Orlando City takes the field in MLS in 2015 and, over time, a team will emerge that will infuriate our fan base and become the most hated team in all the land. Rivalries are forged over time, owing to on-field incidents, displays of poor sportsmanship, injuries or some other unexpected flashpoint.
Whether through a nasty challenge leading to a red card, a team-vs.-team brawl, or some other unforeseen event, Orlando City will develop a hated rival—some team that our fans will come to detest above all others. Which team that might be—and it’s possible that team isn’t even in MLS as of yet—remains to be seen. But why wait? Let’s talk about the top candidates before a single ball has even been kicked, because it’s fun and that’s all we can do at this point.
There are multiple reasons why New York City FC might become the most hated team among Lions fans. First of all, they’re from New York. Everyone outside of the greater New York area tends to detest New York teams. Call it a media bias toward the East Coast, the New York market itself, or a city-to-city inferiority complex, other towns tend to resent New York. This alone could build animosity.
But it goes deeper. NYCFC has deep pockets. It has already locked up the services of star players like David Villa and Frank Lampard. Like the Yankees in baseball, flaunting money and hoarding star players can build resentment around the league.
And then there’s the fact that the team is entering MLS in the same year as our club. Will they grab all the spotlight and attention? Will they be the more successful of the two new teams? That would certainly fill us with bile and hate.
Overall, NYCFC is one of the more likely candidates for most hated rival.
The defending top team in the Eastern Conference, United is also currently the closest MLS club to Orlando, geographically speaking. Teams often grow rivalries against teams that are nearby (see also: Rowdies, Tampa Bay). And they often don’t like teams that are on top. Washington, D.C., is not exactly next door, but it is closer than the rest of the Eastern Conference, and if United remains difficult to beat, resentment will grow quickly among City’s fan base.
Due to sharing a conference, the Lions will meet DC United multiple times per year. The more teams play, the more they tend to not like each other. This is another factor in favor of DC United becoming Orlando City’s new MLS rival.
Let’s put DC United’s chances just below NYCFC’s.
New York Red Bulls
Another New York team is as likely as any other to become a rival. If not NYCFC, why not the Red Bulls? They might not play in Yankee Stadium, but Red Bulls have all the same New York traits, with the added effect of being a good team that actually knocked DC United out of the playoffs this season. The lineup may change quite a bit between now and 2015, but if Bradley Wright-Phillips keeps scoring goals, NYRB may be just as difficult to beat next season and may emerge as a viable candidate for a rivalry.
They fit the bill from a conference standpoint, have had success (at least this postseason), and have the NYC thing going for (or, more accurately, against) them. NYRB is a definitely a potential future rival and another likely candidate.
New England Revolution
Another good Eastern Conference team, New England Revolution could easily become a rival for the Lions. If New York sports teams don’t breed the most resentment in all other parts of America, Boston certainly does. The success the city has enjoyed over the years with the Celtics and Patriots, and, more recently, the Bruins and Red Sox, can spill over into MLS.
The Revolution have quickly become the darlings of MLS and the trendy pick to win this year’s MLS Cup. They got a huge boost with the addition of Jermaine Jones of the USMNT in a very opaque manner. That has irritated a lot of fans around the league. If the Revs do claim the title this year, they will be that much easier to dislike as defending champs next year.
New England plays at Gilette Stadium, on a field often covered in ugly NFL football yard lines. Feel free to hate them for that, or for their accents, which led to those awful “Hopper” commercials from Dish Network.
Let’s face it, everyone we’ve talked to around MLS has told us we’ll hate the Sounders. They’re good, they’ve got that huge fan base, and it seems like they’re one of the league’s real darling franchises right now. If anyone from the Western Conference is likely to become Orlando City’s rivals, it is probably the Sounders. I mean, they wear green, for God’s sake. Few colors clash with purple as badly as green.
In the past week alone, five different people have told me how much they hate the Sounders. These folks root for a variety of disparate clubs—Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers. And what’s up with the Space Needle? I hate heights. I don’t like Starbucks (or coffee, really) either. Or flannel. Seriously, screw Seattle.
Sure, some of these are silly reasons for a rivalry, but dislikes are often based on irrational things/events that create animosity. Seattle is widely disliked around MLS, so it stands to reason we might feel the same in time.
I feel these are the five most likely candidates to become the most hated team in Central Florida. But it’s just as likely that some random team like Colorado Rapids or Montreal Impact will end up our rivals. And that’s OK. Whoever it is, it’s going to be awesome to have an MLS rival, because it means we’re in MLS. And, considering where we were in 2011, that’s pretty awesome.
Who do you think will emerge as Orlando City’s most bitter MLS rival?