Perhaps you have been intrigued by soccer in the past couple years. You were never really into it before, but the 2010 World Cup got you thinking “okay, this is kind of cool.” Since then, you’ve caught soccer occasionally on ESPN, you’ve heard things about last year’s “who is writing this stuff?” finish to the Premier League season, and you want to start watching more soccer. But you don’t know where to start.
Below, I compare the Premier League teams the more familiar Major League Baseball teams. I realize there are several ways the logic behind this entire post is flawed and that none of this is in any way definitive. First, there are 30 Major League Baseball teams and 20 Premier League teams. One is in the United States and one is across the pond. The entire system of how sports work over there is vastly different. Heck, there are three teams that get kicked out of the Premier League every year! (Could you imagine if American sports did that? See ya in few years, Astros.)
But let’s have some fun anyways. These can be based on historical relevance and success, the general attitude of the fan base, and more. With the Premier League season starting Saturday, if you want to get into it but don’t have a favorite team yet, here’s a little bit of help.
Manchester United: New York Yankees
We’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. Everything about Manchester United screams the Yankees. United is by far the most internationally recognized brand out of the Premier League, they have the most top titles, and they have the most money. In fact, in Forbes’ most valuable sports franchises rankings, Manchester United topped the list with the Yankees tied for third. Wearing a Manchester United jersey, much like wearing a Yankees hat, is just as much a fashion statement as it is a fandom statement. There are the diehards, for sure, but there are also the “fans” who probably can’t name a player beyond Wayne Rooney.
So if you like rooting for a winner and don’t mind being called a frontrunner, Manchester United is the team for you. You will see some good soccer and undoubtedly some trophies. You will get used to the ability to pick up basically any transfer (soccer equivalent of trades/free agents) the team wants. Manchester United supporters experience a fandom of ease and luxury, so if that sounds like your kind of thing, pick up the Red Devils.
Manchester City: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox draw a lot of comparisons with Arsenal, mostly because when Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch (about a crazed Arsenal fan) was Americanized in film, Jimmy Fallon played a character obsessed with the Red Sox. However, there seem to be more similarities between the team from Beantown and the guys “noisy neighbors” in light blue. To say City and their Manchester counterpart have a hated rivalry would be quite an understatement, and that has only escalated in recent years. Manchester City fans may be the first to rip United for their financial practices, but in reality, City has become a mirror image by paying insanely high prices for new players in order to compete. It worked for City, as they are the defending Premier League Champions (first since 1968) after making an unlikely comeback reminiscent of the ’04 Red Sox. City-United games are a must watch, but City has the clear disadvantage when it comes to both national support and history. Perhaps that is starting to change, though.
Arsenal: Atlanta Braves
Both Arsenal and the Braves have had some of the greatest players and greatest teams ever. Both are consistently one of the top teams, both have been around for a long time, and both don’t have much to show for any of it. Each has one some titles—Arsenal is actually third in the Premier League with 13 top division titles, something the Braves aren’t close to—but so much of that was years ago. Arsenal won with the “Invincibles” in 2004 while the Braves dominated were in the middle of 14 straight division titles, but both fan bases have not seen nearly enough titles as they seem to deserve. Both teams like to rely on home-grown talent and are hesitant to join up in the financial bidding wars other clubs get involved in. If you root for either of these teams, you will see plenty of a good talent come through, but you’re going to have to be okay with being about third or fourth-best in the league… all the time.
Liverpool: St. Louis Cardinals
It’s all about the history here. Each has the second-most championships. Each is known for their loyal, knowledgeable, passionate fans and play in a nice with strong culture. St. Louis fans have a reputation for being the best in baseball, and Liverpool fans can live up to that. The famous saying “you’ll never walk alone” echoes throughout the historic Anfield, much like St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, which despite its newness, still has that aura of the past. A “down season” for either is still much better than that of most other teams, and winning is an expectation but not one that is undeserved.
Chelsea: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have lost more games than any other Major League team. Chelsea’s history may not be that filled with misery but it is not as glamorous as the last several years may make it seem. Chelsea has a reputation for bandwagon fans given its success in recent years (three of its four titles are in the last eight years), similar to how the Phillies’ popularity has grown in the last decade. Chelsea can compete with Manchester United both on the pitch and at the bank, while the Phillies pulled a Yankees with their assembly of a superstar pitching staff. So if you want to join a bandwagon without joining THE bandwagon, I present to you the Blues from Chelsea.
