You should call me Tex. You know, short for Terry and like Texas and that. Only, my name’s not Terry, but I do like American things; Dr Pepper – yes it tastes like fizzy Benylin, but I like it. Lucky Charms (actually, they might be Irish?), American cinema and just generally the whole razzmatazz that Americans inject into pretty much everything that they do.
So when SKY announced that they were to broadcast live fixtures from across the pond, I was a little bit excited. I had tried to get into the MLS before, when Tim Lovejoy presented “David Beckham’s Soccer USA” on Channel 5, but there was certainly no love or joy for that. The typical English reaction at the news was not a great one; “those yanks should stick to handball and rounders” was the general tone.
Major League Soccer is seen as a bit of a Mickey Mouse league over here; they don’t even call it football as that title goes to a sport that, ironically, uses the hand more often than the foot. The rest of the world just sees the MLS as a retirement village for once-top-draw players. But that is simply not the case… Bradley Wright-Phillips has always been shit.
Admittedly, it did take me a little while to figure out what was going on over there; I had to learn as the season went on. The USA is so big that the league has to be split into two (East and West), but the teams do also play fixtures against sides from the opposite conference. They also have the “super draft”, and it’s absolutely mental. Yet at the same time, bloody entertaining!
For me personally, the main let down from football across the pond is the competition format. You can top the division but not actually win the league – the whole league process is just basically a massive qualifier for the MLS Cup. And even more disappointing than that, is the fact that there are no promotions and relegations. Instead, teams are practically built and given a league position on the spot (English translation: Milton Keynes Dons). And the worst that than can result from finishing bottom of the pile, is that everyone else might point and laugh. What is football without a relegation dog fight?
‘Soccer’ is very different from football, granted. A boot is called a ‘cleat’, a transfer is called a ‘draft’, a squad is called a ‘roster’ and Jozy Altidore scores goals. But once you manage to get your head around these discrepancies, it’s not actually bad. It could certainly be a lot worse – you could be watching Scottish football instead. So here are the Top Ten Reasons to watch the MLS:
1 THE SUPERSTARS
American soccer fans must be fed up with the whole ‘retirement village’ perception from the rest of the world. But their reasons for being there or whether or not they are past their best doesn’t matter, what’s important, is that they are there… Kaka, Pirlo, Cole, Villa. Nice!
2 THE FANS
Another misconception about Americans is that they don’t care about football. And whilst this may very well be true for a lot of them, those that are into the game are as passionate about it as the rest of us. You should hear the “Can you hear the New York sing – I can’t hear a fucking thing” chant in their accent. It’s brilliant. Not to mention the “get off the pitch, bitch” chant that was doing the round at the weekend. What was that all about?
3 THE STADIA
Unlike the boring and predictable toilet bowls that we have in England, like at; Derby, Reading and Leicester – MLS stadiums have character. New York playing on a baseball field (pitch) is certainly something different.
4 NAT BORCHERS’ BEARD
5 IT FILLS A GAP
When our season is over, the post-football depression will ensue right? Wrong! The MLS will still be in full swing during those bleak weeks. Americaaa – coming again to save the mother fuckin’ day, yeah!
They play their national anthem before each game in the States, and they bloody love it. Hats off, hands on heart. All together now: In the land of the freeeeeeeee
7 THE TIMBERS’ LOG
No, it’s not a metaphor. Every time Portland score, some fella cuts through a giant log. At the side of the pitch. With a chainsaw. Not quite sure why, but it looks bloody mental
8 THE RAZZMATAZZ
All of the pyrotechnics is entertaining for an outsider looking in. It comes with the territory across the pond. When Columbus Crew’s scoreboard caught fire a few years back, everyone thought it was part of the show.
9 THE TROPHY
It looks like something that T-1000 morphed into at the end of Terminator 2. But it’s classy.
10 OWEN COYLE GOT SACKED
Probably the best reason of them all. No more irritating shorts on the side lines.