MLS Rivalry Week is on the horizon and with it come the league’s fiercest clashes.
Derbies are somewhat harder to forge in the United States and Canada, such are the huge distances often involved between teams. But when they happen, they’re no less intense than across the other side of the Atlantic.
So, with Rivalry Week ready to start, what better time to rank the top-five biggest rivalries in MLS right now?
A derby between a Red Bull GmbH club and City Football Group’s North American arm might feel a little contrived to some, but try telling that to the fans.
Okay, so this fixture is marked down a little by the fact NYCFC don’t have their own stadium and have had to share Red Bull Arena at times. But equally, The Bronx Blues have made a regular point of telling the Red Bulls they’re in New Jersey, not New York. There’s plenty of animosity between these two.
The Red Bulls hold the all-time series across all competitions, winning 10 to NYCFC’s six, including a memorable 7-0 thrashing back in May 2016. But the blue half of New York are a growing force in MLS and look set to be a real threat in this season’s playoffs, whereas the Red Bulls are struggling to even qualify.
Then, of course, there’s the fact the Hudson River derby has played host to some MLS greats, including Bradley Wright-Phillips, David Villa and Maxi Moralez.
While it only comes fourth in this list, you can bet El Trafico will climb up the rankings in years to come on entertainment value alone. It just needs a little more time to create history and memories first.
Even so, in 11 meetings so far, we’ve never seen fewer than two goals in a single game, with LA Galaxy and LAFC trading some heavy blows since 2018.
The Galaxy went unbeaten across the first five meetings between these two before losing 5-3 and 6-2 to LAFC. But it’s once again the five-time MLS Cup champions exerting dominance with three wins from the last four.
Who will come out on top this time? Well, the Galaxy are flying high and Chicharito is scoring goals, but you just never know with El Trafico.
LA Galaxy: 5
There are few rivalries in MLS that can match the California Clasico across the board.
LA Galaxy are record five-time MLS Cup winners, while San Jose Earthquakes have won it twice (beating the Galaxy once to do so) and lifted it another two times during a two-year hiatus where their squad were moved to Houston as the Dynamo. Both have lifted Supporters’ Shield among other titles, too.
Where El Trafico is still very young, the Cali Clasico has been played out 93 times, with the Galaxy winning 43 times to the Quakes’ 31.
The big-name glamour of the Galaxy vs. the grit and desire of the Quakes. Two founder members and former serial winners. This is a clash of differing MLS cultures that brings out the very best in this league.
LA Galaxy: 43
San Jose Earthquakes: 31
Like the Cali Clasico, the Atlantic Cup pits two MLS founder members against each other in the form of DC United and New York Red Bulls (formerly MetroStars).
DCU were the original behemoths of MLS, reaching the first four MLS Cup finals and winning three of them, as well as another in 2004. Not to mention their raft of Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup titles. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, won three Supporters’ Shields of their own between 2013 and 2018 and reached MLS Cup in 2008. In short, success has been plentiful for these two clubs.
This fixture has been played out 98 times to date – the 99th edition is slated for mid-September – with 276 goals shared between the two so far.
DC United: 45
New York Red Bulls: 36
The Cali Clasico and Atlantic Cups have equally strong cases to be No.1 on this list. However, if you want history, success and a firebrand atmosphere to match even the very best derbies in Europe have to offer, look no further than the Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers leg of the Cascadia Cup.
Whether it’s the old-time, authentic feel of Providence Park and the atmosphere generated there by the Timbers Army, or the sheer noise of the Sounders faithful at Lumen Field, the fans certainly create a spectacle during these games.
But even a derby is not all about the fans. The Sounders have been a game-changer since joining MLS in 2009, winning no fewer than four US Open Cups, a Supporters’ Shield and two MLS Cups, with another two losing finals to boot.
Of course, the Timbers have had success of their own, winning MLS Cup in 2015 and losing in the final to Atlanta United in 2018. They also won the MLS is Back trophy in 2020 following the league’s return from the Covid-19 shutdown.
The rivalry between these two cities has been going strong since the 1970s in one form or another and only shows signs of becoming more intense from here.
Seattle Sounders: 62
Portland Timbers: 48
Honourable mentions: Atlanta United vs Orlando City, Columbus Crew vs FC Cincinnati, Toronto FC vs CF Montreal, Houston Dynamo vs FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake vs Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas vs Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC.