Ranking MLS Rivalries

Ranking MLS Rivalries

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 15, 2013
  • 2013 MLS Season, 2013 Rivalry Week, Features
Fans make the most out of big rivalry games. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Fans make the most out of big rivalry games. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)


As we’ve mentioned several times before on here, Week 3 in MLS is Rivalry Week.

The league has gone out of their way to post tones of quality content about this weekend. Out of the eight games, at least five of them are legitimate rivalries. But I wanted to take it a step further and list out all of the league’s rivalries. Some are due to heated playoff series, others are due to geographical situations, most of fan supported and then there are those that are just flat out made up.

1. Cascadia Cup (Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps) – Until some other rivalry comes in and knocks this one off the shelf, it will continue to be the league’s best rivalry. The Seattle-Portland games alone make it the top rivalry. The two supporters groups get heavily involved in the Tifo making, the extra chants, and anything else they can conjure up. This Cup has history, passion, geographical fun, and huge support from the fans. Its a total win.

MLS records: Seattle 1, Portland 1, Vancouver 0 (this series has a much longer history outside of MLS however)

2. Atlantic Cup (New York Red Bulls, D.C. United) – It is the league’s oldest rivalry and in some folks minds it is the best one. United has the trophies to annoy New York. My favorite part of this rivalry is the fact that you can expect the unexpected. Wild things happen (like last year’s playoff snow), or players go crazy (Aleko Eskardarian’s Red Bull drinking).

MLS records: D.C. 8, New York 3

3. Rocky Mountain Cup (Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids) – I’ve been a fan of this Cup since day one. While at times it hasn’t been very good due to a one of the clubs not being good, there is some intensity to this rivalry that always brings me back for more. RSL has pretty much owned this Cup since 2007, Colorado hasn’t seen this Cup since 2006. Both teams are in a bit of a transition at the moment, which could make for an interesting series in 2013.

MLS records: RSL 6, Colorado 2

4. 401 Derby (Toronto FC, Montreal Impact) – A new rivalry to MLS really, and I am already just giving them this name (no Cup actually exists that I know of just yet). But the geographical fun of these two cities will make for an intense rivalry down the road. Toronto is taking the largest traveling support to a road game in league history on Saturday, which will only fuel this fire more. One doesn’t need to be Canadian to understand how sticky relations between French-speaking Canada and English-speaking Canada can get. Not to mention the two styles of play here, one club loves their Italians while the other has a British flare.

MLS records: Montreal 0, Toronto 1 (they split the series but Toronto had the goal scored advantage)

5. California Clasico (San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy) – This one had a little hiatus after San Jose moves to Houston. But the post-expansion rivalry has finally caught up with the old pre-move rivalry. Since San Jose returned to MLS, the rivalry has been fairly split with each side taking two out of the last four. Not many rivalries can say they’ve met in a MLS Cup before either.

MLS records: LA 10, San Jose 6

6. Texas Derby (FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo) – Okay, the Dynamo have owned Dallas in this series since their arrival from San Jose to the Bayou City. The fact that they are only playing once a year hurts this rivalry though. It was intense a few years ago when guys like Ricardo Clark were kicking Carlos Ruiz. Thankfully the fans have gotten more involved in this one in recent years and the fact that they battle for a Civil War cannon is pretty sweet.

MLS records: Houston 5, Dallas 2

7. LA SuperClasico (LA Galaxy, Chivas USA) – This one hasn’t been what MLS and others probably hoped it would be. But I have a feeling it will one day improve once Chivas USA moves out of the Home Depot Center. They had some intense moments (Jesse Marsch getting in David Beckham’s face for one), some games have been gems but overall the Galaxy have owned Chivas in this series.

MLS records: LA 7, Chivas 1

8. Brimstone Cup (Chicago Fire, FC Dallas) – Another Cup that has lost it’s luster over the years. Conference realignment has had some to do with it but mostly expansion has been the real culprit to the demise of this Cup. Back in 1998 through 2002ish this was a real intense rivalry. From then on there were great games to this series, and others were mostly duds. Not to mention the lack of geographical issues and FC Dallas changing their name from the Burn has really hurt this Cup’s importance.

MLS records: Dallas 8, Chicago 2

9. I-95 Rivalry (D.C. United, Philadelphia Union) – Not sure if this is the right name for this but I think in good time this will be a fantastic rivalry in MLS. The Union are paired with New England this weekend which is sort of part of the I-95 thing but to me, the real rivalry outside of the Atlantic Cup is United-Union.

MLS records: D.C. 1, Philadelphia 1 (teams split the 2010 series)

10. Trillium Cup (Toronto FC, Columbus Crew) – I’m not sure if the two clubs really wanted this or what but hey its a rivalry. The Trillium Cup is named after the trillium, which is both the official flower of the Canadian province of Ontario, and the official wildflower of Ohio. So yeah. Anyways, this one has had some good moments, like Toronto taking over one end of Crew Stadium.

MLS record: Columbus 4, Toronto 1

Other rivalries not included: Heritage Cup (San Jose, Seattle), Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup (Columbus, Dallas)

  • Hey, the Toronto/Montreal rivalry could also include the Whitecaps and the trophy doubles as the Canadian Championship. Although I guess that includes NASL as well, and it’s not really league play that wins the trophy.

    • I considered that but I mainly wanted this to concentrate on the regular season

  • Uh, in no place but the MLS marketing team’s dreams does the Crew have a rivalry with Toronto. No amount of silly ‘Trillium Cups’ or any other garbage will make this into a rivalry. We here in Columbus have plenty of rivals that aren’t expansion teams, and some that are, but we will grudgingly admit that they’ve proven their worth, unlike some bottom-dwellers.

  • emg117

    Many early Union fans may have been ex-DC fans but Philly’s real rival is and always will be any team with NY in their name.

    • I’ve heard it both ways honestly. Some Philly fans I know would rather have an intense rivalry with DC rather than NY. While others like you said see NY as the big rival. I’d really like to see it turn into a three-way thing similar to the Cascadia Cup though, I think that could be fun.

      • emg117

        Exactly. Some Philly fans want something unique different than MLB & NFL but honestly NY is the rival.