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Take Your Pick – Ranking the Best Current Rivalries in the USL Championship

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/25/24, 12:30PM EDT


From the LIPAFC and Derby Del Camino Real to the Southern Derby and Southern Harm, we’ve got our list and want your picks

There aren’t many things that can get your heart beating faster as a fan than getting one over your biggest rival.

We’ve already seen some classic rivalry contests this season in the USL Championship – with the most recent editions of the LIPAFC and the Derby Del Camino Real on April 6 leading the list – and with Southern Harm coming up this weekend and more on the horizon it’s time for my annual ranking of which are the best currently across the league.

Agree, disagree? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Make your pick which rivalry reigns supreme in the Championship before 12 p.m. ET on Monday. We’ll reveal the results next week.

1. Louisville City FC vs. Indy Eleven

Let’s be honest, there’s a reason why the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest was chosen for the first USL Championship game to air on network television earlier this month – the history, the supporters, the current and future venues and hell-for-leather approach both teams take makes it compelling viewing every time. It’s got rivals to the throne, but it’s still top of the list.

2. El Paso Locomotive FC vs. New Mexico United

The Derby Del Camino Real has been a tinderbox since these clubs came into the league together in 2019 and promptly each had players sent off in their first meeting. There are heroes and villains – hi there, Yuma – and more than a fair share of dramatic endings. Just look at their first meeting this season and the wild late-game swings it delivered. The heat is always high in the Southwest.

3. Sacramento Republic FC vs. Oakland Roots SC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

Sacramento's Heart Health Park has been the venue for some of Republic FC's epic clashes with NorCal rivals Oakland Roots SC and Monterey Bay F.C. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

What started in 2021 with Sacramento and Oakland evolved into a three-way battle when Monterey Bay entered the fray the following year. Between the three of them, the lines have already been drawn on the field with the donnybrook that exploded between the Roots and MBFC earlier this month being an example of the distaste those two clubs are building. It’s always a good idea to stay up and tune in.

4. Birmingham Legion FC vs. Memphis 901 FC

Dubbed Southern Harm, the rivalry between the two sets of supporters predates Legion and 901 FC taking the field in 2019 going back into the amateur days of Memphis City FC and the Birmingham Hammers, and it shows. The fanbases have been at this a while and the games between the sides have regularly delivered massive drama. The downside? With Memphis’ move to the Western Conference this season, we currently only get one helping a year.

5. New Mexico United vs. Phoenix Rising FC

In theory, this is the second-biggest rivalry for New Mexico, but ask around United’s fans and it might rank as 1-A alongside the feud with El Paso. There has been mutual rancor between the two fanbases since an epic 3-3 draw between the clubs early in 2019 and while that heat hasn’t necessarily fully translated to the field there have been enough memorable games in the series to push this series into the top five.

6. San Antonio FC vs. El Paso Locomotive FC

With players changing clubs this offseason and San Antonio FC looking for a third consecutive title, this season's Copa Tejas will be one to watch. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

The days of the Copa Tejas being a battle royale around the state will hopefully return in the future, but with San Antonio having held sway over the past two seasons – and having gone undefeated against Locomotive in their last six meetings – going back to the 2021 season, there isn’t quite as much oomph here as there was previously. El Paso’s going to have to change that form to boost this rivalry’s rating.

7. Hartford Athletic vs. Rhode Island FC

Can you have a rivalry before you’ve played a game against each other? Hartford Athletic and Rhode Island FC are showing how it’s done. From the schadenfreude each club took at the other’s elimination in the Open Cup earlier this month to the regular barbs being exchanged on social media, you’d better tune in on June 1 or be at Hartford’s Trinity Health Stadium when this gets real.

8. Detroit City FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Some rivalries get going from the off – see the entry for Hartford and Rhode Island – whereas others need to be figured out. We’ve seen enough over five official games to say Detroit City and the Hounds are officially there, especially after Le Rouge’s massive upset in the playoffs at Highmark Stadium last season. This weekend’s meeting – and those to come in the next few years – should be on your viewing list.

9. Charleston Battery vs. North Carolina FC

The Southern Derby has a great history, going back more than two decades, and it’s great to have it back in the Championship with NCFC’s return. If we’re honest this probably needs a bit more time to heat up again, but it could quickly become a must-see again.

10. Miami FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

There was a moment in 2021 when Miami won consecutive games in an 11-day span that its meetings with the Rowdies interesting. Since then, Tampa Bay has won 6 of 7 and five in a row, including this month’s 5-2 #Beatemdown in South Florida. Maybe the arrival of Sporting Club Jacksonville – and the return of the Coastal Cup? – can get this moving again.

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