MLS 101: MLS Cup

Colorado and FC Dallas square off Sunday to determine a new first-time champion

Larentowicz

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With the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas set to square off in Sunday’s 2010 MLS Cup Final (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), MLS 101 takes a look back at the history of the event.

 

The MLS Cup Final is the culmination of the MLS Cup Playoffs and crowns a champion at the conclusion of the MLS season.

Since MLS’s inception in 1996, 11 teams have competed in at least one MLS Cup Final, with eight different teams winning it.

There have been 14 MLS Cup Finals since 1996 – six have gone to overtime, and four others were decided by one goal.

D.C. United dominated the first handful of MLS Cups, appearing in the first four and winning three of them. In all, United have won a league-best four Cups (1996-97, 1999, 2004) in five attempts (lost in 1998).

While the Los Angeles Galaxy have appeared in a league-record six MLS Cup Finals, they have come away victorious just twice (2002, 2005).

The New England Revolution made three straight MLS Cup Finals from 2005-07, but the club is still searching for its first MLS Cup in four tries (also lost in 2002).

In 1998, the Chicago Fire won the MLS Cup in their inaugural season, which is an unbelievably rare feat in U.S. professional sports.

Only the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo have made two MLS Cup Finals and won both. The ‘Quakes won an overtime thriller with the Galaxy in 2001 and then beat Chicago in the highest-scoring Final in league history behind a MLS Cup Final-record two goals from Landon Donovan in 2003. The Dynamo, on the other hand, won consecutive MLS Cups in 2005-06 in their first two seasons in Houston after relocating from San Jose (both wins came against New England).

The only other teams to have won their only MLS Cup Finals appearances are the Columbus Crew (2008) and Real Salt Lake (2009), both of which won the MLS Cup against a member of their own conferences, due to the unique structure of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

 

2010 MLS Cup Final

The MLS Cup will be contested outside of the U.S. for the first time in 2010 when Toronto’s BMO Field plays host. The match is also the first MLS playoff game played outside the U.S., as Toronto FC has failed to reach the playoffs in each of its first four seasons.

FC Dallas earned its first trip to the MLS Cup Final in franchise history with a 3-0 win over the Galaxy on Sunday. With the victory, FC Dallas became the final current MLS team from the league’s charter season in 1996 to reach the league’s championship game.

Colorado defeated San Jose Saturday night to claim its first berth in the MLS Cup Final since 1997, when the Rapids fell 2-1 to D.C. United.

With FC Dallas’s qualification into the final, only four current MLS teams have not reached the final, two of which are expansion teams from the last two seasons (Seattle, Philadelphia). Only Chivas USA (2004) and Toronto FC (2007) have failed to earn a bid to the MLS Cup Final with more than two seasons’ worth of attempts.

No matter who becomes champion Sunday, MLS will see its 10th different team hoist the MLS Cup.

 

Venues

The site of the MLS Cup Final is usually scheduled to be a neutral location, though on two occasions, the host has made its way to the Final: in 1997, D.C. United defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-1 to win the MLS Cup at RFK Stadium; in 2002, New England fell 1-0 in double overtime to LA at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Two venues, Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., have each hosted three MLS Cups.

The site of the MLS Cup is typically chosen in the month leading up to the season opener.

From 1996-2003, MLS Cup utilized a sudden death overtime, playing until one team scored; since then, a 30-minute overtime is played in full, with a penalty shootout following if the teams remain tied.

 

MLS Cup MVPs

An MLS Cup Most Valuable Player has been awarded after every Final since 1996, when D.C. United’s Marco Etcheverry earned the honor with two assists in the very first MLS Cup.

Argentine midfielder-forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto is the only player to win two MLS Cup MVP awards, toting his first in 2001 after scoring the game-winner in overtime as a substitute for San Jose, and his second in 2007, when he produced the go-ahead goal and added an assist in 90 minutes for Houston.

Only two goalkeepers – Tony Meola (KC) in 2000 and Nick Rimando (RSL) in 2009 – have claimed the award.

Of the 13 players to take home the MLS Cup MVP, seven were international players while six were domestic.

 

Recordholders

Landon Donovan (SJ/LA) owns the MLS record with three career MLS Cup Final goals, ahead of a quintet of players with two each, including Jaime Moreno (DC) and Taylor Twellman (NE), who both retired from MLS last month, and Dwayne De Rosario (SJ/HOU), who knocked home game-winners in 2001 with San Jose and 2007 with Houston.

Jeff Agoos (DC/SJ) is the recordholder for games played and started, appearing in six MLS Cup Finals – he played in the first four MLS Cups with D.C. United (1996-99), and then saw action in 2001 and 2003 with San Jose. Agoos was on the winning side in five of his six MLS Cups, losing only in 1998.

In net, veteran Kevin Hartman (LA/DAL) has played in four MLS Cup Finals, earning two shutouts while posting a 2-2-0 mark with Los Angeles in 1999, 2001-02 and 2005. He is the all-time leader with a 0.86 goals-against average. Hartman will get a chance to improve on his records when he starts in goal for FC Dallas Sunday night.

 

Year

Winning Team

Score

Losing Team

City

Attendance

1996

D.C. United

3–2 OT

Los Angeles Galaxy

Foxboro, MA

34,643

1997

D.C. United

2–1

Colorado Rapids

Washington, DC

57,431

1998

Chicago Fire

2–0

D.C. United

Pasadena, CA

51,350

1999

D.C. United

2–0

Los Angeles Galaxy

Foxboro, MA

44,910

2000

Kansas City Wizards

1–0

Chicago Fire

Washington, DC

39,159

2001

San Jose Earthquakes

2–1 OT

Los Angeles Galaxy

Columbus, OH

21,626

2002

Los Angeles Galaxy

1–0 2OT

New England Revolution

Foxboro, MA

61,316

2003

San Jose Earthquakes

4–2

Chicago Fire

Carson, CA

27,000

2004

D.C. United

3–2

Kansas City Wizards

Carson, CA

25,797

2005

Los Angeles Galaxy

1–0 OT

New England Revolution

Frisco, TX

21,193

2006

Houston Dynamo

1–1 (4-3)

New England Revolution

Frisco, TX

22,427

2007

Houston Dynamo

2–1

New England Revolution

Washington, DC

39,859

2008

Columbus Crew

3–1

New York Red Bulls

Carson, CA

27,000

2009

Real Salt Lake

1–1 (5-4)

Los Angeles Galaxy

Seattle, WA

46,011

2010

     

Toronto, ON