Cascadia Cup the best rivalry in American soccer

Rivalries define not only sports, but rivalries.

How many times do we see an entire region or country defined by a rivalry between two teams? There’s Manchester City vs. Manchester United, Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles.

But there’s one rivalry that’s under almost everyone’s radar, but it’ll likely come into the same conversation as the rivalries mentioned above.

The Cascadia Cup, though without quite the storied history as those other rivalries, has become a sight to behold and its matches must-see television in the past couple of years and while it’s undoubtedly the best rivalry in American soccer, it’s soon to be in that upper echelon of all-time best rivalries.

The Cascadia Cup, created in only 2004 with the latest incarnation coming in 2011, essentially is a rivalry to determine the best soccer team in the Pacific Northwest. But what makes this different than other rivalries is that it’s not between two teams, but between three teams. Using the MLS schedule, the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps compete for the cup in a group like formats, with the team with the most points in MLS matches against the other two teams taking home the cup for the year. It’s a simple, yet interesting format for a rivalry.

But the fact that it’s a three-team rivalry doesn’t make it a great rivalry on it’s own. Instead, it’s the environment of the rivalry that makes it great. The Cascadia Cup was created completely by the supporters of the teams–a grass root effort of sorts. It’s the fans that have created this great atmosphere around the competition, both by their support of their side and their hate of the others. Take for example the last meeting between Portland and Seattle in the Rose City back in August. Before the match, the Portland supporters raised a tifo–essentially a large banner–that depicted Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” along the yellow brick road with the Emerald City, which happens to be the nickname for the city of Seattle, burning and read “There’s no place like home.” Of course, the Timbers went on to get crushed in that match, but it was still a well done job by their supporters.

And then it’s also the players who have made this a great rivalry. I’ve match a good bit of the cup competition this year and it’s hard to say that I’ve consistently seen teams play as hard in the MLS regular season as I have in the Cascadia Cup match. There’s an intensity on that field that honestly is hard to duplicate anywhere else in MLS outside of the playoffs and considering that this year, only the last two matches in the contest have been blowouts, the matches are just about must-see television.

Of course, this is still a relatively young rivalry, with all three teams coming to MLS in 2011 and so the history between them isn’t quite what it is with other great rivalries; however, the passion that both the supporters and players have for it have this rivalry on a rise towards the top of that list. Even though the competition is winding down this year, next year be on the lookout for this great three-team rivalry.