In 2015 the MLS will see the inclusion of New York City FC into the league. With the New York team already beginning their pre-season training under the watchful eye of their parent club Manchester City, it seems an opportunity to look at how the NYCFC might affect the way soccer is supported, and the rivalries that already exist within the MLS.
Naturally sporting rivals already exist in the MLS, although they may not be as infamous as what was once the Old Firm derby, there are defined ‘local’ rivalries (or local given the size of the USA). Matches involving Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders have seen a growing rivalry since their first meeting in 1975. Sadly 2014 saw the death of the only true local MLS Derby between LA Galaxy and Chivas USA with the devolving of Chivas. The rise of NYCFC will of course see the L.A. derby replacement with the creation of a New York rivalry between the City and the Bulls; yet it is not the prospect of this rivalry that is the most interesting. Rather the possibility of developing the MLS’s first major regional rivalry.
In recent decades the English Premier League has seen an increased North-South rivalry in the fixtures of Manchester United and Arsenal. This is an eagerly anticipate clash between the north and south giants. Equally Spain awaits the El Classico between FC Barcelona of Catalonia and Real Madrid of Madrid. What we could see developing within the MLS’s franchise is the first real pinpointed East Coast vs West Coast standoff. As the MLS is split into a Western as Eastern Conference, teams of each coast rarely play each other until the Post Season Playoffs. Yet even when a Coastal rivalry is brought to forefront in the final, it is largely overlooked. With NYCFC we may well see a shift that highlights the clash of regional intensity building into these finals.
On paper Galaxy have the potential financial backing and likelihood to compete against the impending dominance of NYCFC. While the signing of big footballing names at Galaxy is nothing new, with Beckham and Keane being amongst them, the investment made in bringing Steven Gerrard to LA has signalled the beginning of the fight back, against the danger that NYCFC pose in this new MLS era. What can be seen is the start of two teams that are building to become the dominate force in their respective leagues. If the riches and intentions of NYCFC pay off and in turn Galaxy’s response in order to maintain their historical MLS supremacy, their substantiated dominance now comes to lie upon the anticipation of going head to head in the final to claim US soccer supremacy. What we will see is two big coastal clubs looking to distinguish themselves as not just New York vs L.A., but the strength of the West vs that of the East in an newly manufactured American Classico.
Any rivalry in its purist sporting form must be built upon history, tradition and a lot of drama. The earlier reference Manchester United vs Arsenal a perfect example of how an intensifying fight for dominance during the 90’s and early 2000’s, saw this winner takes all fixture becoming more than just a traditional Monday morning bragging rights. United vs Arsenal has seen the expansion of two giants at separate ends of a country, and a clash were the geography of North and South and with it the pride of its fans very much in focus. Even in the current season the clash between United vs Arsenal is arguably more eagerly anticipated as a fixture, than that of Chelsea vs Manchester City due to the history and drama that has encompassed this fixture for traditional regional control.
Although the NYCFC vs Galaxy match does not have that yet, this will only be achieved when the teams have met a number of times. The 2015 season will see the build up towards what the MLS can call a defined regional rivalry. These two teams will be playing the regular season, hoping to win their respective leagues in the anticipation of this one match; a match that if NYCFC reach, they can pit their new rising Eastern force against the established dominance of LA in the West.