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

The Philadelphia Union secured regular-season supremacy and lifted their first trophy in the club's existence Sunday. 

The Supporters' Shield trophy was awarded to the Union after they beat the New England Revolution 2-0 on Decision Day presented by AT&T, while nearest challengers Toronto FC lost against the New York Red Bulls.

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 in this most unique of seasons. When it was announced the Shield would not be awarded this season, the decision was met with backlash among players and coaches alike, including Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. A few days later, that decision was reversed

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 in 2017.