MLS: A new series diving into North American rivalries


The MLS has formed unique rivalries over the past 25 years. In this series, we will dive into the derbies that captivate North American soccer.

Rivalry. It is an interesting concept. Some are forged due to minimal distances between two clubs. Some are created due to the politics or economics within the game.

Arsenal-Tottenham, two clubs sharing one region of London only 15 minutes apart. It all started when Arsenal had to relocate north of the River Thames over 100 years ago thanks to financial difficulties.

Liverpool and Manchester have a feud as two neighbouring English cities due to economics. Liverpool, a historic port city. Manchester, home to textiles and cotton. Manchester created a canal that meant ships could bypass Liverpool, carry on up the River Mersey and directly arrive in Manchester. This obviously caused a major dent in Liverpool’s employment rate and economical success. It is also why both Manchester United and Manchester City have boats on their club crests.

Since then, Liverpool and Manchester United have spent years dominating English and European football, creating even more hostility between the two sides. It is also why the focal point of the rivalry is between United and Liverpool and not City and Everton or the combinations of either team.

The regional rivalry is very European and South American. Let’s take England as an example again. London has countless teams in its city. Merseyside has three. Manchester has a handful in and around the city. Nottingham has two either side of a river facing each other.

In some cities, there’s only one club to represent the area, but they will have another city or large town just a short drive away with their own major club. For example, Derby and Nottingham or Leeds and Manchester or Sheffield.

This is not the case in the U.S. and Major League Soccer. The country is too large to simply mimic an English rivalry. Rivalries in the States mostly revolve around the clubs’ size, the threat of winning, and more general locations. The Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders rivalry is an ideal example of that.

Atlanta United and Orlando have established a disliking for each other. Other rivalries like the LA Galaxy-LAFC and the New York teams are also similar concepts to English rivalries. They involve sharing city names, competing to be the best in town.

But in truth, these clubs are still a long way from one another. Where you can walk between many of the stadiums in England, it takes over five-and-a-half hours to travel between Red Bull Arena and Yankee Stadium on foot.

Nevertheless, while the concept of rivalry is still a contorted one in MLS, it is developing and teams are genuinely developing a disliking for one another. This is what we will be diving into over the course of the upcoming series documenting a handful of rivalries in the MLS.

Next: MLS: Top 5 centre-backs in league history

We’ll look at the history of the rivalry, stadiums, branding, location, players and previous successes in both the league and in their derby games. We will consider the biggest rivalries in MLS, however they are formed.

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