The inaugural MLS Cup final in 1996 turned out to be a thriller as D.C. United defeated the LA Galaxy 3-2 on a golden goal in overtime. Including that contest, Major League Soccer has awarded the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy to a total of 13 different teams in 24 years. Which team has won the most MLS Cups?
Multiple teams with one MLS Cup title
When MLS started 25 years ago, one of its main goals was to be a parity-centric league. The number of different MLS Cup winners in that time period confirms the league has accomplished just that.
Incredibly, there have been 13 different winners. Of those 13, seven of them are one-time winners, including Chicago, which won in the third MLS season of 1998.
The Fire are joined by Atlanta (2018), Colorado (2010), Portland (2015), Real Salt Lake (2009), and Toronto (2017).
There are plenty of two-time MLS Cup winners
The next level of champions with two trophies further verifies the MLS has achieved its goal of parity, with four teams achieving the feat.
Sporting Kansas City is the club with the longest gap in between championships. In fact, the first time Kansas City won the title the club was known as the Wizards back in 2000. Sporting KC captured the organization’s second title in 2013.
The Houston Dynamo won its titles in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007, while the San Jose Earthquakes claimed their pair of MLS Cups during a three-year stretch in 2001 and 2003.
The Seattle Sounders are the most recent club to win it twice. They claimed their first championship in 2016 and their second last year in 2019. The Columbus Crew won their first title in 2008 and joined the two-time championship club defeating the Sounders to capture the 2020 title
D.C. United has won four MLS Cups
While MLS set out to have parity from the start, it didn’t appear to succeed in its mission during those early years. D.C. United won the first MLS Cup in 1996 over the LA Galaxy and then followed it up the next season defeating the Colorado Rapids for the title.
In 1998, the Chicago Fire broke through and won the club’s first MLS Cup title and did so against, you guessed it, D.C. United. In the fourth MLS season, D.C. United faced a familiar foe in a rematch of the inaugural MLS Cup against the LA Galaxy. United won 2-0 and had won the title three times in the first four seasons of the league.
Following the 1999 MLS season, D.C. United didn’t appear in another MLS Cup until 2004, which the team won, defeating the Kansas City Wizards, 3-2. Since that victory, D.C. United has not made another appearance in the MLS Cup Finals.
LA Galaxy are the unquestioned king of kings
The LA Galaxy is the undeniable leader in both appearances and wins in MLS Cup history. The club has appeared in the title game a record nine times, winning five. Unlike D.C. United’s wins, which happened in a relatively short period of time (eight seasons), the Galaxy distributed its success over a dozen years.
The Galaxy suffered three MLS Cup defeats in 1996, 1999, and 2001 before ever tasting victory. That finally occurred in 2002, when the team defeated the New England Revolution, 1-0 in overtime. Three years later, the Galaxy replicated its winning efforts defeating the Revolution again 1-0 in overtime.
The Galaxy lost for a fourth time in 2009 to Real Salt Lake, but returned to the top of MLS in 2011, defeating the Houston Dynamo, in the first of back-to-back MLS Cup wins over Houston. In 2014, the Galaxy captured its third title in four seasons, defeating the New England Revolution.
Interestingly, the Galaxy’s championship broke the tie with D.C. United as the club won its fifth MLS Cup title, while the Revolution suffered a league-high fifth MLS Cup loss, three of them to LA.