Rivalries. We love them, or at least I love them. The Vikings have the Packers, the Twins have the White Sox, the Wild has the Blackhawks, and the Timberwolves have...the Lakers? The point being that Minnesota United fans will need to have a rival, but who could it be?
Soccer - both domestically and internationally - has always had intense rivalries. You have the ones I already listed in the MLS and then you have the Old Firm in Scotland, the Manchester Derby in the English Premier League, El Clásico in Spain, and Der Klassiker in Germany. It is a part of soccer, and I think that the MLS experience for United fans will better if they can have a team that they will love to beat.
To me, the Loons did not have a true rival in the NASL. The Cosmos were always fun to beat, but I never felt like they were a rival. Minnesota United had the “Flyover Cup” with FC Edmonton, but I was never super upset if we did not win it. Games against Fort Lauderdale always felt like they cared about beating the Loons rather than the converse. Maybe I am wrong, but I just never felt like MNUFC had a true NASL rival.
Now let’s look at the teams that qualify.
I think that there are some likely teams that will be the Loons rivals. The reason behind it starts and ends with proximity.
Sporting Kansas City
I think SKC is the first and obvious choice. Kansas City and The Twin Cities have the history of playing in the same division in Major League Baseball, and Kansas City is only around a 7 hour drive from the Twin Cities.
There is also a history between the teams. This past June, SKC came to the National Sports Center for a U.S. Open Cup match against the Loons. It was a gritty, physical game, but as a fan in the stands, it was so much fun to watch. Yes, SKC came away with the victory in the end, but there was a feeling of animosity between the two clubs that I could feel in the stands.
With both teams set to be in the Western Conference, this has the makeup of being a heated rivalry for the years to come.
Let’s be honest, fans of Minnesota sports love to beat Chicago in anything. I do not know what fuels it, but I am guessing a combination of proximity and the fact that our teams have to play their teams so often in 3 of the “Big 4” leagues has something to do with it. I know that it is fun to play the Blackhawks, the Bears, and the White Sox, but a Loons - Fire rivalry may be tough.
The Fire play in the Eastern Conference meaning this could be a rivalry that the fans will not get to enjoy very often. Maybe it will make the games that much more special (obviously, I am rooting for that since I put them in this category), but it could also mean that this potential rivalry falls in line with any “rivalry” that might be felt between the Timberwolves and the Bulls.
Still, I think that being able to root against another Chicago sports team in another sport is reason enough to love to hate the Fire.
I think that all other teams in the MLS are possible, but that would make for anticlimactic article. So here are some that I think are possible but slightly less likely.
The Other New United
It is inevitable that the Loons will be forever linked with Atlanta United. We are entering the league the same year, and we have the same name. Besides those two factors, I do not see much between Minnesota and Atlanta.
I think that it would be fun for the two clubs to have a friendly rivalry between each other, but I do not see this growing into a full blown hatefest. But, because we are entering the league together, a rivalry between the clubs seems inevitable.
Orlando City SC
I have been trying to name this rivalry: The Adrian Heath Derby, Inchy’s Insurrection? I do not know, but much like Minnesota United and Atlanta United being connected, Minnesota United and Orlando City will be connected because of Heath.
While I do not think this will be a heated rivalry, I think this has the potential for another friendly rivalry. Inchy seemed to be very well liked in Orlando, and I think he will be well liked here in the Twin Cities. This will be fun to watch in the few matchups between the clubs
The maybe...just maybe we can be rivals
These are the clubs that I think it is possible, but it is a huge stretch.
Okay. I admit it. This is my bias. I miss the Wild - Canucks rivalry, okay? But, at the same time, this rivalry could make sense.
...Never mind, I don’t know how there will be much of a rivalry between the two clubs. There is a small history to each club, and I think this could be fun. And I am biased, and I miss booing the city of Vancouver.
I do not have a problem with the Sounders. I do not have a problem with the city of Seattle. But the Sounders were suggested to me by another writer, and I am going with it.
Between a possible Seattle rivalry and a possible Vancouver rivalry, I am really trying to squeeze MNUFC into the Cascadia Cup. I do not know where the history would be between the club, but I do think it would be fun to build a rivalry with some team from Seattle.
Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland have the Cascadia Cup. I propose that MNUFC, Sporting KC, and FC Dallas create their own version. I call it “The Battle of Interstate 35” (working title).
Dallas and Minnesota sports teams have a sordid history. There is the “Hail Mary” in 1975 that prevented the Vikings from reaching the Super Bowl. There is the infamous Herschel Walker trade that started the mid-nineties Cowboys dynasty, and of course, Norm Green moved the beloved North Stars to Dallas.
The issue I have with this rivalry is that it is reliant on other sports to create soccer rivalry. Clearly, I have no problem with forcing other sports rivalries (see Chicago Fire), but this one seems too forced.
Have any ideas? Join in the fun!