After Five Years in MLS, Orlando City Still Has No Natural Rival



With college football going through its annual rivalry weekend, it brings forth the question of which club is Orlando City’s biggest rival — or even if the team actually has one. It’s a pretty tough question to answer, but I felt we needed to address the issue from an Orlando City supporters’ point of view. There have been some contenders for the position through five years, but is there a clear rival?

Rival, as a noun, is defined as “a person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.” When used as a verb, rival is defined as to “be or seem to be equal or comparable to.” The first definition could apply to whatever club Orlando City is playing any given week. The second is a little tougher given that the club hasn’t made the playoffs.

For purposes of this article, we will use the colloquial definition of a rival as used in a sports team context. A rival is an opposing club, team, or individual that both players an supporters focus special attention towards. Contests with a rival hold greater importance regardless of record, and are built through close competition year after year. Geography may be a consideration, though on the field results and events play a greater part.

The leading contenders:

New York City FC — Orlando City entered MLS with NYCFC, and there have been some great matches between the clubs. The Lions 2015 opening day match was against the Pigeons, and was the now famous “Fill the Bowl” campaign. Orlando City has a 5-5-4 record against NYCFC in MLS. However, the Pigeons are not geographically close, and that “we came into the league at the same time” thing is starting to wear thin. Plus, they already have a rivalry with New York Red Bulls.

Atlanta United FC — From the moment that Atlanta United FC was announced the sports writers couldn’t wait to try and manufacture a rivalry between El Plasticos and Orlando City. I’m not saying there isn’t any animosity between the fan bases. There was the billboard incident, supporter groups being banned, fans being arrested and the like. However, with a 0-6-2 record against Atlanta, it’s hard to argue there’s a rivalry. Add in that Nashville is joining the league, and MLS is now naming that club as Atlanta’s rival, it just proves the point the whole thing was manufactured.

Inter Miami — David Beckham’s long (long, long) awaited MLS club is set to finally start playing some matches next season. MLS will be looking to once again manufacture a rivalry for its newest golden child, and once again the league will try to use Orlando City to do so. Yes, geographically, the two clubs will be close. Yes, there may be something to this potential rivalry, even if it is MLS trying too hard. But, there’s not yet been a match played. Nothing has happened on the field. There is no record to point to. So is it a rivalry?

Other Options — For a while, the Columbus Crew were a thorn in Orlando City’s side, especially when they had Kei Kamara. Philadelphia has had Orlando’s number for a few matches recently. Of course, there’s former Orlando City manager Adrian Heath leading Minnesota United FC with Kevin Molino as a possibility.

Finally, there’s my choice — no club. I contend that a rivalry must inspire a fan base to go a little nuts, while maintaining a back and forth in results across years. That simply hasn’t happened yet for the Lions. Give it time, and some club will rise to the top, and we’ll finally have a club to call our rival.

Let me know what you think in the poll and comments below.

Polling Closed

Atlanta United156
Inter Miami25
New York City FC12
Other (put in comments)6
We don’t have one yet. Let it happen naturally.33


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