Kemar Lawrence - Julian Gressel - New York Red Bulls - Atlanta United
USA Today Sports

Wiebe: Shield or Cup? A possible dilemma for Red Bulls, Atlanta fans

I’m not a Supporters’ Shield truther like Matt Doyle. The ultimate prize is MLS Cup. Full stop.

Here’s a quick mental exercise I think proves my point. Without cheating – do not, I repeat, do not open a new tab – count back year by year and name each season’s Shield winner until your mind goes blank. How far did you get?

OK, now count back year by year and name every MLS Cup winner until you’re grasping at straws. Did it come to you easier, even just a little bit? It certainly does for me, and there’s no doubt winning Cup changes a club more than a Shield. Just ask the New York Red Bulls.

Sorry, that was a cliché low blow.

But it could all change this year! Forget one or the other, why not win both and pull a Toronto FC? The Red Bulls could do it, and so could Atlanta United. But they’ve got to win the Shield first, and that looks like a two-horse race given New York City FC’s swan dive out of the one-time Big Three.

I’m not going to do the schedule-parsing, nitty-gritty analysis here, apart from reminding you of a couple key and obvious facts:

  • Atlanta United are one point back ahead with one game in hand
  • The Sept. 30 game at Red Bull Arena between these two is quite obviously massive

In the meantime, here’s what winning the Supporters’ Shield would mean to each club, from supporters of each club.

New York Red Bulls

I’m going to step aside for a second. Nobody has the pulse of the Red Bulls like Seeing Red’s Mark Fishkin.

That basically sums it up.

The Red Bulls have been there, done that with the Shield, but regular-season supremacy is still worth plenty, as a standalone accomplishment, in historical context and, ultimately, in pursuit of MLS Cup.

Atlanta United

In the interests of transparency, my kid just woke up from a nap. Take it away Atlanta supporters!