When it’s all over on Sunday, after regulation ends and any extra time or penalties are finished, Columbus Crew SC or the Portland Timbers will lift MLS Cup.
We’ll all see the winning team’s initial celebrations with the Philip F. Anschutz trophy, with the victorious captain lifting the Cup on stage in front of what will be an ecstatic, or crestfallen, MAPFRE Stadium crowd.
But what happens to the trophy after the teams retire to the locker rooms? That’s an entirely different story, and one that largely depends on the personalities of the winning club.
Here are a few of those stories, as shared by several MLS Cup winners from around the league:
Chad Barrett, Seattle Sounders (winner with LA Galaxy in 2011): "It wasn’t actually me but it was actually the group of friends that I invited to the final. They came to the after-party. And the Cup, at the end of the night, had just been left unattended. And [my friends] literally, they said that they could have just straight up took it and walked out with it and nobody would have said anything. So I think they need to work on who’s guarding the Cup because it was almost gone. My friends actually said they joked about it and took it upstairs and came back and they said nobody stopped them."
Todd Dunivant, LA Galaxy (won in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014): "After we won in 2011, at the after-party, my wife and I were the last to have it, and we just kind of looked around, 'where is everyone?' So we just took the Cup and slept with it that night."
Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew SC head coach (winner with LA Galaxy in 2011): "Everyone touches it. You bring it to the party and you walk around with it and take pictures with it. It’s a pretty heavy trophy, I’ll tell you that much. I almost pulled a muscle lifting it."
Brian Carroll, Philadelphia Union (won in 2004 with D.C., 2008 with Columbus): "I kissed it and held it up and gave it to someone else on the field. And then back in the locker room after celebrating, I took a picture of it in my game jersey. Then afterwards, at the after-party, before everyone went off to their own little special party, I took a picture of it with friends and family. And then I didn’t see it again until it was in the display case in the grounds. That’s just kind of worked the past two times."
And should you do something like the Stanley Cup where you get a day with it?
Dunivant: It's a good idea. I've thought of that before. I think it would be a cool thing to do. There would be a lot of good stories that would come out of that, but, no, there's nothing like that.”
Carroll: "I’ll tell you how it is and what I think it should be. When you win MLS Cup, everyone kind of gets a photograph session with themselves and their jersey or themselves with friends and family if they want to. And then everyone, as you’re celebrating on the field, you get to kiss the trophy, hold it up, then you pass it along to the next guy. But after that, you don’t really see it again except in the display case at your club’s office training facility. And, you know, that’s how it should be I think. You get your time with it when you win, and you get to take a few photographs it. But honestly, it’s a great accomplishment and you still have that medal and probably a jersey you get signed by the entire team to frame. But then you put it in the club’s history books and you move on and try to accomplish another one. That’s fine with me."
What is it like to win, how do things change?
Carroll: "It’s very exciting. It’s not something you can really explain too clearly other than everything is so much more heightened and you appreciate things that much more. It’s just so exciting to come into work, play with your teammates and ramp up the competitive level to achieve something that will last forever."
Barrett: "It’s definitely different holding it than earning it. Once you’ve earned it, it’s a completely different type of feeling. It’s just, ‘Nobody’s taking this away from me.’ It’s just great walking around with it, with a big smile on your face."
What would you do if you win it?
Jack Jewsbury, Portland Timbers (finalist in 2004): "I’d like to take a couple drinks out of it with the fans."