Choosing an MLS team, or When David has no Goliath

I think it’s pretty weird that I settled on an English soccer team before one in my own country. Maybe it’s because Detroit doesn’t have a team, or because I’ve never seen a single MLS game, even on TV. Or maybe, as Leander Schaerlaeckens points out, the format of our professional soccer league doesn’t lend itself to rabid fandom. There isn’t a Yankees to hate or Cubs to love for their losing-ness. None of the MLS teams make me want to create profane fan chants or hope that an obscure, bottom of the table team will take them down. For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, I hated Manchester United even before I watched a single EPL game.

With almost every sport in the US, you can quickly identify the team or teams that draw the most emotional response: Yankees (and now Red Sox), Red Wings, Tiger Woods, Duke basketball, Notre Dame football, Lakers, and Cowboys (and sometimes Patriots, but mostly just Brady’s hair).  Why is MLS the exception? The most damning statement I’ve heard against most teams is when a club picks up one player that a fan doesn’t like.

Of course, it’s possible that I’ve missed any animosity between MLS clubs because I’m not paying attention. It’s difficult for me to view our soccer as much more than a minor league. It’s where great soccer players go to retire and young players come to gain experience before being signed by English, Spanish or Italian teams. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some damn good players in the MLS. What I am saying is that people who were turned onto soccer by the World Cup last summer were probably disappointed by the dearth of familiar faces in our country’s professional league (assuming they could watch it).

Oh, whatever. I’m enough of a nerd to look forward to putting together a spreadsheet similar to what I did for the Premier League before the start of the 2011 MLS season. I might not find my next Lions or Tigers or Irish (oh my!), but maybe I’ll find a reason to buy a new scarf.

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