Most heated rivalries in Major League Soccer

  • Rivalries get fans up for a game like no other
  • Major League Soccer highlights the fiercest Derbies during Rivalry Week
  • Certain derbies have existed prior to MLS
Los Angeles Galaxy v Los Angeles FC
Los Angeles Galaxy v Los Angeles FC / Melinda Meijer/ISI Photos/GettyImages
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Rivalries get fans up for Major League Soccer games like no other when it comes to defending your team's pride, reputation and glory against a hated opponent.

Rivalries normally come organically from geographical location. New York vs. Boston, New York vs. Philadelphia are just a couple of examples of state rivalries that expand outside of any sports league, but rivalries within one state are the ones that really get MLS fans excited. The battle for the city or state is one fans mark on their calendars each year. Some of the most popular rivalries have risen to center stage in recent history.

Here's a look at the most heated rivalries in Major League Soccer.

1. Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders

Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders FC
Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders FC / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Porland vs. Seattle is a rivalry that's existed for nearly 50 years, before MLS' inception. The rivalry first moved to the top division in United States soccer in 2011. Many would argue it's the purest and truest derbies in American men's soccer.

There have been 44 matches played in MLS between the two with Portland getting the better of Seattle historically (19-17-9). Portland's had even better success in MLS playoffs with a 3-1 record.

The rivalry will be renewed this year with the two teams facing off during Rivalry Week.

2. Los Angeles Galaxy vs Los Angeles FC (El Tráfico)

Los Angeles FC v Los Angeles Galaxy
Los Angeles FC v Los Angeles Galaxy / Victor Decolongon/GettyImages

Unfortunately we don't get El Tráfico this year during MLS Rivalry Week, but that doesn't mean it isn't one of the most heated rivalries in the league. LA Galaxy long laid claim to the Greater Los Angeles Area until LAFC debuted in 2018.

LAFC even built BMO Stadium (formerly Banc of California Stadium) around 13 miles away from the StubHub Center. The first meeting between the two helped establish El Tráfico on center stage.

LAFC in its third-ever regular season game traveled to face LA Galaxy. The Black and Gold led 3-0 after 60 minutes, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic had other plans. The legendary striker scored two goals off the bench in a Hollywood ending for Galaxy winning 4-3. Zlatan later even added some fuel to the fire in an interview with ESPN when he said he was the best player in MLS compared to Carlos Vela who was LAFC's big signing.

LA Galaxy has gotten the better of LAFC historically with nine wins to eight and five draws. Though, LAFC hold the largest margin of victory defeating LA Galaxy 6-2 in the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020.

The top scorer in El Tráfico history is Vela with nine goals.

3. Columbus Crew vs FC Cincinnati (Hell is Real Derby)

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Columbus Crew v FC Cincinnati: Eastern Conference Final - 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

These two Ohio teams have probably the best name for their rivalry: the Hell is Real Derby. Another rivalry that only recently debuted in MLS (2019), FC Cincinnati first faced Columbus Crew in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup when it was a part of the United Soccer League.

Cincinnati later joined MLS in 2019 and have faced Columbus 12 teams in the league and once in the playoffs.

Columbus dominates the series between the two with seven wins and four draws. Cincinnati has only won two other matches since the derby's inaugural match. The sweetest victory for Columbus came last year in the MLS Cup Playoffs defeating its rival 3-2 in extra time thanks to a 115th-minute goal from Christian Ramirez.

This year's Rivalry Week features the first meeting between the two since the playoffs.

MLS Rivalry Week 2024 Fixtures

  • Columbus Crew vs FC Cincinnati - Saturday, May 11 at 7:45 p.m. ET
  • Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders - Sunday, May 12 at 4:45 p.m. ET
  • Orlando City SC vs Inter Miami CF - Wednesday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Austin FC vs Houston Dynamo FC - Wednesday, May 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET
  • New York City FC vs New York Red Bulls - Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Toronto FC vs CF Montréal - Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET