The MLS Cup is the annual championship match of Major League Soccer (MLS), the top-level men's soccer league for the United States and Canada. The match marks the conclusion of the MLS Cup Playoffs, a five-round knockout competition contested by the top nine teams from each of the league's two conferences. The playoffs tournament is organized by the league at the end of the regular season in a format which is similar to other professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, but unlike most soccer leagues. The league also awards the Supporters' Shield to teams that have the most points during the regular season. Both the MLS Cup champion and Supporters' Shield winner qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, contested by the champions of CONCACAF leagues in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The MLS Cup champion also qualifies for the Campeones Cup, a friendly held since 2018 against the winners of the Mexican Campeón de Campeones from Liga MX.
First contested in 1996, the MLS Cup was originally hosted by a predetermined neutral site selected by the league before the regular season. Since the 2012 edition, the match has been hosted by the remaining team with the highest regular season standing. The final, originally contested in October, was moved to November and later December as the length of the regular season and playoffs were extended by the league. The playoffs originally allowed for lower-ranked seeds, known as wild cards, to be placed into different sides of the bracket regardless of their actual conference. As a result, several MLS Cups have featured two teams from the same conference.
Los Angeles FC are the reigning cup-holders, having defeated the Philadelphia Union in the 2022 final for their first title. The Los Angeles Galaxy hold the record for most MLS Cup titles, having won five times in nine appearances. The championship has been won by the same team in two or more consecutive years on three occasions, and the match has featured consecutive sets of finalists on three occasions. Four finals have featured two teams participating as finalists for the first time. Nine teams have also won "the double", claiming the MLS Cup and either the Supporters' Shield, the U.S. Open Cup, or the Canadian Championship during the same season; only Toronto FC has won a treble, having achieved it in 2017. Landon Donovan has played in seven MLS Cup finals and totaled 726 minutes—both competition records.
The highest recorded attendance for the MLS Cup was set in the 2018 final, with 73,019 spectators at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. From 1996 to 2008, the English broadcast of the MLS Cup was carried in the United States on terrestrial network ABC; it was moved to sister channel ESPN for the following seven editions. From 2015 to 2022, ESPN and Fox held rights to alternating editions of the cup; the 2019 cup, originally slated to be broadcast on ESPN, was moved to ABC. The Spanish language rights for the MLS Cup in the U.S. were awarded to Univision in 2007 and the match was aired on their various networks until 2023. The U.S. linear television rights beginning in 2023 are held by Fox in English and Fox Deportes in Spanish; the MLS Cup final will air on those channels as well as Apple TV+'s MLS Season Pass streaming service worldwide. In Canada, the MLS Cup has been broadcast in English by TSN since 2011 and in French by TVA Sports since 2017. The largest television audience for an MLS Cup broadcast was the 2016 final, which drew 3.5 million viewers in the United States and Canada.
