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MLS rejects Sounders’ request to wear CCL winner’s patch during ’22

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Somewhat quietly and with little fanfare, the Pro Shop at Lumen Field recently began offering fans the opportunity to add a Concacaf Champions League winner’s patch to current jerseys. Sounder at Heart has confirmed that the Sounders will wear these patches for the July 9 game against the Portland Timbers as part of a larger celebration of the CCL title, which will also include the raising of the championship banner from the rafters of the LumenField.

The patch is gold and will be affixed to the center of the chest, between the adidas logo and the team crest. The Pro Shop has said that they will add it to any of the current jerseys for $12, while supplies last.

Interestingly though, the current plan is for the Sounders to only use it on the field once. The only way they would wear the patch again is if they compete in next year’s CCL, despite the Sounders requesting permission to wear it more often.

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“We spent a lot of time talking to the team and what their focus was, this was driven by them,” said Taylor Graham, Sounders director of revenue and marketing. “The team’s preference was to use it for every MLS game starting July 9, and that’s not the result we got.”

Exactly why the Sounders weren’t allowed to wear the CCL patch in more than one game wasn’t immediately clear. After several emails to MLS officials seeking comment and clarification, there was no response.

In researching the most appropriate way to celebrate their historic victory, Sounders officials discovered that there is no worldwide standard for this type of achievement. In Europe, for example, the winner of the Champions League wears an arm patch during the following season, but only when he competes in the tournament. Notably, the winner of the UCL is guaranteed a place in the next tournament, which guarantees that the team has a chance to use the patch, while the winner of the CCL has no such guarantee. The chest area has been reserved for a patch in honor of the Club World Cup winner, which Chelsea wore in all the competitions they entered during the 2021-22 campaign.

In South America, however, the winners of the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana wear their patches in all competitions the following season. In Mexico, there is no formal policy, but teams like Monterrey have started putting stars under their shield to signify continental championships.

Complicating the situation in MLS is that the league had not yet created a policy for holding a CCL title, in part because it had never been an issue before. However, there has been an evolving way of recognizing MLS Cup winners.

From 2006 to 2011, the MLS winners wore a “scudetto” patch on the arm to indicate their status as reigning league champions and then a permanent star was placed above the crest a year later. The arm patch was discontinued in 2012. In 2016, what is effectively the foundation of the current system was established, with a gold star on the reigning winner’s jersey, silver stars to indicate previous championships, and a “mega” star. to signify five titles. In 2019, that changed again with the fall of the “mega” star. In 2020, a version of the scudetto returned, with winners earning a modified MLS logo patch that has an MLS Cup inside. At the time, it was widely suggested that MLS should similarly honor the US Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and potential CCL winners, but apparently that didn’t gain much traction in the league office for unknown reasons. With space on the shirt so limited, this would have seemed like an elegant solution.

Given that MLS officials refused to be available to explain their reasoning, one can only speculate why they are reluctant to celebrate CCL winners in a more robust way. MLS Commissioner Don Garber himself called the CCL final “the biggest game in league history” but apparently sees no value in allowing the Sounders to publicly celebrate the achievement at every game. It’s a head-scratching decision to say the least.

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