A cup, by any other name for New York fans, still wouldn’t seem too sweet.
Saturday’s rivalry clash between the Red Bulls and D.C. United should be an entertaining affair on and off the field, with traveling support surely headed north in numbers to Red Bull Arena.
It’s just another go-around at the longest running rivalry in MLS. In their final meeting of the season, the teams will battle for the Atlantic Cup, the trophy given out since 2002 to the team that captures the season series. New York won this season's opening leg 2-0 in DC on May 2.
The cup dates back to 2002, when the two sides discussed the cup as a way to enhance the rivalry. D.C. United picked the name Atlantic Cup for the trophy to be given to the winner of the season series, but New York predictably balked. They submitted the name Liberty Cup, opting to never allow their most hated rival to give name to the trophy.
At an impasse, the two clubs decided that the winner of the 2002 season series would name the cup. D.C. United won the rights that year, but New York fans still don’t put much stock in a trophy to define this rivalry.
“In my opinion, the Atlantic Cup is pointless,” said Lenny Specht, who has season tickets in Section 107 in Red Bull Arena. "My personal hatred for D.C. United began in 1996, and I have never needed a cup to represent that."
Fellow Red Bulls season ticket holder Thomas Binley agrees. “In fact, I think it takes away from it,” he added. “Having a cup awarded to a franchise/club/brand for their results against one another in a regular-season game means nothing to me. The end result of all the games should be the focus.”
The fact that the Red Bulls seem poised to end six consecutive years of losing out on the trophy rights to their fiercest rival means little to fans like Binkley.
“I know that New York fans don't care about winning the Atlantic Cup, because it is a cup,” Binkley said. “They care about beating DC. On the other side of things, I think United supporters love to run home to their basement lair at their parents' house to brag about the Atlantic Cup – to each other.”
Specht agrees. “The rivalry comes from the fans. When game day comes around, the last thing on my mind is the Atlantic Cup,” Specht said. “I don’t need a cup to hate DC. It’s just a part of being a Red Bull supporter.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012