EDITORIAL – Toronto FC has been in existence since 2006 and has established rivalries with several clubs around MLS. This includes local derbies like the Trillium Cup with Columbus Crew SC and the 401 Derby with the Montreal Impact. TFC had also established rivalries with teams through the Canadian Championship and the MLS Cup playoffs. This list of the biggest Toronto FC rivals will start with New York City FC, which TFC has faced in the 2016 and 2019 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Toronto FC’s Biggest MLS and Canadian Rivalries
5. New York City FC
NYCFC played its first MLS season in 2015. Like Toronto FC, NYCFC made their first-ever MLS playoff appearance in 2016. NYCFC had a bye into Eastern Conference semi-finals. TFC, finishing third in the Eastern Conference had to defeat the Philadelphia Union. They did that winning 3-1 at BMO Field.
The first leg between these two teams ended with a 2-0 TFC win at BMO Field. However, what happened at Yankee Stadium, gave NYCFC fans a sour taste in their mouths. TFC then dominated NYCFC in the second leg scoring five goals winning 5-0. In New York City FC’s first-ever playoff series, they lost 7-0 in the aggregate to Toronto FC.
They would meet again in the 2019 MLS Eastern Conference semi-finals. This time there were two notable changes. David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco were no longer playing for NYCFC and TFC. It was the battle of the new designated players like Héber Araujo dos Santos of NYCFC and Alejandro Pozuelo of TFC.
Saying that, Toronto FC were heavy underdogs. NYCFC finished first in the Eastern Conference while TFC was fighting for a playoff spot. It was only with a long unbeaten streak that TFC was able to grab fourth place from D.C. United.
However, there were two major mistakes made by NYCFC according to Alicia Rodriguez, a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Alejandro Pozuelo took advantage of the turnover in the NYCFC defence. This ended up with a goal in the back of the net. NYCFC responded in the second half with an Ismael Tajouri-Shradi goal created through a looping cross by Maxi Moralez.
Then, NYCFC made another mistake and Ronald Matarrita brought down Ritchie Laryea in the penalty box. Pozuelo took the penalty and hit a Panenka goal to win the game 2-1 at Citi Field.
4. Columbus Crew SC – Trillium Cup Rivalry with Toronto FC
One of Toronto FC’s oldest rivals, Columbus Crew SC started in 2008 with the Trillium Cup. In 2008, Columbus was the closest city MLS city to Toronto. Jillian Sakovits of MLSsoccer.com explains how the rivalry began:
A Trillium is “a beautiful flower, it is the official flower of Ontario and the State of Ohio’s wildflower.” She later said “before you make fun, the name was picked by the Supporters. There were some other options, the Great Lakes Cup, and the Buck-Loonie.”
Sakovits also talks about the excitement TFC fans had of the new rivalry.
“TFC fans made big waves when they bought over 2,000 tickets, bust down to Columbus and flooded the city for the inaugural game.”
There has been a winner each year in the Trillium Cup. Columbus has won seven Trillium Cups. Six of them came in the first eight years of the Cups’ existence. TFC has won five. Three of those five trillium cups came in the last five years.
Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC also met each other in the 2017 MLS Eastern Conference Finals. In the first leg, TFC was without the services of both Designated Players Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. However, TFC was able to come away from Columbus with a draw. There was a lot of drama in the second leg at BMO Field. Zack Steffen stopped a Victor Vazquez penalty shot in the 24th minute.
However, the real magic came from Altidore. According to Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated, Altidore went down with an ankle injury in the 50th minute. It looked like he was down and out. However, just 10 minutes later, Altidore had great passing sequences with both Giovinco and Vazquez. This ended with Altidore getting a clear shot on goal, and then he put it in the back of the net.
This was the goal winner as TFC went to their second straight MLS Cup Final. Altidore was also the hero of that game scoring the first goal in the second half and won their first-ever MLS Cup. However, Columbus got revenge on TFC’s 2018 home opener and championship ceremony winning at BMO Field.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – TFC’s Canadian Championship Rival
There is a long-standing rivalry between Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The rivalry in the Canadian Championship can be traced back to 2002. This was when the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Toronto Lynx were both in the second-tier United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL First Division).
The Lynx were no longer relevant when they went down to the fourth-tier division. Then in 2006, Toronto FC was born as the first of many first-tier teams in Canada. They started playing in the Canadian Championship in 2008.
There were many big moments for TFC against the Whitecaps. In 2009, the Whitecaps felt that the Canadian Championship was finally in their grasp. Toronto FC had to win by at least four goals against USL Division One and seven-defending Canadian Championship champions the Montreal Impact.
Toronto FC was able to do that in Montreal and why it is called today “The Miracle in Montreal.” To learn more about “The Miracle in Montreal” read this previous article.
