If there was one thing we learned from the chaotic finishes across Major League Soccer on Saturday, it was that the race for the Supporters' Shield will end up being one of the most riveting in the history of the league.
Last season, the San Jose Earthquakes ran away with the title in what was a dream, 66-point season for former manager Frank Yallop and Co.
Now that the Earthquakes have faded away considerably, a new Supporters' Shield champion will be named at the end of the 2013 season.
As Wednesday's All-Star Game versus Serie A's AS Roma approaches, there are 10 clubs within five points of leaders Real Salt Lake, who have somehow held on at top despite having stars like Alvaro Saborio, Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman away on international duty for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
|Real Salt Lake||22||37|
|Sporting Kansas City||22||36|
|New York Red Bulls||22||35|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||22||33|
RSL, who currently sit on 37 points, have had a rocky few weeks without their star players, but once the squad returns to full strength, everyone around the league expects Jason Kreis' club to be firing on all cylinders once again.
Sitting just one point behind the leaders at the All-Star break are Sporting Kansas City, who stole a win away from RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium just last week on a controversial stoppage time header by Ike Opara. Sporting have the best chance of overtaking RSL for the Supporters' Shield as they boast plenty of in-form stars like Graham Zusi, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler and Kei Kamara.
Unfortunately for MLS fans, Sporting and RSL will not see each other again during the regular season, and the next time they could face each other is in the MLS Cup final.
While that would be a final matchup deserving of the occasion, a lot has to be decided from now until the first full weekend in December. As for the other clubs in the Supporters' Shield hunt, they all have a legitimate chance at catching RSL for the regular-season title.
Sitting in third place after their dramatic win over Real Salt Lake this weekend are the New York Red Bulls, who will undoubtedly use Saturday's comeback win at home as a great midseason boost and momentum booster.
Joining the Red Bulls at 35 points after a dramatic win of their own are the Montreal Impact, who have have come back to the pack of late after flying out of the gate early this season.
A pair of surprising clubs sit directly behind New York and Montreal, with the Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids poised to make a run at the Supporters' Shield for the first time in their respective club histories.
Following them is a quintet of Western Conference clubs led by the Los Angeles Galaxy, who will make themselves a contender for the Supporters' Shield once Landon Donovan returns from the Gold Cup and Robbie Keane completely heals from his hip injury suffered on July 14 in Portland.
The prospect of the Galaxy waiting in the wings in eighth place with 33 points is a dangerous one, as the two-time defending MLS Cup champions will begin to make their trademark second-half run. The Galaxy cannot be counted out of the discussion, but neither can the Portland Timbers, who sit on 34 points and have experienced the best season in their young MLS history under first-year manager Caleb Porter.
There is much overall parity in the league this year, and both conferences have viable Supporters' Shield contenders.
If you asked me right now who will win the 2013 Supporters' Shield, I would fail to give you a clear-cut answer. But if I was forced to pick, I would guess the winner will come from Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City.
Who do you think will win the Supporters' Shield this season?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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