The global game is defined by its derbies. From Argentina’s Superclasico to the Milan Derby in Serie A, historical grudge matches make a season captivating. And with the return of Heineken Rivalry Week, some bitter match-ups return to MLS.
Some are longer-running and some are just a few seasons old, but MLS rivalries matter even to fans abroad. We caught up wtih a few of them overseas to see how they're planning to greet the match-ups.
Daniel James Cross
Real Salt Lake fan; Reading, England
Daniel James Cross, who lives in Reading, England, has been following Real Salt Lake since 2009. But their recent rivalry matches against Colorado Rapids have taken on added significance to him since they signed Irish striker Kevin Doyle. Cross remembers the goal-scorer fondly from his four seasons for his hometown club Reading FC, which included winning the Championship in 2004.
“Reading signed him for £80,000 with Shane Long, and they both kept us in the Premier League for a season," Cross recalls, "so I won't hear a bad word about him."
Cross originally connected with RSL through social media friends from Utah, and was pleasantly surprised to find them win the MLS Cup that very season. In 2015, he made the transatlantic trip to see them for the first time in a 3-0 victory against the LA Galaxy.
“I was amazed at the atmosphere," he says. “I thought it was more exciting than most English games I'd been to! The crowd was incredible.”
So powerful was the experience, he says, he returned to Salt Lake City this summer. And while he didn’t see any goals on that occasion, his affection for RSL remains resolute. “RSL also feels like my hometown club, having fallen in love with Utah," he says.
Lino de Rosa
Colorado Rapids fan; Caitano, Italy
But fans a few countries away will be rooting for the rivals in this match-up. Now into his seventh season as a Rapids fan, Italian supporter Lino de Rosa switched his main club allegiance to the Rapids after he began to tire of watching Serie A. He decided liked the character of the state and the club that represents it, acclimated to the eight-hour time difference, and now tunes in for every game.
He says he's never missed watching a Rocky Mountain Cup game since he started following the team. “The rivalry against RSL feels special every time," he says. “The atmosphere on the field is great, the tifo is great, and the players always make them enjoyable games."
While Serie A legends such as Kaká and Andrea Pirlo may have made their way over to other MLS sides, de Rosa will always stay true to the Rapids. “I feel like the 12th man, even though I'm far away," he says. “I give all my heart and passion for my 'Pids, and I always will!”
Colorado Rapids fan; Plzen, Czech Republic
Eurosport’s increased coverage of MLS has helped many European soccer fans to engage with American game for the first time. Dominik Dolejš, a 15-year-old from the Czech Republic, was a Colorado Avalanche fan already, so the Rapids were an obvious choice when he decided to follow MLS.
Dominik has fond memories of watching the Rapids win the Western Conference Semifinal on penalties against LA Galaxy last year. “Tim Howard made two beautiful saves. It was an amazing night," he says. “The victory against LA Galaxy was definitely one my happiest moment as a Rapids fan. Everything was just so perfect that night.”
LA Galaxy fan; Guimaraes, Portugal
The Galaxy have their own fans pulling for them far away from Los Angeles. Joao Pedro of Guimaraes, Portugal can’t wait to see his childhood friend -- yes, the standout of the same name, Joao Pedro -- for LA Galaxy this Sun., Aug. 27 in the California Clasico against the San Jose Earthquakes (7 pm ET, FS1 and Fox Deportes in US, MLS LIVE in Canada).
“As a child, three of us were best friends: me, João Pedro and another boy called Vasco. He wanted to be João Pedro too but of course he couldn’t change his name”, he recalls. “When his parents had another child, Vasco insisted he [should be] named João Pedro!”
The pair have been friends since they were four years old, and when Pedro the soccer player made the move from hometown club Vitória de Guimarães to the Galaxy, his friends got fully on board.
“I liked LA Galaxy already, since David Beckham played for them," the non-pro Pedro says. “But I really started to support them when they signed João Pedro. Now I host a game-day party with my friends for almost every game."
Although Pedro -- the non-pro -- is still a new fan, he recognizes the importance of the game against San Jose from his own experience with Vitória and their fierce rivals Braga. “It's always the most epic game," he says.
New York Red Bulls fan; London, England
Ronnie Piper has been a busy man lately, setting up RBNY England, a local supporters' group.
“One of the main attractiosn is they were one of the most televised teams in England, so I saw them a lot," Piper explains of how he found the team. “It's nice to have an English player at the Red Bulls, especially Bradley Wright-Phillips."
Appropriately, the first game since the launch of the RBNY England site will be the New York Derby against NYCFC this Fri., Aug. 25 at Red Bull Arena (7 pm ET, ESPN and ESPN Deportes in US, TSN in Canada). "I definitely take the game against NYCFC seriously," he says.
Piper's personal highlight of the young rivalry was what New York fans have dubbed the "Red Wedding" game, when the Red Bulls beat NYCFC 7-0 at Yankee Stadium last year. He’s confident, too, that the Red Bulls can get something out of Friday’s match..