Thanks to the formation of the MLS, football has grown from being just an afterthought to one of the top sporting competitions in North America. Since the league was launched in 1996, the competition has grown into a behemoth hosting 27 teams spread across two countries. It has seen teams sprout from nothing mixing local prodigies with some of the biggest names in the game. This eclectic mix of styles has fashioned unpredictability with no less than 13 different teams winning the season-ending MLS Cup final. But which of these teams have been able to repeat these feats on multiple occasions? Here are the most successful MLS clubs so far.
7 most successful MLS clubs
San Jose Earthquakes (2 victories)
The San Jose Earthquakes boast a unique stat in the MLS, they are the only team to retain a 100% record in the MLS Cup final. The Earthquakes were victorious twice in the early 2000s winning the title in both 2001 and 2003. Boasting legendary national icons such as Landon Donovan and Jeff Agoos on the pitch, it was no surprise to see the Californian side dominate opponents in a relatively short time frame.
The 2003 triumph was particularly notable as they beat Chicago Fire 4-2 in a game where Donovan scored a brace as well as seeing the first ever penalty kick and own goal in the grand final itself. There’s always something happening when San Jose reach the final
Sporting Kansas City (2 victories)
Another of the most successful MLS clubs, Sporting Kansas City are a team that has some of the most dedicated fans in the entire league. It’s why it seems only appropriate that their support has been awarded with 2 MLS Cup victories in 2000 and 2013. Their first triumph came in 2000 when Kansas (known as the Wizards then) beat Chicago 1-0 thanks to an early strike by Miklos Molnar. It was a big win at the time as they outfoxed their star-studded opponents who were led by Bulgarian great Hristo Stocihkov.
Their 2013 victory came on home soil in a tense encounter against Real Salt Lake where they emerged victors after a 7-6 penalty shootout. The game is notorious for having the longest shootout in MLS history as well as being the coldest final to ever been held in the league. It was a victory that has marked the longest distance between two MLS Cup wins for any side in the competition.
Columbus Crew (2 victories)
Whilst Columbus often lacks the big budgets of other sides, they have not been shy of success. The Ohio side have won the big game twice – in 2008 and again in 2020. The first win was a dominant victory as Columbus beat New York RB 3-1 in a match where both sides made their debuts in the MLS Cup match. Having experienced defeat in 2015, Columbus were once again successful in 2020 where they emerged as the best side in a disrupted competition.
It was here where the Crew beat the all-conquering Seattle Sounders who were the defending champions. At home, the Crew were dominant winning 3-0 thanks to a brace from playmaker Lucas Zelarayan. It was the perfect way for Columbus to end their match at their old home as they would move to a brand new stadium at the start of the 2021 season.
Houston Dynamo (2 victories)
For the Houston Dynamo, playing in the MLS Cup has been a mixed success. The Texas side have a 50% strike rate in the MLS Cup having won twice (2006 & 2007) and having lost twice (2011 & 2012). Regardless, they remain one of the most successful clubs in MLS history.
In their title winning years, the Dynamo were excellent to watch. Houston had an excellent array of talent with national stars such as Chris Wondolowski and Brian Ching as well as foreign stars such as Dwayne De Rosario and Paul Dalglish. The spine of this team outlasted the New England Revolution in 2006 in a dramatic penalty shootout before repeating the feat against the same opponents one year later in a 2-1 victory. It was an excellent double for the Dynamo that have been searching for a third title ever since.
Seattle Sounders (2 victories)
Some teams enjoy success in eras and the 2010s very much belonged to the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders dominated the latter part of the decade featuring in four MLS Cup finals from 2016-2020. In a side loaded with talent such as Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz, it allowed the Sounders to consistently reach the pinnacle of the league.
Their first win spoilt the party for opponents and hosts Toronto as the American side won the match on penalties to win the first ever final held outside of the USA. In 2019, they prevented Toronto exacting their revenge as they would win 3-1 on home turf to ensure the trophy stayed within home boundaries. It is the case of a team who are very much in the run of their existence so far.
DC United (4 victories)
In the early days of the MLS, it seemed like DC were nigh on unbeatable. United were an ever-present in the MLS Cup game appearing in the first four finals winning 3 of them in 1996,1997 & 1999. Their team was a mix of superstars from home and abroad with local stars such as Eddie Pope leading the line alongside top imports such as Jaime Moreno. This, combined with the guidance of Bruce Arena, allowed DC to dominate the early editions of the tournament.
Their fourth success came just a few years later in 2004 where they narrowly beat Kansas City 3-2. DC’s squad was alight with talent including Ryan Nelsen, Jaime Moreno and the highly energetic Freddie Adu. Since the 2004 win, DC United have struggled in the competition and will no doubtedly be craving a fifth title someday soon.
LA Galaxy (5 victories)
You only need to take a quick look at the list of players for LA Galaxy to realise why they are top of the most successful clubs in MLS history. The list includes David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Steven Gerrard and many other all-time greats of the game. Mix this in with leading home-grown stars such as Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan & Gyasi Zardes and you see why LA have been so consistent in their victories.
It has always meant that LA have been one of the top sides to beat in the league and that they are also found in the last few games of the season. It is why the Galaxy lead the MLS in both all-time MLS Cup appearances and overall victories making them the most successful side in MLS history.
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