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What is a Derby in Soccer?

What is a Derby in Soccer?

A derby in soccer is a term used to describe a match between two local rival teams.

These soccer matches are often highly anticipated by fans and players due to their close proximity and intense rivalry.

The term originated in England in the 19th century and has since spread to other countries around the world.

But, in the U.S., the term “derby” still has the perception of horse racing in Kentucky.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on the term and answer the question, “what is a derby in soccer?”

What is a Derby in Soccer?

Again, a derby in soccer is a match played between two local teams that are fierce rivals. 

These matches are highly competitive and are known for their intense atmosphere, both on and off the field.

Derbies are often the most highly anticipated matches of the season, as they bring together two teams with a long-standing history of rivalry and competition.

An example of a derby is Liverpool versus Everton. Both teams reside in the city of Liverpool and brings together rival fans in one magnified matchup in what is called The Merseyside Derby.

Origin of a Derby

The term is thought to have originated in the 19th century, when horse races between two horses from the same stable were referred to as “derbies”.

The first recorded soccer (football) derby was played between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC in 1860.

Since then, derbies have become an integral part of football culture, with many cities and regions around the world participating.

Importance of Derbies

The intense rivalry between the two teams can be traced back to historical, cultural, or political differences, and the result of the match can have a significant impact on the rest of the season.

Winning a derby match can provide a team with a huge morale boost and can help to build momentum for the rest of the season.

However, losing a derby can be a devastating blow, both for the team and its supporters.

Derbies are an important part of soccer culture, and they provide dedicated fans with a chance to experience the passion and intensity of soccer at its highest level.

Examples of Famous Soccer Derbies


El Clásico

El Clásico is the name given to the soccer rivalry between two of the largest and most successful clubs in the world: Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The two teams are based in Spain and play in La Liga, the top tier of Spanish soccer. The rivalry is considered one of the biggest and most intense in the world, with matches between the two teams drawing huge crowds and generating a lot of media attention.

The first El Clásico match was played in 1902, and since then the two teams have played each other over 240 times in various competitions.

The rivalry is fueled by historical, cultural, and political differences between the two cities, as well as the fact that both teams have been incredibly successful over the years. Real Madrid and Barcelona have won a combined 18 UEFA Champions League titles and 65 domestic league titles.

El Clásico matches are known for their intense atmosphere, high-quality soccer, and often controversial moments.

The rivalry has featured some of the greatest players in soccer history, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, and many others.

The Manchester Derby

The Manchester Derby is a highly-anticipated match between Manchester United and Manchester City, two of the biggest clubs in English football.

The rivalry between these two teams dates back to the early 20th century and has only intensified in recent years, with both teams vying for dominance in the Premier League.

The Manchester Derby is known for its intense atmosphere, with fans of both teams packing the stadium and creating a raucous environment.

The match has produced some memorable moments over the years, including a dramatic 6-1 victory for Manchester City in 2011 and a last-minute winner for Manchester United in 2018.

The North London Derby

The North London Derby is a fierce rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, two clubs based in the north of London. This derby has a long history, with the two teams first facing off in 1887.

The North London Derby is known for its passionate fans and high-stakes matches. Both Arsenal and Tottenham have been in contention for the Premier League title in recent years, making the derby even more intense.

The Milan Derby

The Milan Derby, also known as the Derby della Madonnina, is a rivalry between two of Italy’s biggest clubs: AC Milan and Inter Milan.

This derby is named after the statue of the Virgin Mary that sits atop Milan’s cathedral.

The Milan Derby is known for its passionate fans and high-quality football. Both AC Milan and Inter Milan have a rich history of success in Italy and Europe, making the derby one of the most highly-anticipated matches on the calendar.

How are Derbies Different from Other Soccer Matches?

Derbies are unique and special games in soccer that are different from other regular soccer matches. The following are some of the ways in which derbies differ from other soccer matches:

  • Rivalry: Derbies are played between two teams that have a long-standing rivalry. This rivalry can be based on geographical proximity, historical events, or cultural differences. This rivalry makes the match more intense and emotionally charged.
  • Passion: Derbies are known for their passionate fans who create an electrifying atmosphere in the stadium. The fans are more vocal, emotional, and supportive of their team. The passion of the fans can sometimes spill over to the players, making the match more intense.
  • Pride: Derbies are often more important than other matches in terms of league standings, bragging rights, and fan loyalty. Winning a derby can have a significant impact on a team’s morale, confidence, and momentum going forward. Losing a derby can be devastating for a team and its fans.


Derby matches are an integral part of soccer culture especially overseas, and they are among the most anticipated events.

These matches bring out the best and worst in players, managers, and fans. The intense rivalry between local teams creates a charged atmosphere that is unmatched in any other sport.

Derby matches are not just about winning or losing; they are about pride, bragging rights, and the chance to prove oneself against a local rival.

While derby matches can be exciting, they can also be dangerous. The intense emotions that they generate can lead to violence both on and off the field.

As a fan in the U.S., try to catch one of these games on TV and soak in the excitement!

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      Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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