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Debunking the myth of Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City as bitter rivals

Dec 2, 2013, 6:01 PM EDT

Los Angeles Galaxy v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

You are going to hear a lot in this MLS Cup week about how Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City are rivals, with acrimony and animosity just a’flyin’.  It has already started, in fact.

It’s a nice story to help put a little more spice into this MSL Cup enchilada, one that might need some added media umph, as we talked about earlier. And I’m sure that individually there is some personal acrimony.

But when these teams consider their top rivals, or when we think about the real slobber-knocker rivalries of MLS, it simply isn’t true that this one tops the list.

Perhaps it’s true just a little more valid from Sporting Kansas City’s side than from Real Salt Lake’s point of view, but only because Peter Vermes’ team lacks a natural geographical rivalry. (Yet another reason why MLS in St. Louis would be spectacular; what a great two- or three-time a year rivalry that would be!)

But when Real Salt Lake players or supporters think “Who do we really abhor?” they think about Colorado. That is an actual rivalry. After that, the LA Galaxy, perhaps? Who doesn’t remember the Jason Kreis-David Beckham confrontation? (Watch that little dust-up of disharmony here.)

Heck, Sporting KC and RSL aren’t even in the same conference. So, rivals? C’mon.

The story linked above says the “rivalry” thing started during preseason proceedings of 2011, when a match in Arizona spun out of control.

Here’s the thing: I was with those team in February of 2011 in Arizona. Everybody got sideways with Kansas City there. Kansas City is a physical team, and they weren’t turning it down for preseason contests. I’ve written before about how preseason matches frequently get too hot; players can dish out retribution or be excessively physical with no real consequences.

About the same time as the RSL-Sporting KC confrontation, a match between Houston and Kansas City had nearly turned into a full-fledged, benches clearing donnybrook, all because Roger Espinoza went crashing into a very dangerous tackle. (In a memorable pre-season contest that also saw Teal Bunbury lost for weeks due to a dislocated elbow.)

Saturday? Saturday’s contest at Sporting Park a big match. There are great stories to be found. (And we’ll follow all of them at ProSoccerTalk … so keep checking.)

I just don’t buy the “huge rivalry” angle.

  1. hildezero - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    I don’t see these clubs as bitter rivals.

  2. player169 - Dec 3, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    +2.

  3. crossmlk - Dec 5, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    Sorry for the late comment on this but you’re comment on rivals for SKC is right on and is something that I’ve been harping for awhile.

    I agree with your assessment that there is no “real” rivalry between RSL and SKC. There is an interesting side point in the preseason game a while back and the perceived stealing of the game in RSL this year but to develop a real rivalry we will need more such incidents to occur and to do that you need the teams to face each other more often and since they are in different conferences at the moment that’s unlikely.

    The real reason I felt compelled to post is; The MLS has gone out of its way to provide and promote rivalries for almost every team in the league. The one exception has been SKC.

    SKC has done everything in their power to promote a rivalry with Chicago but for whatever reason Chicago has never been a real rival of KC in any sport. I hope that changes and a rivalry can be developed but that’s more dependent on events than promotion. Rivalries develop from meaningful games and consistently playing your rival. In the old AFL KC and Oakland developed a great rivalry not because they were close to one another but because they were both good and in the same division and so subsequently played extremely meaningful games against each other. KC had to beat Oakland on their way to both their Super Bowl appearances. The Oakland rivalry extended to baseball when Charlie Finley moved the A’s to Oakland from KC and then when KC got the Royals both teams were good concurrently for a period of time in the mid 70’s. They were in the same division then but since Oakland was moved to another division the rivalry has died. In MLS Houston and SKC are in the process of developing a nice rivalry because they have played meaningful games over a number of years now and are in the same conference.

    Teams back east and in the Pacific northwest have had a number of these flash points over the years in a variety of venues both sports and culturally that have promoted rivalries between the cities. For SKC though as much as I hate to admit it (because of the shear arrogance of some St. Louis soccer supporters who act as if they’re above MLS) St. Louis is the only viable currently discussed (If Sacramento Republic FC was in Oakland they would be one) option to provide SKC with a real rival. Even though St. Louis will disavow the rivalry and point to Chicago (and they will also provide a real rival for Chicago because come on, there is no real rivalry between Chicago and Columbus) as their rivals. All the Cauldron will have to do is come up with some witty song referencing Don Denkinger the first time a referee’s call goes against St. Louis and they’ll hate us forever!

    The real point of this little rant is I believe MLS needs to do something to double down on the success they’ve achieved in KC. Without it they risk that success over the long term especially with their talk of moving the only rivalry for SKC (Houston) that is developing to the Western Conference which will certainly kill it on the vine.

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