Top 10 MLS Rivalries of All Time

Andrew Kovacs

Updated on:

MLS Rivalries of All Time

Major League Soccer (MLS) has witnessed some of the most exhilarating and intense rivalries in the world of soccer. These clashes go beyond simple competition; they are fueled by history, regional pride, and the unwavering passion of fans. 

From coast to coast, iconic matchups have emerged, making MLS an enthralling spectacle for both die-hard supporters and neutral spectators. 

In this blog post, we will deal with the Top 10 MLS Rivalries of All Time, exploring the fierce battles, memorable moments, and the significance these rivalries hold in the rich tapestry of American soccer. So, keep calm and read till the end. 

What Is MLS Rivalries?

MLS rivalries refer to intense and long-standing competitions between Major League Soccer teams that extend beyond regular sporting contests. These rivalries are characterized by historical clashes, passionate fan bases, and geographical proximity. 

They are more than just games; they represent a cultural phenomenon in the soccer landscape of the United States and Canada. These rivalries ignite fervent emotions, with supporters filling stadiums, chanting, waving banners, and demonstrating unwavering loyalty to their respective teams. 

The matches are charged with tension, as players give their all to secure victory and bragging rights over their rivals. From the iconic Hudson River Derby in New York to the storied California Clasico, these rivalries captivate fans and contribute to the growth and popularity of soccer in North America.

Top 10 MLS Rivalries of All Time

The Top 10 MLS Rivalries of All Time showcase intense competitions, historical clashes, and passionate fan bases, contributing to the cultural phenomenon of soccer in the United States and Canada. 

These rivalries go beyond regular matches, creating unforgettable moments and adding a unique flavor to the league’s identity.

1. Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers (Cascadia Cup)

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers

Source: sounderatheart

The rivalry between Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers is one of the most passionate and historic in Major League Soccer (MLS) history, fueled by a deep-rooted regional animosity. 

Known as the Cascadia Cup, this clash dates back to the early 1970s when both teams played in the North American Soccer League. The rivalry intensified when they were pitted against each other in MLS after Portland’s entry in 2011.

The Cascadia Cup is not just a battle for soccer supremacy; it’s a contest of cultures. Both cities, Seattle and Portland, boast fiercely loyal fan bases, and the matches are an explosion of colors, chants, and tifos. Players understand the significance of the rivalry and put in extra effort on the field.

The history of close matches, contentious incidents, and unforgettable goals has cemented this rivalry’s place in the hearts of soccer fans across the globe. When these teams clash, it’s more than just a game; it’s a celebration of the sport and the unifying power it holds over people.

2. LA Galaxy vs. LAFC

LA Galaxy vs. LAFC

Source: prosoccerwire

Dubbed “El Trafico,” the LA Galaxy vs. LAFC rivalry is a relatively new addition to MLS but has quickly become one of the league’s most captivating duels. 

Formed in 2018 when LAFC joined MLS as an expansion team, this rivalry gained instant traction due to the geographical proximity of the teams and the star power they both attracted. 

The matches between the LA Galaxy and LAFC are a showcase of attacking talent, and the players revel in the opportunity to represent their clubs in this high-stakes encounter. The passionate supporters of both teams add to the spectacle with their vibrant displays and unwavering loyalty.

El Trafico matches have witnessed incredible goals, comebacks, and dramatic moments that have left an indelible mark on MLS history. The rivalry extends beyond the pitch and seeps into the hearts of fans, creating a palpable tension and excitement surrounding each fixture. 

3. New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

Source: newsweek

The rivalry between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC is a classic clash of territories. Dubbed the “Hudson River Derby,” this rivalry was born when NYCFC was established in 2015 as the league’s second New York-based team, directly challenging the longstanding presence of the Red Bulls.

The Hudson River Derby is a meeting of contrasts: the Red Bulls, with their history and roots in New York, and NYCFC, backed by the financial might of Manchester City and global star power. The matches are characterized by intense competition as players fight to claim supremacy in the city.

Both sets of fans are passionate and vocal, adding an electric atmosphere to the games. The rivalry transcends mere soccer games, representing a clash of identities and a battle for bragging rights. 

4. Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas

Source: dynamotheory

The Texas Derby is a heated rivalry between the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas, two teams representing major cities in the Lone Star State. Since the inception of both clubs in the mid-2000s, the Texas Derby has been a staple of MLS, showcasing the best of Texan soccer.

With geographic proximity and a history of competitive matches, the Texas Derby stirs up intense emotions among players and fans alike. The games are known for their physicality and hard-fought battles for dominance on the field.

The Texas Derby is not just about the players; it’s about the fans who take immense pride in their respective teams and are always eager to display their passion. The tifo displays, chants, and energy in the stands mirror the intensity on the pitch.

Over the years, the Texas Derby has produced memorable moments and iconic goals, etching its place in MLS lore. It remains an essential part of the league’s fabric, celebrating the spirit of competition and the love for soccer in the great state of Texas.

5. New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

Source: soccertoday

The rivalry between New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, both competing in Major League Soccer (MLS), is a classic clash of city pride. Branded as the “Hudson River Derby,” this rivalry intensified when NYCFC was established in 2015 as the league’s second New York-based team. 

Matches between these two sides are always electrifying, with passionate fans, intense competition, and a battle for supremacy in the Big Apple. The contrasting identities of the teams add to the intensity, with Red Bulls’ tradition and history contrasting NYCFC’s star-studded roster, including international stars. 