The rivalry continued with Vancouver, joining MLS in 2011. The Whitecaps bad luck though with TFC continued. In 2014, TFC defeated Vancouver in penalties at the Canadian Championship semi-finals. Then in 2016, the Whitecaps were a few seconds away from winning their second straight Canadian Championship. Then Will Johnson, who according to John Molinaro of Sportsnet broke his leg in the process, scored the goal that gave TFC their Canadian Championship.
The Whitecaps have not had much luck against TFC and were hard done on more than one occasion. The Whitecaps are also one of the three Pacific Northwestern teams in MLS. One of the other Pacific Northwest teams is the Seattle Sounders FC. Both Toronto and Seattle have been in the MLS Cup three of the last four years.
2. Seattle Sounders FC – Met Toronto FC in three MLS Cups
Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders FC is the hottest rivalry in MLS right now. They have faced each other three of the last four years in the MLS Cup Final.
Stefan Frei, who used to play goalkeeper for Toronto FC, denied TFC their 2016 MLS Cup. This included making a miraculous save to prevent Altidore from scoring that all-important goal. Seattle would end up winning in penalties five goals to three. This happened despite TFC dominating most of the game.
TFC would get revenge next year as Altidore scored the goal that won TFC their MLS Cup. Vazquez also scored an insurance goal at the end of the game. To read more about the game, read about it in this previous article.
Then in 2019, they would meet each other again in the MLS Cup Final. This time not at BMO Field but at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. TFC played quite well throughout the game. However, a goal by Kelvin Leerdam in the 57th minute ruined TFC’s momentum. Sounders FC would end up winning the MLS Cup with a scoreline of 3-1.
Seattle and Toronto are very much an MLS version of the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors rivalry in the NBA. However, there is no rivalry that is deep or as historic in MLS than Toronto vs. Montreal.
1. Montreal Impact FC
The rivalry with Toronto and Montreal goes beyond sport and into politics. Montreal was once the biggest city in Canada before Toronto surpassed Montreal’s population in the 1970s according to World Population Review. They also have a deep-rooted rivalry in the National Hockey League and to a lesser extent the Canadian Football League.
Furthermore, the Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact MLS rivalry like the TFC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC stems from the Canadian Championship starting in 2002. The Montreal Impact won seven straight Canadian Championships from 2002 to 2008. This included shocking MLS-side Toronto FC in the 2008 Canadian Championship. The Montreal Impact at that time was a second-tier USL First Division team. The Montreal Impact first MLS season was in 2012.
TFC and the Montreal Impact met in the 2012 Canadian Championship with TFC winning 2-0 against the Impact. However, the 2013 and 2014 Canadian Championships were won by the Montreal Impact. In both those cups, the Impact defeated Toronto in the Canadian Championship. The Impact also defeated TFC in the 2015 Canadian Championship before losing to the Whitecaps in the final.
They faced each other again in 2016, and the 2017 Canadian Championship. TFC won both those matchups in the Canadian Championship. With TFC also winning the 2018 Canadian Championship, they were heavy favourites to win it all in the 2019 Canadian Championship. However, the Montreal Impact were able to play the underdog role and lift the Canadian Championship at BMO Field through penalty kicks.
MLS Playoffs – Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact
Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact have also faced each other in the MLS Cup Playoffs. In 2015, TFC made their MLS playoff debut against the Montreal Impact. The Impact eliminated TFC in the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs winning 3-0 at Stade Saputo (Saputo Stadium) in Montreal.
However, TFC would get revenge in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. This time they met in the Eastern Conference Finals. The stakes were high as this match would determine the first Canadian team to advance to their first-ever MLS Cup Final. The first leg was looking like a disaster for TFC, giving up three goals at Olympic Stadium.
However, TFC was able to close the gap and lost 3-2 in Montreal. At BMO Field, the game went back and forth before needing extra time in Toronto. However, TFC was able to breakthrough in extra time with goals from Tosaint Ricketts and Benoit Cheyrou.
Overview of Toronto FC’s Top Five Rivalries
For a team that was born in 2006 and started playing in 2007, TFC had more than their fair share of rivals. Many people are going to remember the TFC-Impact 2016 playoff match-up, which is considered by many as the greatest if not one of the greatest playoff matchups in history. One adds that to the 2017 MLS Eastern Conference Championship, where Altidore defeated Trillium Cup rivals Columbus.
People will also talk about the Canadian Championships battles TFC had with the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. This also includes the MLS Cup battles with Seattle and the birth of the Trillium Cup. The Cup, which started in 2008, had many TFC fans travel to Columbus, and it marks the early point of TFC’s existence and history.
All these rivalries have played a role in making Toronto FC the team they are and the position they have in MLS and in the Canadian Championship. Furthermore, expect TFC to continue having more MLS playoff battles with Atlanta United FC and New York City FC, two teams TFC defeated last year.