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Who will be Atlanta United’s biggest southern rival?

Dissecting the new MLS landscape down south.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The southern soccer landscape will be shaken up in the upcoming season with the introduction of Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF.

These new sides representing the southeast will hopefully bring with them a refreshing take on southern sports rivalries and the fading flame that is the Atlanta/Orlando rivalry.

The current rivalry with Orlando City has at times seemed forced, with the regional significance being the primary thing tying the rivalry together. Though the tension between the two fanbases cannot be ignored, this same aggression seems to have slowly begun to dissipate.

Atlanta’s dominance in the rivalry, its MLS Cup victory, and the fact that the side has qualified for the playoffs each year while Orlando still searches for its first postseason appearance have all contributed to fans, at least in Atlanta, turning their attention to other fixtures for a sense of true competition.

Dislike alone can carry a rivalry, but until Orlando stakes its claim in the fixture, it will be hard for Atlanta fans to give the game much merit. However with two new sides coming to the south, it will be interesting to see if new rivalries can be formed through a combination of geographic significance, history, and ambition.

There is a sense of excitement surrounding David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Many Inter fans may point to Orlando City as the clear choice of a rival as each of the Florida sides will hope to establish a regional dominance in the new year. However, other teams could emerge as Inter’s rivals, such as fellow expansion side Nashville or even Beckham’s former club, LA Galaxy, who will face Miami in their first regular season home game.

If Inter Miami hopes to achieve early success, it will surely clash with the region’s dominant team in Atlanta United. Atlanta (and later, LAFC) proved what modern expansion sides could achieve — something Inter will surely be hungry for. Whatever success Inter Miami hopes to achieve, Atlanta will surely stand as an obstacle in the way, making these conference fixtures ones many fans will look forward to.

And then there is the potential rivalry the league is currently robbing fans of.

Going a little north, a Nashville/Atlanta rivalry would make for an interesting clash. The two fan bases may or may not develop bad blood like that of the Orlando rivalry, but instead the rivalry could be one founded on history and culture.

Both fanbases have already established an identity linked to music. With Atlanta you can look at supporters’ group Footie Mob and super fans Waka Flocka and Big Boi as a few examples of how the Five Stripe’s celebrate and take pride in the city’s long-standing music culture and try to incorporate it into the side.

Nashville, Music City, has already established their side’s interest in celebrating the city’s own influence on music. The organization has even changed the club logo ahead of their inaugural season to reflect the city’s roots and ties to music.

The league’s decision to add Nashville to the Western Conference may or may not impede on a potential rivalry. If anything, it could fuel it. Nashville SC will be the closest opponent to Atlanta, so expect a massive number of fans to mark this fixture on their calendars and make the trip through the Bible Belt. A clash founded in music and prayer could make for an interesting derby (Pray for ATL).

If one thing is certain, it is that the upcoming MLS season will add new twists and establish new rivalries to this ever-changing league.


Who will prove to be the bigger southern rival for Atlanta?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Orlando City SC
    (631 votes)
  • 27%
    Nashville SC
    (287 votes)
  • 12%
    Inter Miami CF
    (130 votes)
1048 votes total Vote Now