What are the best rivals in MLS?

MLS Rivalry Week is on the horizon and with it comes the league’s toughest clashes.

Derbies are somewhat more difficult to forge in the United States and Canada, such are the large distances that are often involved between teams. But when they do, they are no less intense than across the Atlantic.

So, with Rivalry Week ready to begin, what better time to rank the top five rivals in MLS right now?

RBNY and NYCFC have met 18 times so far. / Daniela Porcelli / Getty Images

A derby between a Red Bull GmbH club and City Football Group’s North American arm may feel a bit built up for some, but try to tell the fans.

Okay, so this match is a bit marked by the fact that NYCFC does not have its own stadium and has been forced to share the Red Bull Arena sometimes. But just as much, the Bronx Blues have made a regular point in telling the Red Bulls that they are in New Jersey, not New York. There is plenty of hostility between these two.

The Red Bulls hold the all-time series in all competitions and win ten against the NYCFC’s six, including a memorable 7-0 crush back in May 2016. But the blue half of New York is a growing force in MLS and looks to become a real threat in this season’s playoffs, while the Red Bulls struggle to even qualify.

Then there is, of course, the fact that the Hudson River derby has hosted some MLS greats, including Bradley Wright-Phillips, David Villa and Maxi Moralez.

Always series: RBNY: 10 Drag: 2NYCFC: 6

El Trafico has without a doubt been the most entertaining match in MLS in recent years. / Shaun Clark / Getty Images

Even if it only comes fourth in this list, you can bet that El Trafico will climb up the rankings this year in the future on entertainment value alone. It just takes a little more time to create history and memories first.

Despite this, in 11 meetings so far we have never seen less than two goals in a single match, where LA Galaxy and LAFC have traded some hard blows since 2018.

Galaxy went undefeated over the first five meetings between these two before losing 5-3 and 6-2 to LAFC. But it is again the five-time MLS Cup champions who exercise dominance with three wins from the last four.

Who will come out on top this time? Well, Galaxy flies high and Chicharito scores goals, but you never know with El Trafico.

Always series:LA Galaxy: 5Draw: 3LAFC: 3

Cali Clasico is one of MLS ‘most historic rivals. / Lyndsay Radnedge / ISI Photos / Getty Images

There are few rivalries in the MLS that can match the California Clasico across the board.

LA Galaxy are record five-time MLS Cup winners, while the San Jose Earthquakes have won it twice (beat Galaxy once to do so) and lifted it twice more during a two-year hiatus where their squad moved to Houston as Dynamo. Both have lifted Supporters Shield among other titles as well.

Where El Trafico is still very young, Cali Clasico has been played 93 times, where Galaxy won 43 times to Quakes 31.

The galaxy’s big name glamor versus Quake’s gravel and desire. Two founders and previous series winners. This is a clash of different MLS cultures that bring out the very best in this league.

Always series:LA Galaxy: 43Draw: 18San Jose earthquakes: 31

The New York Red Bulls against DC United is the longest rivalry in the MLS. / Scott Taetsch / Getty Images

Like the Cali Clasico, the Atlantic Cup pits two MLS founders against each other in the form of DC United and the New York Red Bulls (formerly MetroStars).

DCU was MLS ‘original colors and reached the first four MLS Cup finals and won three of them, as well as another in 2004. Not to mention their flow Supporters Shield and US Open Cup titles. The Red Bulls meanwhile won three own supporter shields between 2013 and 2018 and reached the MLS Cup 2008. In short, the successes have been abundant for these two clubs.

This match has been played 98 times so far – the 99th edition is scheduled for mid-September – with 276 goals shared between the two so far.

Always series:DC United: 45Draw: 17New York Red Bulls: 36

Seattle and Portland have been two of the most successful MLS clubs in recent years. / Abbie Parr / Getty Images

The Cali Clasico and Atlantic Cups have equally strong cases to be number 1 on this list. But if you want history, success and a fiery atmosphere to match the very best derbies in Europe, you can look no further than Seattle Sounders vs. The Portland Timbers stage in the Cascadia Cup.

Whether it’s the old, authentic feel of Providence Park and the atmosphere created there by the Timber Army, or the great sound of the Sounders faithful at Lumen Field, fans are really creating a spectacle during these games.

But even a derby is not just about the fans. The Sounders have been a game changer since they started in the MLS 2009 and won no less than four US Open Cups, a Supporters Shield and two MLS Cups, with two more losing finals to start.

Of course, the Timbers have had their own successes, winning the MLS Cup 2015 and losing in the final against Atlanta United 2018. They also won the MLS is Back trophy in 2020 after the league’s return from the covid-19 suspension.

The rivalry between these two cities has been going on strongly since the 1970s in one form or another and only shows signs of becoming more intense from here.

Always series:Seattle Sounders: 62Draw: 14Portland Timbers: 48

Honorable mention: 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.

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