Manufactured rivalries don’t work: LA’s El Tráfico is an exception

The two Los Angeles teams meet on Thursday night in the MLS playoffs. And the passion and excitement around the game is a highlight of the leagueThe fiercest derbies take decades to build. They have intangible qualities that goes beyond soccer and are wrapped up in all sorts of historical and cultural factors. The clásico, first played in 1902, has become a statement on national and regional identity, while the Old Firm derby dates back to the 19th century and is as much about religion as it is soccer. El Tráfico, however, is an exception to the rule. Despite being only four-years-old, and manufactured by Major League Soccer, it is a very real rivalry.Maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored twice off the bench on his debut in the inaugural El Tráfico fixture, is the reason matches between Los Angeles FC and the LA Galaxy matter. He certainly helped light the rivalry’s fuse. More likely is that MLS tapped into an existing soccer community that felt unrepresented by giving LA a second franchise in 2018 and pitted it directly against an established superpower of the American game.

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