MLS Cup trophy

What's the Cup? Get to know the MLS Cup's Philip F Anschutz Trophy

At some point on Saturday evening, either Toronto FC or the Seattle Sounders will joyfully hoist a large, shiny, twin-handled piece of silverware into the sky above BMO Field, and savor the feeling of being the 2017 MLS Cup champions.

But just what is that trophy, anyway?

That gleaming bauble up for grabs in the big game 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.

Its namesake is Phil Anschutz, the highly successful Denver-based businessman who helped found MLS and steadfastly kept it afloat through its darkest hours in the rough years 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 club, who almost always incorporate a star into their team crest for each MLS Cup title they win. If you heft its 43-lb bulk aloft and peer at the bottom, you'll find a map of North America, with a star identifying the location of each MLS market.

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 enterprise 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 by the league's first championship trophy, which took two forms from 1996 to 2007.

A bit of a reality check for Saturday'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 hand it back to league officials and get a duplicate version to show off at their home opener and store in their trophy case.

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