When Sacramento Republic were announced as the 29th expansion side in Major League Soccer on Monday, the roots for new rivalries were immediately planted.
And, according to those within the club, everything points toward one club.
“San Jose will be a rival, definitely,” Ben Gumpert, Sacramento Republic president and COO, told MLSsoccer.com.
“It’s definitely San Jose,” added Jeremy Field, club academy manager.
“Quakes, baby! I’m sure they hate us — they don’t even know they hate us but they hate us! Okay, maybe they do know they hate us,” said Scott Moak, VP of Community Investment.
Truth be told, the rivalry has already gotten underway in the U.S. Open Cup. The two Northern California clubs have met three times in that competition, with the Earthquakes winning all three. This season, the two clubs played out an instant classic.
The Earthquakes beat the Republic 4-3, despite Sacramento running out to a 2-1 lead after just 14 minutes. San Jose later took the lead before the teams traded stoppage-time goals to properly punctuate the match. Starting in the 2022 season, the two will meet in MLS.
“The opportunity we have to be an hour and a half from such a great organization — we all went there during the U.S. Open Cup and took a huge group of fans,” Moak said. “Those fans sat in that stadium watching the Republic play the Quakes thinking ‘okay, we can get used to this.’ It’s going to be a fun rivalry.”
Given the proximity and recent history, there’s no reason to believe that the clubs can’t immediately form something as successful as some of the league’s other fresh rivalries, such as El Trafico and the Hell is Real derby.
“There’s nothing like a derby right across the Bay,” Field said. “Looking at the success of the LAFC vs. LA Galaxy rivalry, that’s something the league can build on. There’s already a big rivalry with San Jose. They knocked us out of the U.S. Open Cup, heartbreaking moments. The rivalry is already built in.”
San Jose, though, will not be the only heated clashes Sacramento will have in MLS.
“There’s always a rivalry with L.A., Northern California vs. Southern California,” Gumpert said. “Plus the history with the Kings and Lakers, especially 20 years ago. There’s always a chip on our shoulder here to represent our own, represent our community.”
More than mere bragging rights, there might even be a trophy on the line one day.
Sacramento, soon to become the fourth California club in MLS, envision a day where they have a California Cup, the same way the Pacific Northwest has the Cascadian Cup between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.
One rival at a time, of course, and they’re sure to focus on the Quakes from day one.
“San Jose better watch out,” Field joked.