MLS 101: Derby Cups

MLS 101 looks at exciting MLS rivalries

Rocky Mountain Cup

Photo Credit: 
(Getty Images)

After today’s fiery match at Camp Nou resulted in 12 yellow cards, one red card and five goals between Barcelona and Real Madrid, MLS 101 decided it was time to examine some of Major League Soccer’s fiercest rivalries.

Cascadia Cup: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (2004)
Originally started in 2004 when all three clubs were in the USL First Division, this rivalry is arguably North America’s most heated. The Whitecaps won the first two versions of the Cascadia Cup in 2004-05 in two very tightly contested seasons. The Sounders followed by winning in 2006 and 2007 before the Whitecaps claimed their third Cascadia Cup title in 2008, the most recent version involving all three teams. In 2009, the Sounders became an MLS team, leaving the Timbers and Whitecaps to battle for the cup and resulting in the Timbers winning it both in 2009 and 2010. The fanbases for all three teams are anxious to once again make it a three-way battle in 2011, when the Timbers and Whitecaps ascend to MLS.

Heritage Cup: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (2009)
The Heritage Cup is a competition involving only teams whose MLS team is named after their NASL (North American Soccer League) counterpart. Though the rivalry has been fairly subdued in its first two seasons, with San Jose winning in 2009 and Seattle in 2010, the intensity will surely increase in 2011 following the addition of two new teams in Portland and Vancouver.

Atlantic Cup: New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (2002)
A bitter rivalry due to the proximity of the teams (200 miles) and their long history, having both been two of MLS’ original franchises, the MetroStars/Red Bulls and D.C. United have contested the Atlantic Cup since 2002. United has won the cup seven times in nine seasons, including six straight from 2004-09, but the Red Bulls took it back in 2010. Further adding to the fire, D.C. United’s Alecko Eskandarian took a sip of Red Bull energy drink after his opening goal in the April 22, 2006, matchup and then spit it out, earning him a fine from the league.

Brimstone Cup: Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas (2001)
Originating from the referencing of the team’s names (Chicago Fire and Dallas Burn, at the time) in Virgil’s ‘The Aeneid,’ the two clubs began the Brimstone Cup rivalry when they were Central Division rivals in 2001. After claiming the cup in 2001, the Fire have yet to hold it again, with Dallas winning seven of the nine season series since then (there were also two season splits, in which the previous winner retains possession).

California Clasico: LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes (1996)
The California Clasico has been contested by the Galaxy and Earthquakes 13 times since MLS’ inaugural season in 1996 (the Earthquakes were absent from the league in 2006-07), and Southern California has proven to be the stronger half of the Golden State nine of those 13 times. San Jose, however, returned the bragging rights to Northern California in 2010, claiming their first victory in the season series since 2005 with four points in two meetings. The rivalry reached its pinnacle from 2001-05, when the Galaxy and ‘Quakes combined to win four of five MLS Cup titles.

Honda SuperClasico: LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA (2005)
MLS’ only derby between teams in the same city, the Honda SuperClasico is also known as El Clasico Angelino or the L.A. Derby. Since the rivalry’s inception, the LA Galaxy have dominated Chivas USA by winning five of six season series and losing just three of 21 matches to Chivas USA. In 2007, Chivas USA went 2-1-1 against the Galaxy to claim their first win in the series. The SuperClasico is always contested at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Rocky Mountain Cup: Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt lake (2005)
A fan-produced rivalry, the Rocky Mountain Cup is MLS’ most evenly-matched rivalry. The cup was introduced in 2005 when Real Salt Lake was announced as a new expansion team in MLS, and after seeing the Colorado Rapids win the first two series, Real Salt Lake has won four straight editions of the Rocky Mountain Cup, including the last three via tiebreaker. Over its first six years, the RMC has seen such players as Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman fuel the fire with controversial actions and comments.

Texas Derby: FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo (2006)
The Texas Derby, or El Capitan Rivalry, kicked off in 2006 when the San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Texas and became the Houston Dynamo. After winning the season series in their MLS Cup-winning seasons of 2006 and 2007, the Dynamo have watched FC Dallas win two of the last three versions of the derby. The winning side gets to hold on to El Capitan, a replica 18th century mountain howitzer cannon, which FC Dallas actually fires off inside their home stadium, Pizza Hut Park.

Trillium Cup: Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC (2008)
The Trillium Cup was started in 2008, drawing on the fact that the official flower of Ontario and the state flower of Ohio is the trillium. The similarities between the Columbus Crew and Toronto FC pretty much end there, as the Crew has held the cup after each of the three seasons it was contested, and remain the only MLS club that Toronto has not registered a victory against. In the past, the mayors of the two cities have also gotten involved, making small wagers involving wearing the opposing team’s jersey.