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What is the Hell is Real Derby? Why FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew MLS matchup has such a unique name

It’s a battle of Ohio in the Eastern Conference final, when FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew meet at TQL Stadium for the Hell is Real Derby. The winner is guaranteed to host the MLS Cup. This is the 14th meeting between the two teams, but it’s also their first time meeting in the playoffs. Their only non-league meeting as top-flight sides was during the MLS is Back tournament in 2020.

With the Supporters’ Shield winners facing off with one of the hottest attacks in the league, it’s sure to be a gripping affair. As you may have noticed it is also one of the most uniquely named derbies in the world. What exactly is the deal with that name anyway? Well, we’ve got answers for you. Here’s how the Hell is Real Derby came to be.

Why is it called Hell is Real?

These two teams are only separated by 102 miles on I-71 and had their first meeting in 2017 while FC Cincinnati was still a member of the second division in the United Soccer League, meeting in the fouth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Cincinnati went on to win that match 1-0 but that past is prologue to the story of the name. It was Cincinnati’s arrival in Major  League Soccer that helped spark the rivalry despite Cincinnati’s poor start to life in the league finishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for three years running.

On August 10, 2019 the first league derby between the two teams would took place and the rivalry was born, and so was the name. The term “Hell is Real” was birthed by word of mouth, and then stuck to take over for the official Ohio Derby name. It’s born from a message on a billboard on I-71 between the two cities, and it’s quite an example of the organic culture that can be born in MLS.

Initially built in 2004 by developer Jimmy Harston, the Hell is Real billboard is a reminder of the Ten Commandments but soccer had other ideas as it has become one of the most competitive rivalries in the league now with a MLS Cup berth on the line. Earlier this year he talked to the Columbia Post Dispatch about the name being adopted for a soccer match. “It doesn’t damage what I have done. I am sure the Lord is using it for what it was meant to be.”

Don’t miss CBS Sports Golazo Network’s Morning Footy, now in podcast form! Our crew brings you all the news, views, highlights and laughs you need to follow the Beautiful Game in every corner of the globe, every Monday-Friday all year long.

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All time record

In the regular season, Columbus holds the all time lead with a 6-4-2 record as even this season they split their meetings with the home side winning each clash. They’ve been high scoring matches with eight of the last 10 meetings seeing three or more goals scored and five of those seeing both teams find the net which could be the case in this meeting.

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Saturday, Dec. 2 | Time: 6 p.m.
  • Location: TQL Stadium — Cincinnati, Ohio
  • TV: None  | Live stream: MLS Season Pass
  • Odds: FC Cincinnati +120; Draw +240; Columbus Crew +220 

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