What March Madness Can Teach Euro Fans About Watching MLS
MLS fans put up with a lot in America. The soccer ignorant and the soccerphobic. Flipping through offseason NFL news, spring training news, NASCAR news, NBA trade rumors, hockey news, and golf news in their local papers before getting to any mention of soccer. And more often than not, that soccer news is European news lapped up by the dreaded American “euro snob.”
You know the type; fills up the bar every early Saturday morning to lustily cheer for his adopted Premier League side – the one he’s loyally supported to the death since that killer spring semester abroad. The ones who pair pristine Messi, Rooney and Van Persie shirts with skinny jeans and sneakers (which they’ll readily call trainers) to Pitchfork-recommended synth-pop shows. The ones who only attend domestic matches if it’s Steve Nash’s celebrity-strewn Showdown in Chinatown or involves Vice Magazine. And worst of all, the ones who refuse to watch MLS because, merde, the soccer is just not as beautiful as it is on the continent.
For American soccer fans, the enemies are the soccer ignorant, the soccerphobic and Adam Carolla, not each other. And this time of year, March Madness, is a great reminder that if you truly love soccer as a sport, then you can watch all levels of the game.
After all, there’s no doubt that the quality of college ball is far inferior to that of the NBA. And the disparity has only gotten worse. Yet Americans continue to watch the NCAA Tournament in huge numbers and not just because of gambling and office brackets. NBA fans watch March Madness to support their school, to watch tomorrow’s stars, to watch upsets, to watch wild finishes, to watch emotional stories unfold and most of all, just to watch basketball period. Just like many NFL fans warm up their couches for Sunday by watching college football on Saturday.
Is the quality of play in MLS inferior to the top European leagues? No doubt. But grounds fill up in countries all over Europe despite hosting leagues inferior to their neighbors in Italy, Germany, Spain, and England. That’s because soccer, like basketball, is a deep enough game for one to find beauty at any level.
This time of year, basketball fans revel in getting to watch hours upon hours of college and pro action. American soccer fans are spoiled for choice like that all year long. We can watch European action in the morning and then catch action from MLS, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil in the evening (and us west-coast fanatics can catch Japanese and Australian action during fourth meal time). A true soccer fan soaks in as much of the game as he or she can. We don’t do restrictive diets very well in this country, so don’t pick at your plate, gorge on soccer’s full buffet.