|†||Match went to extra time|
|‡||Match decided by a penalty shoot-out after extra time|
|§||Team also won the Supporters' Shield|
|*||Team also won a national cup competition (the U.S. Open Cup or the Canadian Championship)|
|Italics||Team won both a Supporters' Shield and a national cup competition|
|Season||Date||Winners||Score||Runners–up||Venue||Attendance||U.S. TV broadcasters||U.S. TV viewership|
|1996||October 20||D.C. United *||3–2 †
|Los Angeles Galaxy||Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts||34,643||ABC||2.11 million|
|1997||October 26||D.C. United §||2–1||Colorado Rapids||RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.||57,431||ABC||2.22 million|
|1998||October 25||Chicago Fire *||2–0||D.C. United||Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California||51,350||ABC||1.12 million|
|1999||November 21||D.C. United §||2–0||Los Angeles Galaxy||Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts||44,910||ABC||1.16 million|
|2000||October 15||Kansas City Wizards §||1–0||Chicago Fire *||RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.||39,159||ABC||867,000|
|2001||October 21||San Jose Earthquakes||2–1 †
|Los Angeles Galaxy||Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio||21,626||ABC||1.50 million|
|2002||October 20||Los Angeles Galaxy §||1–0 †
|New England Revolution||Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts||61,316||ABC||1.17 million|
|2003||November 23||San Jose Earthquakes||4–2||Chicago Fire § *||Home Depot Center, Carson, California||27,000||ABC||876,000|
|2004||November 14||D.C. United||3–2||Kansas City Wizards *||Home Depot Center, Carson, California||25,797||ABC||1.06 million|
|2005||November 13||Los Angeles Galaxy *||1–0 †||New England Revolution||Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas||21,193||ABC||1.14 million|
|2006||November 12||Houston Dynamo||1–1 ‡
|New England Revolution||Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas||22,427||ABC||1.25 million|
|2007||November 18||Houston Dynamo||2–1||New England Revolution *||RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.||39,859||ABC, TeleFutura||1.45 million|
|2008||November 23||Columbus Crew §||3–1||New York Red Bulls||Home Depot Center, Carson, California||27,000||ABC, TeleFutura||1.23 million|
|2009||November 22||Real Salt Lake||1–1 ‡
|Los Angeles Galaxy||Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington||46,011||ESPN, Galavisión||1.63 million|
|2010||November 21||Colorado Rapids||2–1 †||FC Dallas||BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario||21,700||ESPN, Galavisión||980,000|
|2011||November 20||Los Angeles Galaxy §||1–0||Houston Dynamo||Home Depot Center, Carson, California||30,281||ESPN, Galavisión||1.35 million|
|2012||December 1||Los Angeles Galaxy||3–1||Houston Dynamo||Home Depot Center, Carson, California||30,510||ESPN, TeleFutura||1.28 million|
|2013||December 7||Sporting Kansas City||1–1 ‡
|Real Salt Lake||Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas||21,650||ESPN, UniMás||1.02 million|
|2014||December 7||Los Angeles Galaxy||2–1 †||New England Revolution||StubHub Center, Carson, California||27,000||ESPN, UniMás||1.64 million|
|2015||December 6||Portland Timbers||2–1||Columbus Crew SC||Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, Ohio||21,747||ESPN, UniMás||1.17 million|
|2016||December 10||Seattle Sounders FC||0–0 ‡
|Toronto FC *||BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario||36,045||Fox, UniMás||2.01 million|
|2017||December 9||Toronto FC § *||2–0||Seattle Sounders FC||BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario||30,584||ESPN, UniMás||1.12 million|
|2018||December 8||Atlanta United FC||2–0||Portland Timbers||Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia||73,019||Fox, UniMás||1.77 million|
|2019||November 10||Seattle Sounders FC||3–1||Toronto FC||CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington||69,274||ABC, Univision||1.27 million|
|2020||December 12[B]||Columbus Crew SC||3–0||Seattle Sounders FC||Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, Ohio||1,500[B]||Fox, UniMás||1.57 million|
|2021||December 11||New York City FC||1–1 ‡
|Portland Timbers||Providence Park, Portland, Oregon||25,218||ABC, UniMás||1.56 million|
|2022||November 5||Los Angeles FC §||3–3 ‡
|Philadelphia Union||Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, California||22,384||Fox, Univision||2.15 million|
|2023||December 9||MLS Cup 2023
Columbus Crew vs. Los Angeles FC
|Lower.com Field, Columbus, Ohio||Fox, Fox Deportes|
Results by team
As of 2022[update], 19 of the 31 teams that have played in the league have appeared at an MLS Cup final, and 15 have won a championship. The LA Galaxy has appeared at and won the MLS Cup the most times, with five championships in nine appearances. The New England Revolution has appeared five times as a finalist, but has not won an MLS Cup. The Chicago Fire won the MLS Cup in their inaugural season in 1998; the only previous professional American soccer team to win a league championship in their inaugural season was the Philadelphia Atoms in the 1973 NASL season.
