The Monday after the World Cup final is when most casual fans stop giving a shit about soccer.
Eagles training camp is 10 days away, the Phillies are rolling into the home run derby and All-Star Game, and some people actually go outside and enjoy the summer weather.
But if you found the World Cup entertaining and want to see more of the sport, there are a few ways to keep the momentum going into the fall:
1. Watch the English Premier League
The EPL starts on August 10th, so you really only have a little more than three weeks until the world’s most popular domestic league kicks off.
The great thing about the prem is that it’s very accessible, with games taking place on Saturday and Sunday mornings and existing outside of the typical viewing windows in which we watch American sports. For example, if you’re a 40-year-old parent with two kids, you can get up at 9 a.m. on Saturday, make your kids pancakes, and flip on Arsenal vs. Liverpool at 10 a.m. That then takes you into college football at noon and carries you throughout the day. Same thing on Sunday, when you can watch the Premier League as a lead-in to a 1 p.m. Eagles game or NFL Red Zone.
It wasn’t that long ago that foreign soccer wasn’t even on television, so people would get excited about the World Cup and then the interest would immediately fizzle out because there wasn’t a conduit to the next platform. We didn’t have big TV deals with NBC and ESPN and you had to pay for auxiliary networks like Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta Sports. That access we now have is HUGE, because there was a big black hole for coverage of the sport that existed up until about 10 years ago. It’s ridiculous that it took so long for this to happen, considering the fact that I can scroll through FIOS and find 900 channels of Kardashian re-runs and other assorted garbage.
I will say that you don’t have to “pick a team” to enjoy the Premier League or the Champion’s League, but a lot of people seem interested in this. If you insist, please don’t pick the following teams:
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
Picking any of those clubs is like becoming a baseball fan and choosing to support the Yankees, or becoming an NFL fan and selecting the Cowboys.
Read up a bit on teams like Newcastle, Everton, and Fulham, historic clubs that usually land in the 5 to 15 range in the table, have/had American players, and aren’t gonna cruise to an easy title. Supporting those clubs does not make you a poseur.
I also recommend watching “Arsenal fan TV,” where angry Gunner supporters go crazy after losing games:
2. Buy FIFA
I used to work with a guy who hated soccer but played FIFA all the time with his son, so he learned a lot about the sport by playing with a variety of the 100+ teams available in the game.
FIFA is still the easiest sports game to jump into, mostly mindless and free-flowing without the need to call plays ala Madden or spend half the time scrolling through menus assessing the different statistics of each player. You can pretty much just plug and play, grab a couple of teams and start booting the ball around.
And if you venture into online play, you’ll probably run into a legion of 13-year-old kids rolling with Barcelona, but you’ll feel good about yourself when you beat ’em up with a lesser squad. The last time I consistently played FIFA, I used to destroy these jabronies with four-star squads like Lyon and Fenerbahce, which I think was a total slap in the face for them.
But FIFA is a great way to dive into the sport and learn the clubs and players while having some easy fun at the same time. There was also that time a D.C. United writer uploaded a picture of his cat into the player creator:
— Pablo Maurer (@MLSist) August 11, 2015
3. Go to a Union game
I know people kind of roll their eyes at the Union articles on this site, all five of them that comprise less than two percent of the 678 total stories I’ve written in 10 months.
And I know the Union have been incredibly disappointing since they were established as an MLS expansion team in 2010, but the only thing that really matters is that they are OUR team, and Major League Soccer is OUR league.
There certainly is a clear gulf in quality between World Cup play and MLS. The mistakes are more frequent, the skill level isn’t as high, and the game can be a harder watch. But you’re going to find this all over the world. MOST competition is not the same level as the World Cup, Premier League, La Liga, or Champion’s League. If you go watch the Belgian League or the Ukrainian League you’re gonna find shit teams below traditional powerhouses like Anderlecht and Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk. Top-half MLS clubs like Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC would probably be very competitive in Portugal or Japan or the Netherlands.
I think people need to take a step back and realize that MLS is only 22 years old. We have a soft salary cap, archaic rules, and a changing financial structure that really needs to modernize to catch up with the popularity of the sport. But we’ve also expanded from 15 teams to 23 teams since 2010 and attendance is up across the board. We’re making pretty significant strides here, and the quality of play will improve as more money comes into the league and underwhelming owners like Bob Kraft and Jay Sugarman either poop or get off the pot.
So go see a Union game, at least for the experience. Talen is a good time, a really nice stadium with great views. Ticket prices are reasonable. Maybe take your son or daughter down there or buy them a jersey. It doesn’t mean you have to give up being a football fan. Most Union fans were Eagles/Phillies/Flyers/Sixers fans long before Philly was awarded an MLS team.
I’ll sum it up this way: Americans shitting on American soccer does nothing to help American soccer. Our league needs to improve, but it doesn’t get better by ignoring it and saying it “sucks.”
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Short column.