One season, four cups – How would you prioritize?

One of the more fascinating features of professional soccer is that you can have multiple chances to win trophies inside a single season. It is such an exciting proposition that the NBA just held its first in-season tournament. Major League Baseball has even started to take the World Baseball Classic more seriously than before.

Of course, nobody does multiple cups quite like the Brits. British Premier League fans can root for their teams to win the, the FA Cup, the League Cup or the EFL Trophy for winning first place in the league. And the top teams go on to compete in UEFA’s Championship or Europa leagues, for entry into the new FIFA Intercontinental Cup or the now-quadrennial FIFA Club World Cup.

On this side of the pond, our own cups runneth over as well. In addition to the US Open Cup, American soccer has the MLS Cup, the CONCACAF Cup, and the Leagues Cup. With all these competitions, an MLS team could theoretically play as many as 54 games this coming season, as Tim Jones wrote here in PSP earlier this week,

That worst case scenario for schedule congestion begs important questions for any MLS team: What are your priorities? Which trophy/trophies do you most want to win? And therefore, what’s your plan?

Here is a closer look at all the possible competitions clubs like the Union could theoretically enter, and what’s in store for the teams and their fans.

Supporter’s Shield

  • Trophy – Won by the team finishing with the best regular season record, as determined by the MLS points system. Awarded by the Supporters Shield Foundation, it weighs 35 pounds (16 kg) and is made of sterling silver and stainless steel.
  • 2023 Winner – Cincinnati FC, 34 games, 69 points
  • Prize money – $0
  • Cup Placement(s) – MLS Cup

A cynic might say that MLS really doesn’t care whether you’re the season’s best team or not. MLS contributes no prize money and not even a trophy, but you do get a $20,000 minimum for entering the MLS Cup’s first round.

Winning the league might actually be a better indicator for eventual failure in the MLS Cup – Shield winners have raised that Cup only eight out of 28 try’s. This year’s final match was played by two regular season third-place teams.

Other countries are far more generous to their season champs.  The Premier League awarded $54.4 million to last year’s winners. You would think MLS could afford at least 1% of that for the Shield.  After all, the regular season is what sells season tickets.

Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

  • Trophy – Dewar Challenge Trophy. The old trophy, the historic Dewar Cup, sits in U.S. Soccer’s headquarters in Chicago’s South Loop. Standing over three feet high and weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 pounds, a copy is raised by the winner of the knockout tournament open to any qualifying professional or amateur soccer club in the USA.
  • 2023 Winner – Houston Dynamo
  • Prize money – $300k for first place, $100k for second.
  • Cup Placement – Concacaf Champions Cup.

It is the country’s oldest ongoing national soccer competition, first held during the 1913–1914 season as the National Challenge Cup.

Purists hold it in greater esteem than do the MLS and its fans, who usually don’t show much interest until their teams makes it into the Semis or Finals. And again, there’s a big pay gap. FA Cup winners in England get $2.5 million. Second place in Spain’s Copa del Rey gets twice what the US Open Cup winners will get.


  • Trophy – Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Crafted from sterling silver by the renowned Tiffany & Co., it stands two feet tall, on a seamless base of 4 5/8 inches. It sports 11 facets on the front and back, symbolizing the 22 players that participate in a soccer match
  • 2023 Winner – Columbus Crew
  • Prize money – $300,00 First Place; $150k Second
  • Cup Placement – Concacaf Champions Cup

As says, “The prize money for winning the MLS Cup is not franchise-altering…. but earning another trophy goes a long way for any club building further credibility with its fan base and financial partners,” according to

So it’s not all about the prize money. By comparison, the Israeli Sports Betting Council pays that country’s Toto Cup winner $338k. The real focus is qualifying for….

Concacaf Champions League (Cup, not “League” in 2024)

  • Trophy – The Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League trophy. Features the Concacaf ‘Unity Symbol’, with the 41 Concacaf Member Associations represented by a diamond. The trophy ‘s 16 spears signify the participating clubs in the tournament.
  • 2023 Winner – Club Leon, Liga MX
  • Prize money – $500k First Place; $300k Second; $200k Semi-Finalist. A significant increase to prize money for the 2024 tournament has been announced but not specified.
  • Cup Placement – FIFA Intercontinental Cup

The Concacaf Champions Cup is a direct elimination knockout tournament with five rounds: The first four stages each include home and away play, while the final, where the region’s champion will be crowned, is played as a single-leg match on a weekend date.