|Wins||Most recent win||Runners-up||Most recent loss|
|New England Revolution||5||0||—||5||2014|
|Houston Dynamo FC||4||2||2007||2||2012|
|Seattle Sounders FC||4||2||2019||2||2020|
|Sporting Kansas City||3||2||2013||1||2004|
|Chicago Fire FC||3||1||1998||2||2003|
|San Jose Earthquakes||2||2||2003||0||—|
|Real Salt Lake||2||1||2009||1||2013|
|Atlanta United FC||1||1||2018||0||—|
|New York City FC||1||1||2021||0||—|
|Los Angeles FC||1||1||2022||0||—|
|New York Red Bulls||1||0||—||1||2008|
From 1996 to 2011, the MLS Cup was hosted by a neutral site selected before the start of the season in a manner similar to the National Football League's Super Bowl championship. Three teams advanced to the final after being named as hosts: D.C. United in 1997, the New England Revolution in 2002, and the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011. Since the 2012 edition, the match has been hosted by the finalist with the highest regular season standing. Several teams with smaller or inadequate stadiums have also considered using larger American football stadiums to host the MLS Cup, but all post-2012 editions have been played at regular MLS venues. The move towards a non-neutral venue was deemed a risk due to the cold November and December weather in some northern cities, as well as the lack of adequate stadiums for some teams.
The MLS Cup has been hosted in 13 stadiums across 10 metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada.[obsolete source] Dignity Health Sports Park, previously named the Home Depot Center and StubHub Center, in Carson, California, has hosted the MLS Cup the most times of any venue, with six editions between 2003 and 2014. The Los Angeles metropolitan area has hosted the MLS Cup eight times at three venues: the Rose Bowl, Dignity Health Sports Park, and Banc of California Stadium. The largest attendance for an MLS Cup final was the 2018 edition at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, with 73,019 spectators; the smallest was in 2020 at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, with only 1,500 spectators allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only three editions have been hosted outside the United States, all at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada.
|StubHub Center, Carson, California||6||2003, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014|
|Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.||3||1997, 2000, 2007|
|BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario||3||2010, 2016, 2017|
|Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, Ohio||3||2001, 2015, 2020|
|Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts||2||1996, 1999|
|Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas||2||2005, 2006|
|CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington||2||2009, 2019|
|Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California||1||1998|
|Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts||1||2002|
|Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas||1||2013|
|Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia||1||2018|
|Providence Park, Portland, Oregon||1||2021|
|Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, California||1||2022|
- This final was decided by a golden goal in extra time.
- The 2020 final was originally scheduled for November 7, but was delayed to December 12 and played in front of a limited-capacity crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Stadiums are listed by their official name at the time of their most recent final.
- Tannenwald, Jonathan (February 21, 2023). "MLS changes its playoff format again, now guaranteeing home games for more teams". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved October 19, 2023.
- "2023 MLS Competition Guidelines". Major League Soccer. Retrieved October 19, 2023.
- Ruthven, Graham (November 5, 2015). "Could MLS-style play-offs work in Europe's top leagues?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- Goff, Steven (December 5, 2015). "MLS playoff format is an outlier in world soccer — and that's a good thing". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- Myers, Jacob (September 27, 2021). "A chance for a trophy and a consequential MLS game, Columbus Crew enter biggest week of season". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved January 1, 2023.
