When MLS introduced an unbalanced schedule for the 2012 season, one of its objectives was to add more rivalry games like those in the Northwest.
The Cascadia Cup, a mini-competition between Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle, kicks off Saturday when the Sounders play the Whitecaps at B.C. Place Stadium. Under the new format, each team will play six Northwest games instead of four.
The extra Cascadia games have caused some to worry that the fervor surrounding the rivalries has been diluted, but the Sounders don't agree. "I would say the more times we play, it's just going to fuel the fire," said Roger Levesque, who played for the USL Sounders from 2003 to 2008. "In the current state in MLS, we've only had a few games with Portland and a few games with Vancouver, so it's something that's building and just continues to grow."
Seattle won the fan-sponsored Cascadia Cup last season after earning the best record in games among the three teams. The trophy was founded in 2004, but the rivalries date to the 1970s in the North American Soccer League. The Sounders play twice in Portland and Vancouver this season, while hosting each rival just once. The home/away formula will be reversed in 2013.
General manager Adrian Hanauer has expressed preference for a balanced schedule, but doesn't think the rivalries will be affected by the changes. "These are big games for our fans, for the club, for U.S./North American soccer — these games do get more attention," Hanauer said.