Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Gomez

One is "old school", having been a part of Major League Soccer since the early days of 1996. The other is the new kid on the block, and while backed up by a legacy that goes back three decades, is just getting its feet wet in the modern top flight of American soccer. Two clubs, disparate in their profiles, but suddenly fierce competitors on the field, in the stands, and through the digital magic of new media.

Introducing your newest MLS rivals, DC United and Seattle Sounders FC.

It's a rivalry that has sprung forth fully formed in 2009, as if the soccer gods themselves had contained incubated it in their minds. Spurred on by on-field acrimony, US Open Cup final location sniping, and the natural pride of two great fan bases, the relationship between United and the Sounders is now linked for as long as the two remain relevant.

The next installment of the battle is set for today (7:30 EDT, Direct Kick), as United hosts the Sounders in matchup crucial to each club's playoff hopes. It was only 10 days ago that the two clubs squared off in a rough-and-tumble Open Cup final that had United keeper Josh Wicks "stomping" Seattle forward Fredy Montero after the young Columbian scored what would prove to be the Cup-winner. 17,000 fans showed up for that match, a number that made it one of the most-attended finals in the long history of the Open Cup.

Much of the success in the stands can be chalked up to the war of words between Seattle GM Adrian Hanauer and United President Kevin Payne, a back-and-forth that directly led to the inventive marketing campaign that DC ran leading up to the match. The club used every trick at their disposal to drive attention to the game, and pushed more attention to the Open Cup than the tournament had received in recent years (if ever).

United's league match with the Sounders tonight at RFK Stadium is their chance at revenge. No silverware is on the line, and Seattle will always be able to say that they won their first trophy in United's home ground; but with each team on the periphery of the MLS playoff race, the DC club can do some damage to Seattle's chances while bolstering their own candidacy.

Tension will certainly be high due to Wicks' ill-advised outburst two week ago, and it will interesting to see if United manager Tom Soehn starts his volatile keeper. Advantage Seattle if he doesn't, as Wicks' understudy is rookie Milos Kocic, a player who has yet to settle in to MLS and is prone to blunders in his area.

Josh Wicks, Fredy Montero

Rivalries will help make MLS more and more engaging as the league matures. In a part of the world as large as the United States and Canada, with cities thousands of miles distant from each other, these type of intriguing and contentious games come at a premium. With only one real derby and a few regional rivalries (with more coming) to go around, a new and organic one like Seattle and DC is a welcomed addition.

Tonight should be fun, no matter who wins; the players are invested, the fans are all in, and the league has a new rivalry to showcase.

It wouldn't hurt if Hanauer and Payne want to do a little more trash talking. I loved that stuff.
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