Kansas City Chiefs on brink of rare achievement with back-to-back Super Bowl titles in sight
Ben Morse, CNN | 2/10/2024, 8:53 a.m.
The Kansas City Chiefs are already in rarefied territory.
With two Super Bowl titles to their name and playing in their fourth in five seasons, they have become the newest NFL juggernaut.
Their appearance in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday in Las Vegas is their second in as many years and gives them the opportunity to achieve a feat which has not been done in the NFL in 20 years and is often regarded as the most difficult thing to do in sports: win back-to-back titles.
The Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling encounter at last year’s Super Bowl, and despite having a subpar regular season, flipped the switch in the playoffs to book their spot in Nevada.
But retaining the Vince Lombardi Trophy is a different kettle of fish.
Whether it be waning motivation, issues with the salary cap, hungrier rivals or the passing of time, repeating success requires a unique skillset which even some of the greats struggle to master.
Some of US sports’ legendary teams have had the ability to retain their titles – from the 1990s Chicago Bulls to the late 90s-early 00s New York Yankees, both of which achieved three-peats (winning a championship three years in a row) – but with NFL teams facing one-and-done elimination games in the postseason, the pressure is even higher than most other sports.
The last team to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles was the New England Patriots – led by the famous combination of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady – doing so in 2003 and 2004.
Seven teams in total have won consecutive Super Bowl titles, with the Pittsburgh Steelers being the only team to do so twice.
It’s not just hard in football…
Difficulty in defending a title isn’t a problem exclusive to the NFL though. Across the US, teams in the four main sports have long struggled to replicate their success over consecutive seasons.
Since the Yankees team of the early 2000s, which won MLB’s World Series three times in a row, no team has repeated as champion.
Back-to-back Stanley Cup winners have happened twice since the turn of the millennium: first, the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017 and, then, the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021.
Conversely, the cult of forming super teams in professional basketball has meant that repeat champions in the NBA are much more common. Since 2000, the Los Angeles Lakers have achieved the feat twice – first, winning a three-peat from 1999/00 to 2001/02 and then repeating in 2008/09 and 2009/10 – the Miami Heat won the title in 2011/12 and 2012/13 and the Golden State Warriors did it in 2016/17 and 2017/18.
In soccer, the feat remains difficult. The US Women’s National Team won two World Cups in a row in 2015 and 2019 and entered last year’s edition aiming for a historic three-peat – no nation has ever won three consecutive World Cups in either the men’s or women’s game.
However, the team failed to maintain the high standards it had set itself, losing in the round-of-16 to Sweden.
In men’s club soccer since 2000, only an iconic Real Madrid side led by Cristiano Ronaldo won three UEFA Champions Leagues in a row from 2016 to 2018, while Spain is the only country to ever win three major international championships in a row – Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Opportunity to make history
This season offers the Chiefs their second chance to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles, having reached consecutive Super Bowls in 2020 and 2021.
They beat the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LIV in 2020 before losing to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year later.
Having won against the Eagles in Arizona last year, the Chiefs could cement their emerging dynasty with victory against the 49ers in Las Vegas.