Three regional cup competitions – Leagues Cup, Concacaf Central American Cup, and Concacaf Caribbean Cup – are played in the fall of each year and qualify clubs for the Concacaf Champions Cup.

$500k may not sound like much, but it’s better than winning the MLS Cup. However, you’ll have to go through some tough Liga MX clubs to do it. Of all the FIFA confederations, only the Oceania Football Championship League is stingier than the Concacaf Champions Cup, with a paltry $175,000 going to the OFC champs.

Leagues Cup

  • Trophy – The Leagues Cup isn’t any old cup. “It’s stout, more a chalice than a cup. It looks like it belongs on the shelves of the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City … the Leagues Cup trophy is easily the best in the world.” (Oliver Strand, writing for
  • 2023 Winner – Inter Miami CF
  • Prize money – $2 million to the winner. $100,000 per knockout appearance, $50,000 per knockout win.
  • Cup Placement – Concacaf Champions Cup

Widely decried as a naked money grab for MLS and Apple TV, favoritism toward MLS teams and poor match officiating, purists are also revulsed by Miami virtually “buying” the Cup this year by importing Leo & Co.

But the trophy is objectively gorgeous, and the money is the best money you can get, short of getting into the FIFA Intercontinental Cup or selling your best homegrowns overseas.

FIFA Intercontinental Cup

  • Trophy – Unknown
  • 2023 Winner – It’s a new annual competition, starting in 2024
  • Prize money – Unknown
  • Cup Placement – 2025 Club World Cup

Set to commence for the first time between 14-18 July 2024, the recently created Intercontinental Cup will be an annual tournament that is set to feature teams from all six continental football federations.

The winner of the early rounds will then come up against the UEFA Champions League winner in the last two, meaning a European side is guaranteed in the final of the competition every year.

According to “The Intercontinental Cup, alongside the revised Club World Cup that will be a month-long summer tournament, has drawn criticism from many corners amid the ongoing debate about the sheer volume of football played in the modern game….

There has already been significant voiced concern over the vast amount of football that is now played, with players at the top of the game particularly overworked due to their club and national team commitments.”

FIFA Club World Cup

  • Trophy – The FIFA Club World Championship Cup weighs 11 pounds and stands 20 inches tall. It is made out of a combination of brass, copper, sterling silver, gilding metal, aluminum, chrome and rhodium. The trophy itself is gold plated. The design, according to FIFA, shows six staggered pillars, representing the six participating teams from the respective six confederations, and one separate metal structure referencing the winner of the competition. They hold up a globe in the shape of a football. (
  • 2023 Winner – Manchester City
  • Prize money – $5 million to the winner
  • Cup Placement – This is the Big One for international club competition.

The FIFA-organized club football tournament has included the champions of the six continental confederations, as well as the host nation’s league champions. The 2023 edition played in December was the last seven-team Club World Cup before the tournament is expanded to 32 teams in 2025 and becomes a quadrennial tournament.

According to, “The Club World Cup is unique. Soccer is the only major professional sport that…crowns a world champion amongst club teams. That is a real-world championship where you have to defeat other continental champion teams worldwide. It is not the NFL or MLB’s idea of a “world” champion….”

But the competition has never carried as much prestige as you might think. Unlike its international cousin, the regular World Cup, which captivates the entire planet for a month, even the soccer world barely blinks an eye at the Club World Cup.

In the USA, the competition gets no publicity. After a few years on FOX Sports, this year the tournament was not on TV at all. Games streamed for free on FIFA+.

But it’s coming to the USA in 2025.


  1. Great summary Matt. There has also been talk of Concacaf teams being included in either Libertadores or a special version that includes champs from South America. I believe teams will be determined from CCC results, plus Messi & co (just because!).
    So the benefits of going after CCC cannot be understated. The credibility factor is huge in this tournament, and from a financial perspective you get to host games during each leg to boost club revenue – plus the prize cash.
    I think Concacaf/Scotiabank/Fox Sports do an absolutely horrible job of marketing the event, as so many fans are completely unaware that it exists, when it means, and why they should attend/watch.
    I attended the home leg vs Atlas last year in frigid temps with a sparsely filled Soob, and it was a blast FWIW.
    To answer the question – my priorities are: 1) CCC, 2) SS, 3) MLS Cup, 4) Leagues Cup.
    SS/MLS Cup – thinking here is that if you take the MLS reg. season seriously, you’ll at least prove worthy of making a run at the cup. The cup tournament itself is a little bit tricky to “go after” considering how many unknowns there are so far away from the playoffs.
    Despite the big prize $… I don’t like the idea of running yourself into the ground in pursuit of this trophy given the calendar and mileage on the team. Roll with second choice players and see how far they can take you, and throw in the regulars if there’s something for the taking. If roster rules are expanded and spending can increase to provide depth, then that’s a different story… but that seems to be a long ways off sadly.

