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Storylines is anxiously anticipating MLS Rivalry Week’s most cordial of conflicts, folks. With the next edition of the Nicest Rivalry in Sports coming this weekend, this seems to be the perfect time to look back at what started this feud in the first place.

Midwesterners are renowned for their kind and welcoming disposition. They never go first at a four-way stop; their goodbyes last for hours; and they apologize for practically everything. However, years of repressed anger have given rise to a unique phenomenon: Midwest Nice.

What the heck is that, you ask? It’s when nice isn’t necessarily “nice.” It’s begrudgingly letting in the driver who doesn’t know how to properly zipper merge while you silently chastise them, the slightly pointed dig when someone upsets you or the intentionally curt goodbye.

It’s being rude in the nicest way possible, and it fuels the fire between Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United.

Around 2014, way back in the NASL days, the Loons played Kansas City in a preseason “friendly.” Though such games tend to be boring affairs, this was anything but that. After a series of fights broke out in the match, the referee was forced to end the game with 10 minutes remaining, calling it before anyone got hurt.

With their preseason matchup leaving a bad taste in their mouths, the two teams went back to their respective leagues, never to see each other again. However, the magical regional groupings of the U.S. Open Cup forced a different fate, pitting the clubs against one another in the 2014, 2016, and 2017 editions of the tournament.

These elimination matches became chippy affairs, with the Minnesota underdogs trying to find their feet and prove themselves at the same time. Latent animosity from their first fateful encounter lingered, creeping into each of these cup matches and coaxing the Midwest Nice out of both sides.

In 2014, Kansas City prevailed 2-0, scoring both goals after a Loons red card in the 50th minute. In 2016, 11 yellow cards and a dramatic extra-time winner for SKC made for a fiery match, further sowing the seeds of rivalry. The very next year, the former Wizards completed the hat trick, putting up four goals and keeping a clean sheet at Children’s Mercy Park.

Year after year, time after time, the Loons came up short in the Sunflower State. Until they joined their rivals in MLS, the little sibling complex was in full effect for Minnesota United. No good rivalry is born without mutual respect, though, and MNUFC needed to earn it.

When they joined the league in 2017, the Loons played SKC a total of four times between USOC and league play. Their first-ever league meeting came on May 7, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium, where the home side earned a 2-0 victory to start proving that they were rivals worth worrying about.

They failed to earn another win against the Kansans until 2019, when MNUFC finally got the better of their foes in the USOC with a resounding 4-1 scoreline. Later that season, the Loons earned all three points in a 2-1 battle at Allianz Field that they finished with 10 men. At long last, the little sibling had the advantage.

The rivalry came to a head in the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals. This remains the most important match played between these sides, with a chance at MLS Cup on the line. With their emphatic 3-0 win, the Loons cemented themselves as title contenders and showed SKC that their days of bossing them around were officially over.

Though the dust has settled a bit, this matchup is still full of excitement. In fact, the 2022 season was the first year that neither side received a red card in any of their matches against one another. Before that, at least one of their games each year from 2017 to 2021 ended with fewer than 22 players on the field. Though you wouldn’t know it from team interviews or previews, there’s an edge to this rivalry that is oh so Midwestern.

Just a short six-and-a-half-hour drive down I-35, MNUFC will seek to stick it to their nicest rivals once more this Saturday. Though neither side would say they’ve been at their best recently, this is one match that will always produce sparks, regardless of form.


Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC

Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

05.13.2023 | MLS Game #11

7:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)