The Rocky Mountain Cup -- a rivalry match-up between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids, since the former entered the league -- returns tonight, this time at the RioT (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE). For both its history and what it could say about the teams' near futures, this is a contest not to be missed. And if it gets a little less hype than other rivalries around the league, it still means a whole lot to fans of both RSL and the Rapids. We asked for one on each side for their take.
From a Real Salt Lake fan...
The Rocky Mountain Cup has always been something special for me as an RSL fan. Years ago it was something that we lusted after while Colorado held the cup for a long stretch. We weren't that good at the time, and there was always a feeling that if we could get our hands on that cup, a season would have some meaning.
The rivalry is marked with moments both on the field and off that makes it something very special for fans and players on both sides of the Rockies — jerseys stuffed in shorts, so many moments with Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman, fan banter, and passing the cup back and forth for years. (It's been spending most of its time in Salt Lake lately, though).
My first real experience with the Rocky Mountain Cup came when I was asked to take the cup from Salt Lake to Denver for the final leg of the series in 2012. We spent three days making questionable decisions and some of the best memories that I have.
During that trip Rapids fans were on a tear; someone changed out the urinal cakes in the bar we were hanging out at to RSL-branded urinal cakes.There are so many memories like that with this rivalry. It is to a large extent, especially with fans who have been around for a long time, what has defined the who we are as fans of Real Salt Lake.
-- Jake Simons
...and from a Colorado Rapids fan
Any time you have two teams that are within an eight-hour drive of each other, making it easy for fans to travel to the away games, you’re going to have tension. Add a trophy on top of that, and you’ve got yourself a legit rivalry.
Real Salt Lake became a team in 2005, and the rivalry heated up quickly. Just one year later, in 2006, one of these match-up games that saw seven yellow cards (five to the Colorado Rapids). That's when then-midfielder Pablo Mastroeni infamously waved his shirt around, tucked it in his shorts, and then pointed at it.
While Mastroeni and the Rapids claimed the gesture was in reference to RSL “being in Colorado’s pocket” after winning the Rocky Mountain Cup for a second season, RSL then-owner Dave Checketts confronted Mastroeni and commented about how “outraged and embarrassed” he was that a “World Cup star like Pablo Mastroeni” would behave that way.
Then in 2008, RSL needed a win or a draw in the final match of the season to make it to the playoffs. The Rapids needed a win to get into the post-season. In the 90th minute, that awful team from Utah knocked in a bouncing ball in the box to come out of it 1-1.
So when we talk about the Rocky Mountain Cup, it’s about more than the trophy – it’s about bragging rights and shutting up RSL fans. (But let’s be serious, it’s also about the trophy.) The supporters from whichever side currently has the Rocky Mountain Cup title hold up the shiny trophy draped in ribbons of the colors of that team for the whole 90-plus minutes. When those ribbons are burgundy, it’s the best feeling in the world. When it’s not, it only fuels the fire.
The players play harder. The supporters chant louder. There are words exchanged. It feels like there is more at stake. No matter how the Rapids are playing that year, we have to win the Rocky Mountain Cup. We have to beat RSL so we can parade the Cup around the stadium as a reminder that the Rapids were better than them that day.
There’s nothing like the energy and intensity of a rivalry match. It’s what soccer is all about.
-- Abbie Mood