FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan believes the Supporters’ Shield holds more relevance than the MLS Cup after his side clinched the Shield in Matchday 35.
Since joining the Orange and Blue ahead of the 2022 season, Noonan has changed the trajectory of the club by guiding them to two consecutive playoff appearances after they were left in the basement in their first three campaigns of existence.
Cincinnati’s 3-2 triumph over Toronto FC saw them capture the 2023 Supporters’ Shield title, which is awarded to the best MLS team over the regular season — similar to most other leagues around the world, where the most consistent team at the end of a campaign is crowned champions and finishes in first place.
“It’s a big achievement and maybe that conversation is different years back. But for me, it’s the consistency of a team over the course of a season,” Noonan said. “For me now, even my own opinion of this has changed. I think [the Supporters’ Shield] has now surpassed MLS Cup in terms of relevance.”
On the surface, Noonan’s comments make sense as many divisions around the globe use the entire season to judge the best side in their respective leagues without playoffs and with each team playing each other.
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However, in MLS, it’s a little difficult to say the same thing can apply. Each club plays 34 games in total — 17 home and 17 away — playing each team in their respective conference twice while also playing six teams from the opposite conference as well. This means the winner of the Supporters’ Shield is sometimes taken with a grain of salt due to how difficult their schedule is and the fact that they don’t play every team in MLS.
“That’s not to take away the desire for our team to hold the MLS Cup trophy,” Noonan added. “But for that group to be the top team over the course of the season, I think it’s very meaningful. The hope is we can find a way to achieve both, but that’s how I feel about the Supporters’ Shield.”
Cincinnati, now having secured the best record in the league atop the Eastern Conference table with 65 points, will look to add to their tally when they take on New York Red Bulls on October 4 at TQL Stadium.
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