It’s rivalry week on SB Nation, which means exactly what for Philadelphia Union fans I’m not exactly sure.
Every day ending with D-A-Y is a good day to hate on the Red Bulls, not because they are the Union’s biggest rivals so much as they are named after an energy drink and play in the part of New Jersey most people who grew up in South Jersey wouldn’t miss if the state was split into two.
NYCFC is also pretty easy to hate what with the whole baseball stadium thing they have going on and the propensity for certain players on their team to get away with falling down in the box whenever a player in dark blue so much as breathes on them. But they aren’t rivals so much as they are a one-note joke that never gets old telling.
If Boston sports fans cared about the New England Revolution and if the team didn’t play in a gridiron stadium 10 sizes too big, there might be more potential for a heated rivalry there, but can anyone honestly say they care that much about the Revs to circle a game against them on their calendar?
That brings us to D.C. United, the first MLS dynasty back in the days when Philadelphia was a long way from getting a team because the league was so bent on a soccer-specific stadium above anything else. There’s something classic about D.C. United that makes any soccer fan who remembers the mid-’90s when the league started hard to truly hate. Plenty of Union fans I’ve met over the years were United fans in those days - picking United over the MetroStars always seemed like a better option (I went with Columbus myself because I used to live in Ohio).
That’s it for the teams in close proximity to Chester, the northeastern I-95 rivals.
It’s a group that inspires hatred and ridicule, even a little bit of sympathy but there isn’t a single team in that list outside of the Red Bull that I’d say I want the Union to beat anymore than any of the other teams in the league in both conferences.
The same can be said for teams that have some potential to become rivals like Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati with all of the former Union players in their squads, Inter Miami SC with the possibility that supporter groups can make something out of El Toxico (both Subaru Park and the future site of Miami’s stadium have required soil remediation due to pollution) and Atlanta United or Toronto FC if they become regular competitive playoff opponents.
Rivalries in sports tend to develop either automatically by proximity or through frequent consequential encounters. The Union don’t have a natural rival since the Red Bull already have NYCFC and D.C. United as rivals and they haven’t yet had enough consequential games with the same team to have the latter.
That’s probably okay.
Maybe it’s more fun hating the Red Bull the most but also hating the other 24 teams in the league as well. Maybe it’s better to travel to as many away games as possible and root against every other team in the league equally.
Maybe it’s okay that the Union’s biggest rivalry is any team that is not the Union.