Change of heart as Supporters' Shield trophy to be handed out after all

TORONTO — The Supporters' Shield will be handed out after all this season.

The Supporters' Shield Foundation, the group appointed by the Independent Supporters Council to oversee the annual awarding of the trophy to the MLS team with the best regular-season, has reversed its recent decision to mothball the Shield in the 2020 pandemic-rejigged campaign.

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The original announcement drew immediate criticism, with Toronto coach Greg Vanney, whose team is leading the standings at 12-2-5 with four games remaining, calling the decision disappointing and "kind of disgraceful."

TFC captain Michael Bradley called it ridiculous.

The foundation said it changed its mind after consulting independent Supporters Council representatives.

"You asked to be heard. In the end it was your input and votes that showed us this is the right choice," the foundation said in a statement Friday.

"We had based our initial decision on the many schedule imbalances throughout the 2020 season. However, the conversations we have had over the last week have proven that a winner should be declared no matter what ... We hope everyone remains safe and healthy and wish the teams in contention good luck down the final stretch. The Shield is ready for you."

Vanney applauded the group's "open-mindedness and willingness to take feedback and apply it."

"I don't think it just is about our team," he said Friday from East Hartford. "I think it's about all the players in the league who have competed this season through thick and thin and through tough times.

"When you start a season, your goal is always to win trophies. And there's only really three of them out there: the domestic championship, the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup. The Supporters' Shield is the long haul. And it's the team that endures the most over the long haul.

"I think it's the right thing ... For us it's a goal and so we're continuing to try to achieve it. But there's three, four, five teams that are still within reach and so there's a lot of work to be done. But we're excited about the prospect, as I'm sure other teams are in the league, that there's an opportunity to lift a trophy at the end of the regular season."

The Shield was created by club supporters in the early years of the league and has been handed out since 1998 (the 1996 and 1997 teams were later inscribed into the trophy).

D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy have won the Shield four times. The Columbus Crew SC (3), New York Red Bulls (3) and the San Jose Earthquakes (2) have also won it multiple times.

The league has celebrated the double seven times in its history _ the same club winning both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. Toronto did it in 2017, celebrating a treble by also winning the Canadian Championship.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020

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