For teams in the United States and Canada, there are three "major" domestic trophies.
The primary focus is the league championship, a postseason knockout tournament held between the best teams from the regular season. This is presently determined via the MLS Cup. Secondary is the best regular season record, what is known as a league premiership in other countries, the holder of which is awarded the Supporters' Shield.
American and Canadian sports leagues typically have such "playoff" systems. These have their roots in long travel distances common in US and Canadian sports; to cut down on travel, leagues are typically aligned in geographic divisions and feature unbalanced schedules with teams playing more matches against opponents in the same division. Due to the unbalanced schedule typical in US and Canadian leagues, not all teams face the same opponents, and some teams may not meet during a regular season at all. This results in teams with identical records that have faced different opponents differing numbers of times, making team records alone an imperfect measure of league supremacy. The playoffs allow for head-to-head elimination-style competition between teams to counterbalance this.
Then, there are the two countries' respective national championships: the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup or the Canadian Championship, cup competitions that are independent of league play. These are unique features of soccer in the US and Canada, as no other major team sport has such tournaments, and typically lesser-known than league play.
Internationally, available to US and Canadian clubs are the continental championship (determined by the CONCACAF Champions League, to which the winner of each of the trophies mentioned above qualifies with an additional berth currently given to the MLS Cup runner-up), and the world championship (determined by the FIFA Club World Cup, a berth to which is earned by winning the Champions League).
American and Canadian soccer clubs exist in a franchise system, rather than a promotion and relegation system. As a result, Division 2 and Division 3 champions do not change levels the next season. This is standard among American and Canadian major and minor sports leagues, and is part of the franchise rights granted by the leagues. If a team was to be relegated from MLS, it would in part breach the contract between the club owner and the league.
Recently, a trend has developed where a club from the lower divisions may be "promoted" via an expansion franchise awarded by Major League Soccer if they were to display a solid fanbase and secure a proper stadium, but a team winning a Division 2 or Division 3 title has no effect on their place in the soccer pyramid. However, in Divisions 5 through 9, which are sanctioned by the USASA, promotion and relegation is used, likely because of the close proximity of teams and their amateur status.
The results in this article come from the United States Soccer Federation, the Canadian Soccer Association, the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation, and the American Soccer History Archives.
Read more about this topic: List Of American And Canadian Soccer Champions
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