The derby has seen numerous memorable moments and goal-scoring heroics, fueling the fervor among fans and making it one of the most anticipated fixtures on the MLS calendar.

6. Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake

Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake

Source: rslsoapbox

Known as the “Rocky Mountain Cup” rivalry, Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake have developed fierce competition over the years. This rivalry has been characterized by closely contested matches, with both teams displaying tactical prowess and a never-back-down attitude. 

The Rocky Mountain Cup, a trophy awarded annually to the winner of their head-to-head meetings, adds to the stakes and fuels the desire to win. 

The geographical proximity between the two cities adds an extra layer of passion as fans travel to support their teams, creating an intense and hostile atmosphere in the stadiums. The rivalry is a testament to the growth and popularity of soccer in the heartland of America.

7. Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers

Sourec: nj

The clash between Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers is arguably one of the most iconic and historic rivalries in MLS. Known as the “Cascadia Cup,” this rivalry encompasses the Pacific Northwest teams, including the Vancouver Whitecaps. 

The animosity between Seattle and Portland dates back to the North American Soccer League era, transcending leagues and eras. Matches between the Sounders and Timbers are marked by relentless passion, sell-out crowds, and fervent support from the “Emerald City Supporters” and the “Timbers Army.” 

The raucous atmosphere in their stadiums creates an unforgettable experience for fans and players alike. The battles on the pitch are fiercely fought, making the Cascadia Cup an enduring symbol of regional pride and bragging rights.

8. Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact

Source: torontofc

The rivalry between Toronto FC and Montreal Impact dubbed the “401 Derby,” is a heated contest between Canadian teams. Both teams are among the league’s founding members and have a long-standing history of competition. The 401 Derby derives its name from the highway that connects the cities of Toronto and Montreal. 

The matches are a showcase of Canadian soccer talent and often feature intense clashes and dramatic moments. The rivalry intensified with the inclusion of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the league, forming the “Canadian Classique” rivalry series. 

The passionate fanbases of both teams contribute to the vibrant atmosphere in the stadiums during these fixtures, and the desire to dominate the Canadian soccer scene adds to the tension on the field.

9. San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy

Source: centerlinesoccer

The California Clasico between San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy is one of the longest-standing rivalries in MLS history. The two teams have been competing since the league’s inception in 1996, and their matches are a true spectacle for soccer fans across the country. 

The rivalry is rooted in regional pride, with Northern California’s Earthquakes taking on Southern California’s Galaxy. The matches have seen incredible comebacks, last-minute goals, and memorable performances from star players. 

Fans from both sides fervently support their teams, resulting in a charged and passionate atmosphere in their encounters. Whether played in San Jose’s Avaya Stadium or LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park, the California Clasico remains an eagerly anticipated fixture on the MLS calendar.

10. FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo

Source: dynamotheory

The Texas Derby, featuring FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo, is a showdown between the two MLS teams representing the state of Texas. Both clubs have a strong soccer culture and have been competing since the early days of MLS. 

The rivalry encompasses more than just the sport, as it reflects the cultural and economic differences between the cities of Dallas and Houston. 

The tension on the field is palpable, with players giving their all to claim supremacy in the Lone Star State. Fans, too, play a crucial role in this rivalry, displaying unwavering loyalty and creating an electric atmosphere during the matches. 

The Texas Derby is an essential fixture for supporters and players alike, fostering the growth of soccer in the state and providing memorable moments for MLS fans.


What makes a soccer rivalry truly special in MLS?

A true MLS rivalry goes beyond just regular competition; it is built on a foundation of historical clashes, geographical proximity, and passionate fan bases. These rivalries often transcend the sport itself, becoming a cultural phenomenon that influences both the players and the supporters.

How are these rivalries different from traditional sports rivalries?

MLS rivalries have a unique flavor due to the relatively young history of the league and the diverse backgrounds of the teams involved. Unlike traditional sports rivalries that might span decades or even centuries, MLS rivalries have evolved rapidly, leading to an intense and fast-paced dynamic.

What role do supporters play in these rivalries?

Supporters are the lifeblood of MLS rivalries. They create an electrifying atmosphere in the stadiums, filling them with chants, banners, and unwavering loyalty to their teams. Their passion adds an emotional intensity that elevates these matchups to another level.

Are there any specific moments that stand out in these rivalries?

Yes, many memorable moments have occurred in these MLS rivalries. From last-minute goals to dramatic comebacks, there are countless instances etched into the history books that have solidified the significance of these matchups.

How do these rivalries impact the growth of soccer in the United States?

These rivalries are essential in nurturing the growth of soccer in the US. They attract new fans, garner media attention, and provide a platform for American talent to shine. Additionally, they inspire young players, contributing to the development of soccer at the grassroots level.

Bottom Line

The Top 10 MLS Rivalries of All Time embody the spirit of competition, passion, and unity that make soccer a beloved sport worldwide. From the iconic clashes of New York to the intense battles in California and Texas, each rivalry adds its own unique flavor to the league. 

As MLS continues to grow and evolve, these rivalries will remain an integral part of its identity, captivating fans and players alike for years to come. 

So, buckle up and prepare for an adrenaline-fueled journey through the most enthralling and historic rivalries MLS has to offer. Thank you for your support. 

Photo of author

Andrew Kovacs

I am a Head Boys Soccer Coach at Amherst Regional Public Schools in Massachusetts. I have coached for the past five years and I am currently working on my master's degree in Exercise Science. I coach soccer because I love the game and I enjoy being around the kids. It is rewarding to see them develop their skills and grow as individuals. LinkedIn