  2. Chris Gibbons says:

    I was highly skeptical of the endless international tournaments last season. In the end, they were exponentially more fun than the MLS regular season, which at this point seems almost entirely meaningless and devoid of character (part of that is the league’s relative lack of historical rivalries and part of that is the Apple effect of not being able to watch other teams play during the same window as the one you follow).

  3. Last year we saw what a crapshoot that single game elimination tournaments are. One missed offsides call and you are out. With CCC, at least it is a two game series until the finals, although even that has some randomness. Normally I would put Supporters Shield at the top of the list, but with so many players missing games throughout the season due to scheduling issues with other competitions, it’s hard to get excited about that.
    So my priority is to see how much money I can get for selling my tickets for the game against Inter Messi and hopefully get enough to break even for the money I spent on season tickets.

    • Eric Boyle says:

      I thought the same thing re: Inter Messi, but will Messi be here or on international duty for the Copa America when Miami comes to the Soob?

  4. …. struggle with the US Open Cup downgrade as per Don Garber where MLS will no longer prioritize the event and basically send second teams to it throughout.
    I struggle with MLS in general. It’s what we have and I’ve tried to embrace it all the while knowing The One Ring along with its clear policy dictation to the arc of US Soccer is ultimately a virus. It is a disease.
    As I’ve explained to a friend regarding the state of US Soccer on multiple occasions some often heated exchanges…. a person (system) can live with a virus…
    …… but ‘you’ are never healthy.
    Obviously winning MLS Cup is the goal of any season but like Andy above… I always thought winning Supporters Shield then capturing that elusive CONCACAF title was a sign of– ‘we are in fact the best team.’
    And if you haven’t gleaned it yet…. I am really bummed with how US Open Cup has been relegated (pun intended) in priority by MLS. This is so in tune and in line with what MLS has done to the game in our country… the one event which is INCLUSIVE.
    Fuck off MLS. Hey when do Union kick off the season? 🙂

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Agreed on your Open Cup sentiments. Always fun going down to the stadium to watch the Union take on Rochester or Ocean City or Harrisburg. Of course we haven’t had a chance to do that since 2018, the last time they won (or hosted) an Open Cup game.

  5. Campeones Cup erasure! ; )


    I don’t think the Union have the talent/depth to win CCC or even Leagues Cup. I’d say throw your best at USOC (gonna guess MLS are forced to play) and keep your head above water during the regular season to make a run at MLS Cup.

  6. John P. O'Donnell says:

    So many choices and so much revenue now but the question is how does it benefit the actual team?
    Winning a trophy is about players accomplishing a goal and maybe spraying some adult beverages to celebrate that achievement.
    Beyond that, I’m interested what’s the deal with the cash. The new CONCACAF Champions Cup is now rumored to pay five million to the winner and another five million divided for the rest of the teams but I’m not sure how or how much.
    This years winner of CCC punches the last CONCACAF ticket for the new Club World Cup besides who ever the host team might be in 2025. The rumor of just getting into the tournament is 50 million and 2.5 billion in prize money. The winner might walk away with over 400 million.
    My question would be if the Union won CCC and a round or two in the CWC how would that money get distributed? Does it all go to the players, does it go to the team for… Buying more players?
    That being said, this year my list is
    1. CONCACAF Champions Cup
    2. MLS Cup
    3. Leagues Cup
    4. US Open Cup
    5. Supporters’ Shield
    Winning CCC I believe in the future will be prestigious. It’s a global sport and the globe is shrinking all the time now. Winning UEFA Champions Cup right now is the top of the pyramid for Club football. Now with the expanded Club World Cup and the prize money that’s rumored the four remaining federations outside Europe & South America have some serious prize money on the line.
    It’s FIFA’S dream to wrestle some of UEFA’S power away from them and give the rest of the world more inclusion. Will see if that happens but right now there putting plenty of prize money out there to draw teams in.

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