With the 2023 MLS season well underway, theres one thing everybody immediately looks for on the schedule, the rivalries! MLS is blessed with many passionate and fiery rivalries, all of which can be considered much watch soccer that is a key component on what makes the league what it is. Here are what we consider the best five rivalries in the MLS, all of which make for incredible viewing.
5. Columbus Crew vs FC Cincinnati – Hell Is Real Derby
Despite Columbus having been in MLS twenty-three years longer than Cincinnati, this rivalry didn’t need much to get it off the ground. – It didn’t even need both teams in the MLS! In 2017, Cincy was a USL team when they shocked the Crew in a 1-0 in the US Open Cup, and from there the rivalry hasn’t looked back.
Right from the start of Cincinnati being in the MLS, this rivalry has been one of the most passionate in the league. Crowds are always big, loud, and full of colour. Cincinnati took a huge step forward in 2022 after a rocky beginning to life in MLS, so expect this rivalry to only get better and better as time goes on!
4. New York Red Bulls vs New York City FC – Hudson River Derby
On the surface, this seems like a soulless derby between a team that sold its soul to an energy drink, and a team that is a Manchester City side projected. But that’s the beauty of this rivalry, it ranks so highly because of what the New York (and New Jersey) fans have made it.
NYRB fans like to make fun of NYCFC for playing in a baseball stadium, whilst NYCFC likes to remind NYRB that they aren’t truly a New York club. There is always a lot of noise and colour involved, and sometimes unfortunately even violence! But one thing is for sure, this is a must-watch MLS fixture.
S. 2 Ep. 17 – Can Canada Hold Herdman – FC13 Podcast
3. Los Angeles Galaxy vs Los Angeles FC – El Traffico
MLS’ Hollywood derby started with a bang in 2017. Galaxy won the first ever derby between the two by a score of 4-3, and that set the tone for a fiery and entertaining rivalry. Two men so far in particular have dominated the rivalry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has nine goals in this fixture from just two seasons. Whilst LAFC striker Carlos Vela has been with his side ever since their first season, and has ten derby goals.
The teams have been involved in two of the best MLS playoff games in recent history. First a 5-3 shootout win for LAFC in 2019, then in 2022 – where with the score tied at 2-2, Cristian Arango scored a last-minute winner to secure a famous win for the black and gold! This season, the two teams look set to meet at the famous Los Angeles Rose Bowl, where they will surely break the all-time MLS attendance record.
2. Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers – Cascadia Cup
One of the oldest soccer rivalries in North America. Seattle vs Portland goes all the back to 1975 when both teams were in the old NASL. They’ve both been in the MLS since 2011, and it almost instantly became one of the most high-profile fixtures in all of North America. The relatively close distance between the two cities allows for much cross-state travel of away fans, which considering both fans are amongst the loudest in the league – creates a special atmosphere in the fixture.
Seattle and Portland alongside fellow Pacific North Westerners Vancouver Whitecaps FC compete for the Cascadia Cup every year, a tournament used to decide the best team in the region. This combined with many high profile playoff fixtures stretching all the way back to the seventies creates a lot of animosity, and a deep hatred between the two that will never go away.
1. Toronto FC vs CF Montreal – Canadian Classique
Canada’s premier soccer rivalry is also arguably the most heated, passionate, and intense soccer rivalry in MLS. These two cities don’t like each other, and although on the pitch the rivalry has only existed since 2008, it has sure made up for lost time. There have been many flashpoints; from the 6-0 Toronto win dubbed the “Miracle in Montreal in 2009”, and the revenge game in 2013 where Montreal won 6-0…to back to back MLS playoffs in 2015 and 2016. Both teams have also dominated the Canadian Championship, accounting for thirteen of the fifteen titles won in that competition.
Games between these two in the MLS are personified by amazing atmospheres with decibel levels that rival any league in Europe. It’s Anglophone Canada vs Francophone Canada, Ontario vs Quebec, Canada’s financial centre vs Canada’s cultural centre. People from these two cities simply do not like each other, and more often than not – can’t stand each other. You can even go as far back as the Seven Years War between Great Britain and France back in the seventeen-hundreds as the origin for why these two hate each other, nearly three-hundred years ago! The two solitudes might be synonymous with hockey, but for those of a soccer persuasion, it doesn’t get bigger than Toronto FC vs CF Montreal.
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