One element of the English Premier League that may be difficult for American fans to grasp is the proximity of the 20 teams that compete for the Championship. For comparison sake, picture all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams being located between Boston and Washington DC and no further west than Pittsburgh.
Below is a link to the map showing the distribution of the 2018 EPL teams. This map clearly highlights that the teams with the stranglehold on top of the league are all squarely located in Manchester (4) and London (6). The unfortunate outliers on this map are Newcastle in the bitter cold north, Brighton Hove Albion in the southern coastal town (a town with more seagulls than people), and the Wales club, Swansea City on the Western shore.
The map also explains the depth and intensity of the rivalries that make soccer so special.
Imagine if more rivalries were like Duke vs UNC in basketball or the Red Sox vs. Yankees in baseball. Speaking of the MLB, they picked up on the value of natural rivalries based on proximity and in all their brilliance created interleague match ups and who wouldn’t want to see more bat throwing, mound-charging interactions between Clemens and Piazza.
The wealthy Arab oil-funded ownership of Manchester City, also owns the NYCFC in the MLS, and has attempted to manufacture this proximity formula by throwing these scabs into the same city as the New York Red Bulls (no surprise under the patriarch of Manchester United). What these international greed mongers don’t understand is that the MLS has too many geographical outliers – Columbus, Colorado, Dallas, Houston etc. – and zero bad blood from history, and therefore have less chance of forming a rivalry with the NY clubs then Newcastle, BHA, or Swansea with the Manchester clubs. That combined with the general state of indifference and apathy of the American sports fan to professional soccer as a whole makes the equation of success for soccer in the U.S. grim.
In summary, just as American sports followers don’t understand the beauty and passion of the world’s most popular sport and it’s supporting backstory, which is fueled by natural drivers such as proximity and history, successful business models/franchises in the EPL will not automatically translate to the MLS. Soccerstuf.com is not just here to identify and report on the ridiculous and flawed, but provide recommendations as well, so if owners from the Arabian nations want to generate groundswell in soccer, they need to do so at the community level. Make soccer exciting and more importantly available to inner city kids, build modular facilities in northern cities so players can train year round (there is a reason our best hockey players come from the north and football players from the south…duh…it’s proximity and resources just like the oil that made you rich).
I want to credit the EPL for allowing me to write this article by taking a week off from games that matter in order to find the time to do the research and write this longer than normal article. Enjoy your Sunday and remember to show good form off the pitch.