When the new MLS season kicks off for the Vancouver Whitecaps’ against the Montreal Impact on Sunday afternoon, it also marks the beginning of the ‘Caps season-long quest to bring home some fancy silverware this year.
If you dream of soccer glory and big, shiny trophies festooned with blue and white streamers then read on to learn more about the five trophies the Whitecaps will play for in 2016.
1. MLS Cup
The MLS Cup is the easiest trophy to understand for North American sports fans. The playoff format for MLS Cup is the same as for any other North American sports league: standings at the end of the regular season determine the playoff seeding, and the MLS Cup final is played between the winners of the Eastern and Western conference finals.
DC United won the inaugural MLS Cup in 1996, and have won three more cups since then. The LA Galaxy are the all-time leaders and have won MLS Cup a total of 5 times. The 2015 champions are the Portland Timbers, who beat the Columbus Crew for their very first MLS Cup title last December.
2. Supporter’s Shield
The Supporter’s Shield is awarded to the MLS team that has the best record based on points at the end of the regular season. DC United won the first Supporter’s Shield in 1999, and went on to win MLS Cup later that year.
Only six Supporter’s Shield winners have also won MLS Cup in the same year, a feat that was last accomplished by the LA Galaxy in 2011.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 26, 2015
The New York Red Bulls won their second Supporter’s Shield in 2015 after topping MLS with an impressive record of W18-L10-D6 (60pts). DC United and the LA Galaxy are tied for the most number of shields won all-time, and both teams having won it a total of four times.
3. Cascadia Cup
The Cascadia Cup is a regional supporter’s cup that has been contested by the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, and the Vancouver Whitecaps since it was commissioned by supporters from the three cities in 2004. The yearly winner of the Cup is usually determined by the team that wins the most points in head-to-head competition against the other two Cascadia teams in MLS league play.
Saturday, the final Cascadia Cup match of 2015. The Whitecaps can retain the trophy with a win. Nothing else will do. pic.twitter.com/hg8ZlttNnQ
— Vancouver Southsiders (@Southsiders) September 18, 2015
The Whitecaps lead the way having won the Cascadia Cup five times, and most recently won it in 2014. The 2015 edition of the trophy was won by the Sounders in a winner-take-all match against the Whitecaps at BC Place on September 19th, 2015.
The first Cascadia Cup match of 2016 will be played on Saturday, March 19th, when the Whitecaps will travel down the I-5 to play the Sounders at CenturyLink field in Seattle.
4. Voyageurs Cup
The Voyageurs Cup is Canada’s top honor for domestic soccer and was commissioned by the supporters from across Canada back in 2002.
From 2002-07 it was awarded to the Canadian team with the best record in the now defunct USL 1st Division and since 2008 the trophy has been awarded to the winner of the Canadian Championship, which is a tournament contested by Canada’s premier professional soccer teams.
The Montreal Impact are the all-time leaders in this competition having won it a total of seven times. Toronto won it four times in a row from 2009 to 2012, and the Vancouver Whitecaps finally won the Voyageurs Cup in 2015 after coming agonizingly close several times in the past.
5. CONCACAF Champions League (CCL)
The CCL started life as the CONCACAF Champions Cup back in 1962, but has been played in its current format since 2008.
MLS teams can qualify for the CCL in a variety of ways including: winning the Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, the US Open Cup, or the Voyageurs Cup. The winner of the CCL then is granted a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup, where they will play some of the biggest soccer clubs in the world.
The current era of the CCL has been dominated by Mexican Liga MX teams, who have won it every year since 2008. No MLS club has ever won the CCL although the Montreal Impact almost won the trophy in 2015.
The Whitecaps will begin their quest for these five trophies on Sunday.