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MLS Rivalries: Adding Intensity and Excitement to Soccer Season

MLS Rivalries and Their Significance

Are you a diehard soccer fan looking to add a little extra excitement to your MLS experience? Or maybe you’re new to the soccer scene and are looking for some context on the rivalries between different teams.

Whatever your level of knowledge, this article will provide a detailed look at the most significant MLS rivalries and what makes them so special. Cascadia Cup: Sounders-Timbers Rivalry

Starting off with one of the most prominent rivalries in MLS, the Cascadia Cup sees the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers go head to head.

These two teams have been battling it out since the 1970s and have a long-standing history that dates back to the NASL days. The Cascadia Cup, which was established in 2004, is a fan-based competition that awards points to the teams that win the regular-season matches between the Sounders, Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps.

El Trfico: Galaxy-LAFC Rivalry

In 2018, the Los Angeles soccer scene was transformed when LAFC was added as MLS’s newest expansion team. The creation of this team set the stage for the formation of a brand new rivalry – El Trfico.

One of the main figures in this rivalry is LAFC’s star forward Carlos Vela, who currently holds the record for most goals in a single MLS season. With both of these franchises based in LA and competing for supremacy in the city, this rivalry has quickly become one of the most intense in the league.

Atlantic Cup: DC United-Red Bulls Rivalry

A player trade between DC United and the NY Red Bulls in 1996 marked the start of this East Coast rivalry. Initially, the Red Bulls held the upper hand, but over the years, DC United has come back strong.

The rivalry between these two teams gained popularity due to their meetings in the playoffs during the late ’90s and the early 2000s. Today, the Atlantic Cup is the prize that fans yearn for in the meetings of these two teams annually.

California Clsico: Galaxy-Earthquakes Rivalry

The California Clsico is a rivalry between two California-based teams – the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes. This is another rivalry that has been around since the NASL days and has continued to thrive in the MLS era.

The rivalry comes to life every year during the Heritage Cup, a competition that remembers the glory days of the NASL and is contested between the Sounders, Earthquakes, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. This showcases the history and legacy of the beautiful game.

Hudson River Derby: Red Bulls-NYCFC Rivalry

Rivalries don’t come much more local than the Hudson River Derby between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC. The two teams stadiums are only a few miles apart and both are competing for top spot in the biggest city in the United States.

This rivalry is still relatively new in comparison to others on this list but has grown in magnitude with each passing year. Canadian Classique: Impact-Toronto FC Rivalry

This is a rivalry between two Canadian teams – the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC.

The origins of this rivalry date back to 2008, when the Impact played in the USL and faced off against Toronto in the Canadian Championship. The rivalry quickly spread to the MLS as both teams made the switch, with the Canadian Classique now serving as the official title for their meetings.

Texas Derby: FC Dallas-Dynamo Rivalry

This rivalry is played out between Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas. These two are natural rivals due to their geographic locations within the state of Texas.

Their matches are incredibly competitive and always guarantee a high level of intensity both on and off the pitch. Naturally, Texans have a great love for football, and this Derby does add a bit of extra spice to the MLS season.

Hell is Real Derby: Columbus Crew FC-FC Cincinnati Rivalry

One of the newest rivalries on this list, the Hell is Real Derby was created in 2019 between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati. The nickname “Hell is Real” alludes to a giant roadside sign on I-71 that reads “Hell is Real” and has ironically become an inspiration for the derby’s name.

These two teams are both in the Eastern Conference and fighting for a position in the playoffs. Rocky Mountain Cup: Rapids-Real Salt Lake Rivalry

This rivalry links the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake together.

This rivalry is not as well known to newer fans as others. However, it is one of the most passionate rivalries in MLS, notably because of its unique location.

It is contested in the Rocky Mountain region, meaning the fans and players have to contend with the high altitude. Brimstone Cup: FC Dallas-Chicago Fire FC Rivalry

Last but not least, we have the Brimstone Cup, a rivalry played out between FC Dallas and the Chicago Fire.

The competition spans back to the 1990s and initially began with friendly games between the teams. However, the competitive nature of these games soon turned into something more, and the Brimstone Cup was born.

Individual MLS Rivalries and their Highlights

Atlanta United-Orlando City Rivalry

This rivalry is still in its infancy, with Orlando City joining the league in 2015 and Atlanta United joining in 2017. However, the competition between these two teams has grown in recent years, and the rivalry between Orlandos Nani and Atlantas Josef Martinez has been one of the highlights of recent meetings.

FC Dallas-Austin FC Rivalry: Copa Tejas

The Copa Tejas is awarded to the top-performing soccer team in Texas across all leagues. FC Dallas and Austin FC have been battling it out for recent years for this prestigious title as Houston Dynamo FC has less success than these two teams on the pitch.

This is a rivalry that is really building to full steam as Austin has just recently become a part of MLS. Sounders-Earthquakes Rivalry: Heritage Cup

The Sounders-Earthquakes rivalry dates back to the old NASL days and continues to be a fixture in the MLS.

The Heritage Cup is awarded to the team that wins the season series between these two franchises, and the fierce level of competition is always sure to draw a crowd from each side of the field. MLS rivalries are what make the league unique and provide that added drama to the season that smart sports managers factor into their betting strategies.

They add a competitive spirit that many other leagues lack, and the intensity between these teams is clear to see. As an MLS fan, it is impossible not to get swept up in the energy of these rivalries, and the hope is that they continue to grow and evolve over the years to come.

MLS rivalries are a significant part of the league, adding excitement and intensity to each season. The Cascadia Cup, El Trfico, Atlantic Cup, California Clsico, Hudson River Derby, Canadian Classique, Texas Derby, Hell is Real Derby, Rocky Mountain Cup, and Brimstone Cup are some of the most prominent rivalries.

Additionally, individual rivalries like Atlanta United-Orlando City, FC Dallas-Austin FC, and Sounders-Earthquakes are also worth a mention. Understanding these rivalries helps fans appreciate the significance of each match between these teams.


Q: What is the Cascadia Cup? A: It is a fan-based competition between the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps that awards points to the team that wins the regular-season matches.

Q: What is the history behind the Atlantic Cup? A: It was established after a player trade between DC United and NY Red Bulls in 1996.

Q: What is the significance of the Hell is Real Derby? A: It is contested between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati, two teams in the Eastern Conference battling for a playoff spot.

Q: What is the most intense MLS rivalry? A: It is subjective, but some argue that El Trfico between LAFC and the LA Galaxy is the most intense.

Q: Why are MLS rivalries important? A: They add excitement and intensity to the league, making it more enjoyable for fans to watch.

Q: What is the Heritage Cup? A: It is awarded to the team that wins the season series between the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes.

Q: Does MLS have any Canadian teams? A: Yes, there are three Canadian teams – Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Q: How many teams participate in MLS? A: There are currently 27 teams in the league.

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