For the first time in MLS’s 26-year history, the reigning MLS Cup champions and Supporters’ Shield winners will meet on the field to begin the season. The Columbus Crew is set to host the Philadelphia Union Sunday afternoon in Columbus, pitting the two teams in MLS that won hardware from the regular season and playoffs (excluding MLS is Back Tournament champions Portland Timbers).
Sunday’s game should certainly have excitement with little turnover between both rosters that brought a trophy back to their cities. The Crew kept its entire championship core and brought in plenty of new additions while the Union maintained a chunk of its roster despite losing two stars Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie to Europe. Both sides had strong showings in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 the last two weeks and everything about this game makes it feel trophy-worthy.
So why not create a Super Cup in Major League Soccer?
For those unaware, soccer leagues across the world begin their seasons with a one-off match for a trophy that pits the winners of the first division league and the champions of the domestic cup. The most notable example of this is the Community Shield, which is always played one week before the English Premier League season begins between the previous year’s EPL and FA Cup champions at Wembley Stadium in London. Germany (DFL-Supercup), Italy (Supercoppa Italiana), France (Trophee des Champions) and Spain (Supercopa de Espana) are just a few similar examples of what is an annual tradition in most countries across Europe.
UEFA took this idea and ran with it by adopting the UEFA Super Cup in 1972 featuring an August match between the reigning Champions League and Europa League winners. CONCACAF has something like this with the Campeones Cup, which features the MLS Cup champions and a Liga MX team that wins its “Super Cup” equivalent. The Crew will host that game on Sept. 28.
But that is cross-border and MLS needs to have something within its league to have a new annual tradition that excites fans to start a new season.
Crew head coach Caleb Porter, who will manage the first of these unofficial types of games, thinks it would be a “great idea.”
“I’d love to see that,” Porter said this week when previewing the Crew’s game against the Union. “Figuring out when, where and how to go about it would be maybe another story but I think it would be great. It is a great way to start your season.”
Added Columbus captain Jonathan Mensah: It’s up to the league and the clubs to agree on something like that. With a trophy on the line, I think it would be interesting for teams to compete and be in that game. Let’s see how this first one goes and then hopefully something great will come out of it.”
The buzz around Sunday’s match the Black & Gold and Philadelphia gives it a “Super Cup” vibe and starting every season with a one-off match like this would be a great way to get fans engaged, familiar with the top teams from last year and give the beginning of a new season that zip of excitement without having regular season points on the line.
While the game between the Crew and the Union won’t officially be a “Super Cup” — MLS can do better with a name — it could be the start of something uniquely soccer that the league could bring to America in the future.