New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC

For MLS’s credibility, the New York rivalry needs to be a natural part of this conversation. But while the spectacle delivered last season, and the fan intensity was surprisingly pronounced, the product on the field, from New York City FC in particular, never materialized.

The New York rivalry might not be the most historic rivalry, and for one of the teams it might not even be the biggest rivalry, but if MLS is to gain any traction in its long slow ascent to competitiveness in a crowded media market, this is a truly important series. New York City is a media capital. Networks broker rights and advertising deals for multiple leagues there, while sports marketing firms strategize and launch around them.

The fact that NYCFC did so poorly in the three games last year was a big blow to the league, so the fact that they’re on a mini-run right now, while the Red Bulls stalled badly against D.C. United last week, might just mean that the rivalry gets truly inaugurated by the Blue team taking the points this weekend. At the very least, the intensity on the field needs to rise to the sense of expectation off it.

— Graham Parker (@KidWeil)

David Villa and Matt Miazga
After an inauspicious start, the New York derby may be set to take off when the Red Bulls and NYCFC renew hostilities on Saturday.

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact

Americans are too often guilty of overlooking the Great White North. Canada’s role in American sports — the NBA and MLB certainly, since the NHL is a special case — is usually thought of as a curiosity rather than an integral part of the proceedings.

Things are better in MLS, a league that can’t take any of its teams for granted, but that doesn’t mean that the rivalry between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact doesn’t occasionally get short shrift from media and fans below the border. When we talk about the most intense match-ups across the league, we typically point to Cascadia or the history of animosity between D.C. and New York without mentioning the unique dynamic between the team in Ontario and the one in Quebec.

The real test of any rivalry is its importance when one or neither of the teams involved are very good. Entire seasons can be salvaged as long as a team bests its most hated rival in a season series. That, in a nutshell, is why the TFC-Montreal rivalry shouldn’t take on second-class status when talking about the best MLS has to offer.

The rivalry in Canada between the two major cities is about much more than sports, giving any match between the Reds and l’Impact a special flavor no other rivalry possesses. There’s a history to it that goes beyond the league and even predates Montreal’s arrival in MLS. The fans always travel and there’s a real, latent hostility that gives the rivalry a vibrant edge. Toronto vs. Montreal is important to MLS for one reason: It will always matter, no matter what’s at stake.

— Jason Davis (@Davisjsn)

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