- Dreier, Frederick (November 29, 2012). "Wild-card L.A. Galaxy favored in home-field MLS Cup". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- "MLS reveals 2012 schedule, including MLS Cup in December". MLSsoccer.com. January 5, 2012. Archived from the original on December 15, 2018. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
- Rodriguez, Alicia (October 21, 2015). "Audi MLS Cup Playoffs: Tracing the evolution of the postseason format since 1996". MLSsoccer.com. Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Beacham, Greg (November 5, 2022). "LAFC claims 1st MLS Cup title with shootout win over Union". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
- Powers, John (December 8, 2014). "Galaxy defeat Revolution for record fifth MLS title". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Milles, Todd (November 30, 2017). "Sounders stamp MLS Cup rematch ticket with Toronto". The News Tribune. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Baxter, Kevin (November 5, 2022). "LAFC defeats Philadelphia on penalty kicks to win MLS Cup title in thriller". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
- Rodriguez, Alicia (December 9, 2017). "Toronto FC win first domestic treble in MLS history". MLSsoccer.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Rodriguez, Alicia (November 5, 2022). "LAFC win MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield double". Angels on Parade. SB Nation. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
- "LA Galaxy legend Landon Donovan wins MLS record sixth MLS Cup title". MLSsoccer.com. December 7, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
- Reineking, Jim (December 8, 2018). "Atlanta United wins MLS Cup in just its second season". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
- Reedy, Joe (August 28, 2019). "MLS Cup returning to ABC for first time since 2008". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 30, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Tannenwald, Jonathan (May 11, 2014). "MLS, U.S. Soccer officially announce new TV deal with ESPN, Fox, Univision". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Stewart, Larry (February 7, 2007). "National TV to focus on Beckham and Galaxy". Los Angeles Times. p. D3. Retrieved November 14, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kennedy, Paul (December 10, 2013). "MLS Cup viewers on UniMas surpass those on ESPN". Soccer America. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
- "MLS on linear TV: FOX Sports, TelevisaUnivision, TSN & RDS reach multi-year deals". MLSsoccer.com. December 13, 2022. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
- "Major League Soccer announces five-year deals with TSN, TVA Sports". The Globe and Mail. The Canadian Press. January 10, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
- Stejskal, Sam (December 13, 2016). "MLS Cup 2016 sets record for most-watched title game in league history". MLSsoccer.com. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
- Tannenwald, Jonathan (November 8, 2022). "Philadelphia helped MLS Cup draw its biggest U.S. TV audience in 25 years". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
- "2022 MLS Cup Game Guide". Major League Soccer. November 3, 2022. pp. 41–42. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
- MLS Communications Department, Elias Sports Bureau (January 2021). "Major League Soccer 2021 Fact & Record Book". Major League Soccer. pp. 141–147. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
- "MLS Cup 2017 Game Guide: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC" (PDF). Major League Soccer. December 2017. p. 132. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 15, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- "MLS Announces Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Schedule" (Press release). Major League Soccer. November 6, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
- Tolmich, Ryan (December 22, 2022). "MLS Cup winners: Full list of champions, from D.C. United to LAFC". Goal.com. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
- Reineking, Jim (November 30, 2018). "2018 MLS Cup: Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers by the numbers". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Parker, Graham; Whittall, Richard (December 8, 2014). "MLS Cup: how LA Galaxy crushed dreams of the Revolution". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 25, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- McCarthy, Kyle (December 3, 2015). "MLS 101: Why is MLS Cup in Columbus?". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
- Goff, Steven (March 8, 2012). "Major League Soccer 2012 preview". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Almond, Elliott (October 4, 2012). "San Jose Earthquakes mull stadium options for MLS Cup". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- Goff, Steven (November 26, 2012). "MLS Cup at home comes with risk". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- "MLS Cup 2018 Game Guide". Major League Soccer. p. 4. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Celani, Andrew (December 3, 2014). "9 Things To Know Ahead Of Revolution–Galaxy MLS Cup". CBS Boston. Archived from the original on November 17, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
- "Los Angeles Football Club Advance to Host 2022 MLS Cup" (Press release). Major League Soccer. October 30, 2022. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
- Das, Andrew (December 12, 2020). "Columbus Wins M.L.S. Cup, the Final Stop on a Journey to Stay Put". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
- Butler, Dylan (November 2, 2019). "After CenturyLink Field sellout, a look at the top MLS Cup attendances". MLSsoccer.com. Retrieved November 2, 2019.