Tottenham Hotspur: New York Mets
This is a bit of a coincidence, but so far every London team has been compared to an NL East team. This is another one that makes a lot of sense. The Mets are completely overshadowed in their own city in every way by the Yankees. Tottenham’s territorial competition with Arsenal in North London isn’t much of a contest in terms of overall popularity. Although Tottenham has pulled out a couple of incredible title runs in their history, sandwiched between them is a lot of mediocrity. For Spurs fans, mediocrity is almost okay and expected (sound familiar, Mets fans?), as long as they beat Arsenal.
Everton: Cincinnati Reds
This is another comparison based a lot on history. Everton has been in the top division longer than any other club and are known as “the people’s club.” They have won their fair share of titles, but it has been about 25 years since the last one. The Reds are the oldest team in the majors and have seen success in their time too, but been long enough for both these squads to really start wondering when the next spell of greatness is coming.
Fulham: Chicago Cubs
It can be fun to be a Fulham fan. It really can be. You get to enjoy a nice, old park, some decent players, and just the experience of being a fan in London without being called a bandwagoner (like for Chelsea and Arsenal). You won’t win, but that’s okay, right? Fulham has never won a top division title. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. But who cares about that?
This is where this blog post goes from kind of making sense to being a little ridiculous. I’ll make connections based certain aspects, this is where the straining at stretching starts.
Newcastle: Chicago White Sox
The similarities don’t stop at the black and white jerseys. Both have long histories without titles while still remaining one of the more relevant teams in the league. Yes, the White Sox won in 2005, but it had been since 1917. Newcastle hasn’t won since 1927, but the team showed promise after coming back from relegation and finishing fifth in just two years.
Swansea City: Toronto Blue Jays
This one was pretty easy—both are the only team that calls a different country home. The Blue Jays are the only Canadian team in Major League Baseball, and while 19 of 20 Premier League teams play in England, Swansea plays in Wales. Neither has been all that relevant in a while, and neither likely will be.
Sunderland: Baltimore Orioles
Given their recent lack of success, it might surprise you that Sunderland has won six championships. The Orioles have had certainly had glory days of their own. Today, neither serve as much of a threat to run with the top teams all season, but both are certainly a viable candidate to play spoiler.
Aston Villa: Pittsburgh Pirates
This is a mirror image of the Sunderland-Baltimore linking. These are two more teams that have seen better days, and two teams that have been around a long time. Villa has an impressive seven total titles, and their last was in 1981, two years after the Pirates’ last World Series. As the Pirates have improved, Aston Villa is looking to do the same, having finished just two places clear of relegation last season.
Queens Park Rangers: Washington Nationals (just not this year’s Nationals)
QPR has some history and a solid fan base… just not in a long time. But they’re back like there’s baseball back in Washington after a long break. After barely surviving in the Premier League last season, they seem to be on the way up and are probably here to stay for a while.
Here’s where this whole idea goes from kind of ridiculous to just plain stupid. But if you’re going to root for any of these teams, you clearly don’t care the slightest bit about winning, so why not take one of these reasons?
Stoke City: Seattle Mariners/Arizona Diamondbacks, take your pick
Stoke forward Peter Crouch is known for being tall and lanky, which helps him in certain aspects on the field. Kind of like Randy Johnson.
Wigan Athletic: Oakland Athletics
Do I really have to explain this one?
Norwich City: Detroit Tigers
Detroit’s Single-A Short Season team plays in Norwich, Connecticut.
Reading: Kansas City Royals
Arsenal is the Gunners, Manchester United is the Red Devils, Everton is the Toffees. Reading? The Royals!
West Bromwich Albion: Los Angeles Dodgers
Southampton: Los Angeles Angels
A divine connection, as Southampton’s nickname is the Saints. The colors too.
West Ham United: Miami Marlins
Fun fact: West Ham is the only football club mentioned in the Harry Potter series. But anyways, if the NL East teams are London teams, then by process of elimination, there you go.
Three thoughts on the upcoming season
– It looks to be a race between to two Manchester teams again, who finished equal on points last year. Defending champion City hasn’t improved all that much, but United’s addition of Robin van Persie creates probably the best front in the world. Last year’s City-United game was called the “match of the century,” but this year could be just as thrilling. I’ll take United to win the title.
– American Clint Dempsey, who tied for fourth in goals scored in the Premier League last year, probably won’t end the season with Fulham. Transfer rumors were rampant over the summer, and Dempsey has said he would like to play in the UEFA Champions League. The most likely destinations are Liverpool and Arsenal, probably in the January transfer window.
– I look for Chelsea to have a disappointing year again. It’s easy to forget that last year’s UEFA Champions finished sixth in the Premier League, and they Lost Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa. We’ll see if the summer has cured any of Fernando Torres’ woes.