New Years Resolution: Goodbye Europe, Hello America

 

Goodbye Europe, Hello America
Kevin Wallace

We’re four days into the new year, and how are your resolutions going? Have you made it to the gym yet? Have you logged everything in MyFitnessPal? Given that so many of our resolutions don’t make it to the super bowl, I thought, why not add another resolution on to the pile!?

For so many soccer fans in the US, we tend to follow European soccer in addition to our local teams. You probably have a team you follow in England, catch a few big teams from around Europe, and watch the Champions League.  And why not, with so much of the coverage being accessible and in English, it makes a lot of sense.

But forget that nonsense; It’s time for a change!  There were a few New Years resolutions I kicked around, but I finally settled on this: 2019 will be my year of the Americas.  Watching the Premier League makes sense when you can’t watch anything else, when it’s the biggest league you have access to. But it’s 2019 baby, we have so many more choices. And with FC Cincinnati now in MLS, it’s time to trade in my Euros for Pesos, head south of the border, and start learning Spanish.

Successful Liga MX moves to Europe are a lot easier to find than MLS to Europe

Successful Liga MX moves to Europe are a lot easier to find than MLS to Europe

Here’s my argument for why you should stop focusing on Europe and look to Latin America for your soccer fix: You’ll be a better American (soccer fan), you’ll see some of the best soccer in the world, you’ll have a deeper connection to competitions your club is actually in, and you get to be a soccer hipster in a world of soccer hipsters.

Yes, you’ll be a better American (soccer fan).  Liga MX, the Mexican soccer league, is the most watched soccer league in the United States, and it’s not close. In fact if you add up all the viewers of every other soccer league, they still don’t add up to Liga MX’s numbers in the US. And can you really be an American soccer fan if you’re not watching the most popular league in America? Spanish is the second most common language in the US after English. So rather than watching the Italian Serie A or the German Bundesliga, you’re actually being more American by watching a Spanish speaking league. On top of that, you’ll instantly be joining the largest soccer community in the United States, and what could be more American than jumping on a bandwagon?

Toronto, while being an MLS team, represents Canada, so you' don’t have to root for them as hard

Toronto, while being an MLS team, represents Canada, so you' don’t have to root for them as hard

And for your trouble, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best soccer the world has to offer.  Liga MX for instance, features a passing completion percentage that is dead-on with the Premier League and Bundisliga.  The wages, a shortcut to determining quality, put Liga MX ahead of Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The Brazilian and Mexican leagues are both in the top 10 of leagues by spending on wages.  But in addition to having quality, you will also see a much more exciting version of soccer. Liga MX for instance, averages 10-15% more attacks than the Premier Legaue or the Bundisliga. So not only do you get to see high quality teams, but more attacking soccer.  And if the on the field doesn’t do it for you, the passion in the stands absolutely will. I am focusing on Liga MX here but most of Latin American could fall into this categorization, especially the amazing hype machine that is the Copa Libertedores. Liga MX is the 4th highest attended soccer league in the world, and has the passion of millions behind it.  Club America plays in one of the hallowed grounds of soccer in the Estadio Azteca, one of only two stadiums to host multiple World Cup finals, the other being the Maracana in Brazil. The passion on display during big games around Latin America really put anything you might find in England to shame. The neutered crowds in England will make watching a derby in Mexico or Argentina make you realize how much more the crowd can be involved during a match.  Also, if you’re a pro/rel truther like myself, you can finally watch a league with promotion and relegation! And if you’re not a fan of promotion and relegation, you can enjoy that fact that Mexico has found a way to technically have pro/rel while at the same time not really having it. Everyone wins! Literally, you can’t lose!

But if being a better American and watching the some of the best soccer of the world can’t convince you, then let me appeal to the selfish nature in all of us. With FC Cincinnati joining MLS, there is a very real chance FCC could be playing in the CONCACAF Champions League in the very near future.  Yes, the”Champions League” you’re used to in Europe exists here in North America. And while there isn’t as much money in the competition, it’s now our competition. We can now have the existential crisis of rooting for fellow MLS teams in the competition or hoping they fail and can’t hold the glory over us.  It is a fantastic measure of how far MLS will have come compared to their neighbors. Last year MLS teams did really well, with Toronto just falling short in the final. This year, Atlanta seems poised to make a serious run at the Champions League title. The prize for winning the champions league? A shot at the Club World Cup, and teams like Real Madrid and Boca Juniors.  Also, for fans of the US Men’s National Team, don’t forget we have the Gold Cup this summer. That’s the first big test for Gregg Berhalter and we’ll finally, finally, get to see these exciting young Americans play in a real competition. And they’ll be facing a Mexican team (hopefully) that is now coached by former Atlanta United boss Tata Martino, and features players from Liga MX and MLS. So to be a fan of the US Men’s National Team means you should be paying attention to the competition. And that competition isn’t Italy or Belgium, it’s Mexico and Costa Rica. And if you’re a fan of the US Women’s National Team? Well, keep an eye on Mexico as well. Liga MX Femenil is quickly turning into one of the better supported women’s leagues in the world. The Mexican women’s team finished second in the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2018. Add that to a solid domestic league, and they could be challenging the US sooner rather than later.

Some of the most exciting soccer in the world is on our TVs right now, and many MLS fans don’t tune in

Some of the most exciting soccer in the world is on our TVs right now, and many MLS fans don’t tune in

But even more than that, watching soccer in South America in particular, the Copa Libertedores specifically, will give you a glimpse into the future of MLS. So many more MLS teams are importing talent from South America that watching will have you scouting for new talent for your team to see. The stars of tomorrow are already playing soccer today all over the Americas, and you can be the first to see them play and tell all of your friends about how you were on the Pity Martinez train a year before anyone else has heard of him.

“There’s no better atmosphere than Anfield singing You’ll Never Walk Alone” - someone who has never watched a different league

“There’s no better atmosphere than Anfield singing You’ll Never Walk Alone” - someone who has never watched a different league

Which brings me to my last point, you get to be a soccer hipster to soccer hipsters. Yeah, we all know a Euro-Snob who follows a team like Liverpool, who wants the US to implement promotion and relegation, and complains about MLS being a crappy league. Well now you get to out hipster them.  You can respond with “Oh Arsenal huh? I see someone is too scared to follow a real team like Pumas”. Or “Oh yeah you guys signed Lozano? Neat, he was killing it for Pachuca years ago, glad you finally get to enjoy him”. And isn’t that really what soccer is about? Now that soccer is becoming more mainstream, it’s important we are still able to feel superior to other people, and watching Liga MX or other Latin American leagues is a great way to rekindle that spirit that originally drew you to the sport.  And what’s more nostalgic than watching a match on a grainy stream on a sketchy website in a language you can’t speak?

So that’s my New Years resolution, to focus more on the Americas and less on Europe when it comes to consuming non-FC Cincinnati soccer.  And here’s how I plan to do it if you’d care to join me. For one, ESPN has solid Liga MX coverage and seems like a good place to start. I have access to a FuBo subscription that I would recommend to anyone who has cut cable but loves soccer to watch many of the Liga MX games.  For podcasts, The Mexican Soccer Show offers English coverage of Liga MX, and The Cooligans are a hilarious MLS podcast from two Latin comedians based in New York. And of course FotMob, every USL fan’s best friend, the app that lets you keep track of every soccer competition in the world.  With all of these, a few sketchy websites with illegal streams, I am looking forward to a soccer diet of passion, attacking moves, and Champions League glory. Sure, I don’t speak Spanish, but I’m on a four day streak on DuoLingo so I’m pretty much there. Adios, ¡Hasta luego!

 
Kevin Wallace