The MLS Cup is the championship game for Major League Soccer. Played once a year it is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for the NFL. This game is the final match of the MLS Cup playoffs and the winner is crowned the champion of the league for that year.
The winner of the MLS Cup wins a group stage spot in the CONCACAF Champions’ League tournament while the loser earns a spot in the tournaments preliminary round. CONCACAF stands for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, and it’s one of six soccer confederations affiliated with FIFA. The United States and Mexico are members of this confederation along with 33 other countries.
The MLS Cup winner is also awarded the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy, named after one of Major League Soccer’s founders. Additionally each member of the winning team receives a gold medal and the runner-ups each receive silver. For the first two MLS Cup finals the winning team received a different trophy named after Alan I. Rothenberg, another man who was instrumental to the creation of the MLS. The trophy was changed to the Phillip F. Anschutz for the third MLS Cup.
The first MLS Cup was played in 1996 and featured DC United and the Los Angeles Galaxy. It was played in the rain at Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts and was attended by 35,000 people. After trailing 2-0 with 17 minutes left, DC United rallied to beat the Galaxy 3-2 in extra-time. DC United also earned spots in the next three MLS Cups and won two of them.