One Path to MLS Fandom

Monday, August 16, 2010 | View Comments
July 18, 2010 - Washington Dc, District of Columbia, United States of America - 18 July 2010: DC United fans wave flags prior to Sunday's match against the LA Galaxy at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. The LA Galaxy went on to win 2-1.

by Dan Barkley

This is a bit of response to Jason's post on the English Premier League, coming from a different perspective. I am not a huge Premier League fan; I'll watch a game when it's on, but I have no favorite team, nothing more than a few players I'll cheer on and a general desire to see some good soccer. I do, however, owe my beginnings as a soccer fan to Serie A, specifically AS Roma.

I studied abroad in Rome, and at that point I probably hadn't played more than two pick-up games since I had quit soccer after elementary school. I went from a typical American sports fan who only watched some World Cup games, to a pretty serious fan by the end of that season. When I was back in the states, I was waking up early to catch streams of games of which I didn't know excited a year before.

In all this fun accession to being a soccer fan, there was something missing. Even now I can't imagine when I'm going to get a chance to get back to Rome to see a match; my grad student budget doesn't have return trip to Italy anywhere on the horizon. I love watching sports live, I love having a 'home team', a team that you feel a part of. That's what makes sports great for me. Roma couldn't give that, at least not all of it, and so I started following MLS as well. I can't be sure that the preceding was my decision process; it was probably more along the lines of, “There's a soccer game on ESPN!”, but I soon had the same process of 'discovering' MLS like I had with the European game.

I don't have a home-town team, living in Michigan, but I do feel strongly that MLS is my league. I can visit friends and drag them to games, watch games at reasonable hours, and watch the league grow. Roma will be my club, at least until I move somewhere with a professional team, but I am firmly an MLS fan.

Fans don't have to start out as fans of MLS. Why not start with the beautiful game somewhere else, then migrate to the American league? More soccer on tv, whatever league it is, is good for MLS. Sure, many people will stay steadfast EPL fans and never deign to attend a MLS game. There will be fans that can get their fix on weekend mornings, and may be less likely to watch the MLS game later that night. But the more soccer fans there are, the more fans there will be that want to attend a match. MLS will continue to improve, albeit slowly, in both quality and in atmosphere, and the more soccer fans there are in the country is more potential fans for the future.

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