The MLS club that finishes atop the overall standings in 2020 will, after all, receive the Supporters' Shield.
This news comes following an announcement on Friday by the Supporters' Shield Foundation, the group appointed by the Independent Supporters Council to oversee the awarding of the trophy every year, that they have reversed last weekend's previous decision not to award the annual trophy due to the lack of fans in the stands and an unbalanced schedule, among other reasons cited.
The Supporters' Shield is one of the benefits of finishing first in the overall standings. The top club also receives a financial bonus, a CCL berth (note: U.S.-based clubs only), and, perhaps most importantly, top seed and homefield advantage throughout the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. MLS previously announced that the additional benefits would all still be bestowed upon whichever club finished top of the table, regardless of whether or not the Shield was awarded.
The Foundation's original decision not to award the Shield was met with an immediate backlash across the MLS community. Many fans, coaches, and players took to social media and other outlets to express their opinions. Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney and Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, whose clubs are one-two in the overall standings, both weighed in with emotional criticisms of the decision.
Vanney, addressing the reversal Friday, stressed the broader MLS-wide implications of the decision.
"I don’t think it just is about our team," Vanney said. "I think it’s about all the players in the league who have competed this season through thick and thin and through tough times. When you start a season, your goal is always to win trophies and really there’s three of them out there: the domestic championship, the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup. The Supporters’ Shield is the long haul, and it’s the one team that endures the most over the long haul.
"I think it’s the right thing. I applaud them again for being open-minded and bringing it back to the equation, and for us it’s a goal of ours and so we’re working to try and achieve it. But there’s three, four, five teams that are still within reach, and so there’s still a lot of work to be done. But we’re excited about the prospect, as I’m sure other teams are in the league, that there’s an opportunity to lift a trophy at the end of the regular season."
Earlier this week, the Foundation announced they would hold additional meetings with supporters groups to discuss the decision and the ongoing outcry.
Friday's Shield news adds another dramatic note heading into Saturday's match between TFC and the Union (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info). The Reds sit in first place, three points above second-place Philly, in the overall standings. A win by either club puts them in a great position to finish top of the table -- and, once again, receive the Supporters' Shield.