Aug 18, 2023 - News

It's "Hell Is Real" soccer rivalry weekend

Columbus Crew fans celebrate a goal during the "Hell Is Real" match against FC Cincinnati in 2019. Photo: Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

"Hell Is Real," the famous I-71 billboard claims, and so too is the growing sports rivalry between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati.

Kicking the news: The teams battle again Sunday evening for the annual "Hell Is Real" derby.

  • The match is Columbus' 10th-straight sellout ā€” a franchise record. Resale tickets start at $89.

Why it matters: Columbus is leaning into the rivalry weekend more than ever now that FC Cincinnati is a bona fide playoff contender.

Flashback: Fans gave the match-up its unusual nickname back in 2017, a few years before Cincinnati even joined Major League Soccer.

  • Columbus has five wins in the series to Cincinnati's three. (They've also tied four times.)

What's happening: Columbus has installed dozens of replica Hell Is Real signs in and around the Arena District.

  • The virtual teams will first meet on the video game pitch at 8pm Friday for an "eMLS Hell Is Real Friendly" to be streamed on Twitch.
  • Then comes an inaugural Hell Is Real Pig Roast at Historic Crew Stadium ahead of the franchises' reserve squads match, hilariously titled "Heck is Plausible."

On Sunday, Lower.com Field vendors will offer a variety of spicy, rivalry-inspired foods.

  • Two such options: Donatos Hell Is Real Pizza (topped with hot chicken) and Dirty Frank's Hell Is Real Dog (topped with sriracha cream cheese, Flamin' Hot Cheetos and hot sauce).

State of play: The match resumes MLS play after a month off for Leagues Cup action.

  • FC Cincinnati holds the entire league's best record with 15 wins, two losses and six ties.
  • Columbus is 10-7-6 and will play Sunday without head coach Wilfried Nancy, who is under suspension for "irresponsible behavior" during a July 8 match.

Of note: The teams' fanbases are still competing in an American Red Cross blood drive.

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