup hosting effort, past president of US Soccer and US National Soccer Hall of Fame member. His service was commemorated when his name was affixed to the league's first championship trophy, which took two forms between 1996 and 2007.

A bit of a reality check for Sunday's victors, though: There's only one true Philip F. Anschutz Trophy, and the winners don't get to keep it for too long. The original model lives in the MLS headquarters offices in Manhattan, so later in the offseason, the winning team hands it back to league officials and gets a duplicate version to show off at their home opener and store in their trophy case.