MLS is more than halfway through its 2023 season. The contenders have separated themselves from the pretenders at this point. With the season entering the dog days of summer, there is a clear pack of teams battling it out for the top spot in the league. It’s that time of year again to look at MLS’s Supporters’ Shield race!
MLS’s Supporters’ Shield Race
Most teams in MLS have played 20 of their 34 games already. There are some clear teams that stand above the rest at this point; they are, Cincinnati, Nashville, New England, St. Louis, Columbus, and Philadelphia. These six teams are the cream of the crop and are all in the running for the prestigious Supporters’ Shield.
The Shield is awarded to the team with the best regular season in MLS. Winning the Shield means that the team is the number one overall seed in MLS playoffs, and more importantly, gets an automatic bid to the previously named Concacaf Champions League (its new name is Concacaf Champions Cup).
So far this season, one team has been in the lead and holding steady there, but there is still a window for five other teams to sneak in and knock the top side off their perch. Let’s look at each of the six teams and how they got to be at the top of MLS so far!
A 6-team race
- Cincinnati – 44 pts – 14 matches to go
FC Cincinnati is leading the pack and has been since almost the opening week of the 2023 season. Their 44 points from 20 games played are putting them on pace to have a historic Shield-winning season if they can keep this form up. Going from the worst team in MLS in their first few years of existence to possibly winning a Supporters’ Shield is a crazy-fast organizational turnaround.
- Nashville – 38 pts – 13 matches to go
Nashville SC is back in the eastern conference this year and they have looked like a team that will be competing for more than one trophy in 2023. Under Gary Smith, they are a defensive juggernaut and have League MVP Hany Mukhtar banging in goals. They sit on 38 points from 21 matches played; six points behind the leaders while playing one more game as well.
- New England – 37 pts – 14 matches to go
The New England Revolution won the Supporters’ Shield back in 2021, breaking the points record in the process earning 73. Now two years later they are back to competing for the Shield again. They have only lost three times this season, earning 37 points from 20 matches. Being just seven points off the lead with 14 matches still to play has this Revolution side believing that they can win their second Shield in three years.
- St. Louis – 35 pts – 14 matches to go
The most shocking team in this group of Supporters’ Shield contenders is MLS debutants St. Louis City SC. St. Louis took MLS by storm early on in their first year winning their first five matches of the season. It created a winning culture for them and has them thinking they belong with MLS’ elite. They have compiled 35 points from 20 games, and could still have a lot of say in what happens in this race for the Shield as western conference leaders.
- Columbus – 35 pts – 13 matches to go
Columbus Crew SC was thought to be one of the top teams in the eastern conference in 2023; however, their start to the season wasn’t as smooth as others. Spouts of inconsistent form have been followed by short win streaks all season long, but this has still made Columbus a top-five team in MLS. The Crew has 35 points from 21 matches played. While they have played more games than most of the other Supporters’ Shield contenders, they are still right in the thick of things in the race.
- Philadelphia – 34 pts – 14 matches to go
The Philadelphia Union tied for the top spot in all of MLS last season with 67 points but failed to win the Supporters’ Shield as LAFC held the wins tiebreaker. This year, Philly is looking to run it back but has stumbled at times. They already have one more loss on the season than they did all of last year, but are only 10 points off the lead for the Shield. With 14 games to play, they still have a shot at being the best in MLS. They will just need to be flawless for the majority of their last 14 matches to make up the ground in the race for the Shield.
This week, all six of these clubs play on Saturday night. Four at 7:30 pm EST, one at 8:30 pm EST, and one at 10:30 pm EST. Here’s a look at the schedule of games for all six Supporters’ Shield contenders.
- Cincinnati at Charlotte | Sat., July 8 | 7:30 pm EST
- Nashville at Chicago | Sat., July 8 | 8:30 pm EST
- New England at Red Bull NY | Sat., July 8 | 7:30 pm EST
- St. Louis at Toronto | Sat., July 8 | 7:30 pm EST
- Columbus vs NYCFC | Sat., July 8 | 7:30 pm EST
- Philadelphia at LA Galaxy | Sat., July 8 | 10:30 pm EST
Will we continue to see Cincinnati run away with their lead on the rest of MLS or will they take a rare L? Could we see more teams close the gap and make this race an even closer contest? We’ll have to watch to find out!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union