So there has been huge talk out of MLS about regional rivalries, they have 3 teams in the Northwest which make up the "Cascadia Cup". We know that Don Garber wants MLS team 20 to be in New York City to create a new rival for the Red Bulls and he uses the regional rivalry issue for the continued existence of geographic based conferences. So I was horribly confused when the top rivalry in MLS:
The Rocky Mountain Cup: The rivalry between the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake doesn't get much publicity on the coasts, but it should. The Rocky Mountain Cup, as it was anointed by fan groups of the two teams, has simply been a bloodbath the past three seasons. Each year, Colorado seem poised to take it back (they won the first two versions in 2005 and 06), but RSL cruelly slam them on some improbable play and defend their title.
Throw in the fact that they're the last two MLS Cup champions, and that both team's rosters have been together long enough to get to know-and dislike-the other, and the coming year's Rocky Mountain Cup promises 180 minutes of pure entertainment.
As of this moment, this is the best rivalry in the league
Was done wrong by the MLS schedule.
Now you know that I like competitions that mean something and the Rocky Mountain Cup doesn't mean much to me, but for a number of fans this is one of the most important things each year. Just remember back to last year when RSL (in the midst of Champions Group play) chose to rest some starters during the home leg of this match, and the outrage that the fans expressed at what they considered a slight to the rivalry. You could also look at the outrage of fans at the April Fool's day joke of retiring the RMC.
Check out how I think it was ruined after the jump:
So if Don is to be believed that rivalries are so very important (and I agree that they are- not the fake league made ones, but ones that arise from play on the pitch), then why is the first leg of such an important rivalry, a midweek match that will prevent fans from Colorado from being able to travel in the growing numbers that we have seen the last couple years, now I could understand if it were moved for national TV but no the next night fans will be delighted to know that ESPN2 will be showing the Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire rivalry (I guess fire and trees are natural enemies).
Now I can explain part of this, understand that this post was actually written over a week ago and in order to ensure I was doing my "job", I reached out to the RSL front office to see if they could explain the strange scheduling of the first leg. They did and given their explanation I waited until today to update and publish this post.
While some will see this as being cocky of the organization, they asked to move this match to midweek, why? So when they advanced to the Champions League finals they would be able to not have a match the weekend before having to head to Mexico for the first leg. Yes the level of confidence was such that RSL would rather work with MLS to create a best case scenario rather than a worst case one. I applaud that effort.
So that explains a part of the issue that I have with the 1st leg, but it also raises some other questions about the scheduling of the second leg in Colorado. Only once since RSL joined the league in 2005 has the final regular season match not featured RSL vs Colorado (2006 it was Chivas) so imagine my confusion when one of the best parts of the rivarly, the fight for playoff spots on the final weekend , was removed from the rivalry as well. No this year RSL's final match will have them hosting heated rivals Portland, while Colorado will head to their bitter rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps for the last match of the season. Really, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
So not only did RSL lose the hosting of the second leg (which has rotated each of the last 4 seasons), but they lost the entire rivalry match to end the season. RSL will instead head to Colorado for, wait for it, a 8:30pm MT Friday night match on ESPN2. Honestly having both of the matches in the most heated rivalry in MLS on weeknights is simply counter to everything the leader of MLS has said. Now this one at least they get the benefit of saying it is for national TV, no way ESPN would broadcast MLS on a Saturday in October. Heck even the start time reminds us that they will likely have a NCAA football match on before, and it is very likely it will go long and fans will miss out on the start of the RSL@COL match.
So I ask you, what the are your thought, does the change of dates to a midweek 1st leg at Rio Tinto and the second leg not being the last match of the regular season ruin the Rocky Mountain Cup? I don't think it has destroyed it, but clearly the increasing complexity of scheduling with things like Champions League has made it a bit harder for it to be a season highlight for both sides, but that is a part of the price of success. So has the Rocky Mountain Cup become a victim of the success of both RSL and the Rapids?
OFF MY SOAPBOX