CONCACAF Champions League: For some supporters, rivalries outweigh MLS solidarity

Whenever an MLS team makes a run in the CONCACAF Champions League, many fans put their primary rooting interests aside to pull hard for the CCL participant. The hope? That we'll finally get the first team in MLS history to win the continental competition.

We saw that phenomenon in action when the Montreal Impact made last year’s final, and previously, when Real Salt Lake came close to winning the title in 2011. That solidarity makes sense--if MLS wants to achieve its stated goal of becoming one of the top leagues in the world, it needs to start by winning the CCL. An MLS club winning the competition would chip away at Liga MX’s regional dominance, and would further establish the league as a global destination.

That’s something any MLS fan could root for, right?

Not quite. As D.C. United, LA Galaxy, RSL and Seattle Sounders get set to kick off the CCL quarterfinals against Liga MX foes on Tuesday and Wednesday, some fans aren’t exactly feeling the love for rival MLS teams.

“As a longtime MLS supporter from ’96, I know the importance of an MLS team winning this competition and getting the limelight and moving past the Mexican clubs that have overshadowed MLS for so long,” says Mark Fishkin. He's a New York Red Bulls season ticket holder since the club’s inaugural season in 1996 and the founder and co-host of the Seeing Red podcast. Guess who he won't be pulling for?

“It will be almost impossible for me to root for D.C. United in this competition," he continues. "I would like to see them flame out in the most humiliating way possible and to have to deal with that shame throughout the entire season.”

Colorado Rapids fan Mark Goodman, writer for the SB Nation Rapids blog Burgundy Wave, echoes that sentiment. “I pull for all the MLS teams [in CCL], but when it comes to our rival it’s really, really hard. It’s just really hard to watch,” he says. “I would say I’ll pull for all the MLS teams except RSL.”

Mike Coleman, Portland season ticket holder and VP of the Timbers Army Board of Directors, definitely won’t be rooting for his club’s biggest rival in the CCL, either. One reason why he won’t be pulling for the Sounders in their series against Club América? He wants his Timbers, who will play in the 2016-17 CCL, to take home the tournament first.

“I guess it’s no skin off my teeth if Seattle advances; I don’t really care. I don’t really feel like it’d be anything I’d need to celebrate, it’s not anything I need to support,” he says. “I guess part of me doesn’t want them to win it before we do, but even that won’t really matter that much because we’ll always have the MLS Cup before them.”

There are, of course, some other considerations that go into rival fans’ CCL experiences. Fishkin said he’s curious to see what the new-look Galaxy bring to the table, and wouldn’t mind them winning the tournament and representing the league at the FIFA Club World Cup. Coleman said he’d like to see former Timbers defender Jorge Villafaña play well against LA for Santos Laguna, where the athlete moved in December after helping Portland to their MLS Cup title.

Regardless of their allegiances, Fishkin, Goodman and Coleman all understand the importance of the tournament, and want to see an MLS team bring it home. Just don’t make it their rival.

“If Seattle won the CCL, maybe it validates MLS, but that’s not my concern,” Coleman says. “I support a club, my support for my club comes first. But there are other teams in the league that I don’t feel as strongly about, so if RSL, LA or D.C. wins it, then good on them, that’s awesome."

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