Supporters' Shield on display at CenturyLink Field
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What is the Supporters' Shield?

This weekend, Atlanta United have the chance to wrap up regular season supremacy and lift their first trophy in the club's short existence.

The Supporters' Shield trophy will be at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Sunday where, if the home team wins and the New York Red Bulls lose to the Philadelphia Union at the same time, Atlanta will lift the Shield. 

But, what is the Shield, its importance and history?

Importance

Obviously, it's a trophy to commemorate regular season dominance. Winning hardware is eternally vital to each and every club; the Supporters' Shield helps give a club prestige. 

But it's only as important as the clubs make it. If clubs don't care about winning the trophy, then its importance is severely undercut. That is not the case this year, however, considering how much Atlanta and the Red Bulls have publicly stated their desire to win. Neither team has rested players when given the chance through their stretch run, signifying their intent.

History

As given away by the name, the trophy was created by the fans. 

In 1997, Tampa Bay Mutiny supporter Nick Lawrus came up with the idea. It was initially intended to include the Italian word "Scudetto" (little shield), though the plan quickly changed to name the award the Supporters' Shield. The initial round of attempts to create the Shield didn't pan out, but a season later, the ball was rolling again. This time, with more momentum.

By the end of the season in 1998, Sam Pierron led a group to make the idea of Supporters' Shield a reality. They had no money to make a trophy and began to solicit donations. With strong contributions from ESPN broadcaster Phil Schoen and MLS commissioner Doug Logan, they were able to round up enough money. 

Artist Paula Richardson made the Shield out of sterling silver sheet metal in time to be presented to the LA Galaxy at the beginning of the 1999 season for their efforts the year prior. Previous winners Tampa Bay and D.C. United were inscribed on the trophy. 

Sam Pierron scribed a much more in-depth history of the Shield. Check it out here.

The Galaxy and D.C. have won the trophy most, four times each, while the Galaxy have also been runners-up four times, tied for most with Sporting Kansas City

Columbus Crew SC (3), New York Red Bulls (2) and San Jose Earthquakes (2) have also won the Shield multiple times.

Seven times in the league's history has the same club pulled off the double of winning both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup — including Toronto FC last season.