The rivalries between El Paso Locomotive FC and New Mexico United, Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio FC, the Charleston Battery and Charlotte Independence, and FC Tulsa and OKC Energy FC are among the best in the USL Championship currently.
Wherever you are in the soccer world, there’s nothing like a rivalry. Whether it’s the intracity derbies in Manchester, Milan or Madrid, or the Clasicos that pit historic rivals against one another, the added tension brought by these matches isn’t just played out on the field, but also in the stands – and nowadays on the message boards and social media platforms – by the fans.
The Championship has had some historic battles over the years in this vein, and this year’s lineup continues that tradition. Ahead of Saturday’s slate which sees the Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest, the South Texas Derby and The 405 Derby all in action, we’ve asked resident know-it-all Nicholas Murray to a look at where nine current feuds sit in the pecking order, and then you get to have your say in our fan poll on the best current rivalry in the Championship.
OK, so consider this the one to watch this season, starting next Wednesday night when the sides meet for the first time at Heart Health Park. While Oakland Roots SC and Sacramento Republic FC have yet to square off in official competition, this has all the elements for a great rivalry sooner rather than later. Proximity? The two cities are 90 minutes apart. Strong club and fan cultures? Check, and check. Potential on-field storylines? More to develop, but don’t you think Oakland’s Tyler Blackwood would like to put one over his former team when they meet? Let’s see where we are at the end of this season.
This might be a newer rivalry in the Championship after both clubs joined the league, but there’s a history that goes back to the roots of both clubs in some ways back to the amateur ranks when the Birmingham Hammers and Memphis City FC used to square off. So far, this one’s been pretty one-sided in favor of Legion FC – they’re 3-1-3 all-time after the 1-0 victory at Legion Field on May 15 – but given a bit more time this could blossom into something pretty special.
LA Galaxy II vs. Orange County SC
There aren’t many current rivalries in the Championship that have the longevity of the meetings between Los Dos and Orange County – Saturday’s game at Championship Soccer Stadium will be the 25th regular-season meeting between the two clubs – but it seems to fly under the radar a little bit. That’s a shame, because there have been some memorable duels and season series in the past, including the Galaxy II rallying back from two defeats to Orange County last season to win their final two meetings, including a Los Dos victory in the penultimate game of the regular season that got them into the playoffs, and left Orange County on the outside looking in.
Whatever you do, don’t refer to this matchup as the Florida Derby – that moniker is reserved for games between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers. In comparison, this Sunshine State feud is relatively new, but has ultimately been a little one-sided. After playing to three consecutive draws in Miami’s first season in 2016, the Rowdies have held sways since their rivals from down south joined the Championship last year. Winners of four out of five meetings after last Saturday’s 2-1 win, the Rowdies are on top for now, but Miami will be aiming to change that sooner rather than later.
Charleston Battery vs. Charlotte Independence
The Southern Derby has existed for two decades now, featuring a rotating cast of teams. The one constant in that has been the Charleston Battery, which competed in the first edition in 2000 against the Atlanta Silverbacks and Raleigh Capital Express, which accounts for the 10 times the Battery have claimed the fan-run series either as outright or co-champions. This has returned to being a duel with the Charlotte Independence, which hasn’t claimed the title previously thanks to the club’s overall struggles against the Battery. The recent 3-0 win by Charlotte in Charleston – its first away win all-time against the Battery – could make for a much more interesting series moving forward.
OKC Energy FC vs. FC Tulsa
There has been a bit of a pendulum swing in effect on the Black Gold Derby, with OKC Energy FC having held sway in four of the first five seasons – FC Tulsa’s surprise 2017 season not only claimed it a playoff place, but its first victory in the series – but now things seem to have started to swing Northeast up I-44. Tulsa’s victory last season came in a tight series, and there should be more of that to come this season as Head Coach Michael Nsien’s side looks to retain the upper hand between the in-state rivals.
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. San Antonio FC
Speaking of swings, the South Texas Derby went firmly the way of the Toros early before a resurgence by San Antonio FC in more recent editions. The Toros won four of the first six meetings between the clubs – keeping San Antonio out of the playoffs in 2016 in the process – before San Antonio went on a 5-1-4 run between October 2017 and the end of the 2020 season. After RGVFC’s victory in the first meeting of the season on May 16, they’re now all square at six wins apiece in the regular season, but what’s adding to the rivalry now is the Toros’ newly-gained Independence. With the pursuit of trophies at the top of both team’s priority list, this series could get increasingly heated as time goes on.
Indy Eleven vs. Louisville City FC
In terms of proximity, culture, fan support, and ambition between the two clubs, it’s hard to find a better series than the Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest. It also helps that both clubs take this seriously, but not too seriously when it comes to playing up the contests. The reason this isn’t the No. 1 on this list, though, is the competitiveness. After Indy Eleven won the first league contest between the clubs in 2018, Louisville City FC has gone undefeated in 10 consecutive games (6-0-4) including victories in both of the postseason meetings between the teams. Indy gets its first shot to change that on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium in what – despite the on-field history – will be a must-see contest once again.
While the rivalry between El Paso Locomotive FC and New Mexico United might be less than 10 games old, it’s already packed a whole lot into two-plus seasons of showdowns at Southwest University Park and Isotopes Park. From the opening meeting between the clubs in 2019 – which saw the game swing back and forth in a 2-2 draw and both Locomotive FC’s Yuma and United’s Santi Moar sent off – the passions have been high. That came to a head in last season’s playoffs, where a late equalizer by New Mexico’s Romeo Parks sent the game to extra time and eventually a penalty shootout where El Paso prevailed. After another late goal in the first meeting between these sides on May 8 – on this occasion Leandro Carrijo scoring the equalizer for Locomotive FC in a 1-1 draw – the stage is set for another memorable season of encounters in 2021.
That’s our view, but now we want to hear from you. Which rivalry is currently the best in the Championship? Voting will close at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 1.
Tag(s): Features Polls San Antonio FC LA Galaxy II OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Louisville City FC Tampa Bay Rowdies Birmingham Legion FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United The Miami FC Oakland Roots SC