In North American soccer, rivalry cups are secondary titles contested by two or three teams. Similar to the football rivalries at college level, these cups are a solid part of MLS tradition for players and fans alike. The bulk of these cups are reserved for local derbies, giving them that extra spice that only these sorts of encounters are able to produce. Join us here at SinkorSwimSports as we run you through all the MLS rivalry cups to follow in 2023 and beyond!
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Atlantic Cup – D.C. United vs New York Red Bulls
Arguably the first true East Coast derby, the Atlantic Cup was first introduced to the MLS in 2002 and has grown to become one of the fiercest and closest-fought rivalries in the division. Contested between D.C. United and New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference, the Washington-based side have won 14 titles whereas the New York outfit have won 13. The Red Bulls won the 2022 Atlantic Cup, their fifth win in six seasons.
Brimstone Cup – FC Dallas vs Chicago Fire
The Brimstone Cup was first brought to Major League Soccer by FC Dallas and Chicago Fire’s supporters’ group. The name came from the shared theme of the two clubs (with Dallas being known as ‘Dallas Burn’ at the time) and is awarded to the club with the most points between the two sides over the season. Dallas have won 10 Brimstone Cups to Chicago’s 7, with the Fire retaining the title in 2022.
Cascadia Cup – Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps
Having been conceived in 2004, the Cascadia Cup is the rivalry cup reserved for Major League Soccer’s Pacific Northwest sides: Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. The cup was first contested in the MLS in 2011, with the Whitecaps coming out on top in the inaugural edition. To date, the Sounders have won the most Cascadia Cups with 5 triumphs, with Vancouver and Portland each winning 3. Portland were able to win the 2022 Cascadia Cup, beating the Whitecaps by six points.
Copa Tejas – Austin FC vs FC Dallas vs Houston Dynamo
The Copa Tejas was originally intended to be a competition for sides competing in the second-tier USL but was introduced to Major League Soccer in 2021. The rivalry cup is for teams in Texas and is split into three parts: a cup for the best team in the USL, the MLS and a shield award for the best overall side. The Copa Tejas’ MLS representatives are Austin FC, FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo, with Austin’s stellar 2022 seeing them win the 2022 Division 1 title.
Heritage Cup – Seattle Sounders vs San Jose Earthquakes
The Heritage Cup has been contested between the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes in the MLS since 2009. Conceived by San Jose fan Rob Stevenson, it has seen the Sounders win 9 titles compared to the Earthquakes’ 4, with San Jose winning only their second title in seven years in 2022.
Pioneer Cup – Columbus Crew vs FC Dallas
Named after one of North American soccer’s greatest advocates, the Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup is contested between Columbus Crew and FC Dallas. Following the MLS’ restructuring ahead of the 2012 season, the two sides were split into different conferences, meaning the Pioneer Cup is now an annual one-off shootout fixture. Columbus Crew have won the most Pioneer Cups 10-2 against Dallas.
Rocky Mountain Cup – Real Salt Lake vs Colorado Rapids
Another one of the most famous MLS rivalry cups in the division, the Rocky Mountain Cup has been contested between Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids since 2005. Real Salt Lake have won the most Rocky Mountain Cups with their 12 titles against the Rapids’ 5. Salt Lake won the 2022 edition 13-5, sealing their sixth cup in seven seasons.
Texas Derby – FC Dallas vs Houston Dynamo
FC Dallas are back again with another MLS rivalry cup, with the Texas Derby being reserved for their matchups against Houston Dynamo. The first meeting between these two sides came in May 2006, with Houston coming out on top in a 4-3 thriller. The Texas Derby is one of the closest MLS rivalries, with FC Dallas currently leading the Dynamo 9-8 in wins.
Trillium Cup – Columbus Crew vs Toronto
Named after the official flower of both Ontario and Ohio, the Trillum Cup between Columbus Crew and Toronto FC has its roots in the two clubs’ close proximity to North America’s Great Lakes. Another tight affair, the Crew currently lead their opponents with the most Trillium Cups 8-7 since their first meeting in 2008. Columbus Crew also won the 2022 Trillium Cup, their first title since 2018.
Red Bulls, James Anderson and Christian Pulisic enthusiast. Still unsure how Wes Brown wrangled himself a Champions League medal – Premier League, Cricket and Major League Soccer contributor at SinkorSwimSports.