MLS is Back opener is first time in 19 years two Florida clubs will meet in league’s regular season

By OfficialFloridaFC

Is it too early to dub Orlando City and Inter Miami rivals?

The clubs have never met on the pitch and are only related by proximity. That will change on Wednesday night when the Lions and Herons meet in the first game of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.

Inter Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles has dubbed the Lions a rival.

“Part of the reason I came to this organization, I wanted to be part of history,” said Robles, who will captain the Herons into the MLS is Back opener. “I wanted to be part of something special. To have an opportunity to help lead the team out on the field to not only hope to lead the team to our first ever win, but hopefully our first win against our rivals Orlando City.”

Orlando City forward Tesho Akindele said his club’s fans would have added to the atmosphere because they would have dubbed Inter Miami, Fort Lauderdale FC, because the Herons’ current home ground is based in Broward County.

Then again, the last time Orlando City took the field against a club based in Fort Lauderdale the Lions lost. However, that was the U.S. Open Cup against the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL.

Wednesday, will be the first of many intra-league showdowns between the Florida foes.

    Tampa Bay Mutiny – Miami Fusion history

  • 03/26/1998 Miami 0 – Tampa Bay 0
    (Miami won in shootout)

  • 06/27/1998 Miami 1 – Tampa Bay 1
    (Miami won in shootout)

  • 08/06/1998 Tampa Bay 3- Miami 1

  • 09/27/1998 Tampa Bay 3- Miami 1

  • 05/01/1999 Tampa Bay 2- Miami 1

  • 05/29/1999 Miami 2- Tampa Bay 1

  • 06/05/1999 Tampa Bay 1 – Miami 0

  • 07/29/1999 Miami 2- Tampa Bay 2
    (Miami won in shootout)

  • 06/21/2000 Miami 4- Tampa Bay 1

  • 06/24/2000 Tampa Bay 3- Miami 2

  • 05/19/2001 Miami 3 – Tampa Bay 1

  • 05/26/2001 Miami 4 – Tampa Bay 0

“It’s definitely a rivalry between the fans and that’s how all rivalry starts,” Akindele told “As soon as we step on the field with them, we’ll feel it. Then the more we play against them, the rivalry will build.”

Wednesday’s contest is the first time in 19 years two Florida-based clubs will meet in a MLS regular season matchup.

The Miami Fusion trounced the Tampa Bay Mutiny 4-0 on May 26, 2001. Diego Serna scored twice to lift the Fusion to a seventh win in 12 contests against the Mutiny. Miami would win the Supporters’ Shield that season, only to be contracted prior to the 2002 season.

The Mutiny-Fusion rivalry borrowed the Florida Derby moniker from the 70s when both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers. And that was not the most original idea, considering a thoroughbred race with the same name has been held every year since 1952.

It took Major League Soccer more than a decade to return to the Sunshine State. Orlando City kicked off in 2015, but lacked a natural rival.

Atlanta United joined MLS in 2017, dominating the Lions on the pitch and trolling Orlando City off it. Inter Miami’s arrival means Orlando City has a fellow MLS club on the Florida peninsula.

The question now is what will be the name of the encounters between the purple people of Central Florida and the pink-clad Herons from South Florida?

California Clasico, El Trafico, Cascadia Cup and Texas Derby are all outstanding nicknames for MLS rivalries. The Atlantic Cup, Brimstone Cup and the previously used Florida Derby are not.

Regardless of what the showdown is named, it’s one both clubs want to win.

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