Before we get started, let's just make sure one thing's clear. I love Salt Lake City, and it is a wonderful place to be a fan of the beautiful game.
WalletHub, a site whose sole relevancy seems to be based on producing "best and worst" lists ('cities for families,' 'strict and lenient states for speeding', and the like) has ranked Salt Lake City, Utah, its top city for being a soccer fan.
But as nice as that sounds, the methodology is a little — or a lot — flawed.
It's great that they're focusing on ticket prices here, because that's something Real Salt Lake has done well with over their existence. Getting a ticket to a game doesn't cost an arm and a leg unless you're bringing a large family or some such, and that's laudable. And the 'Twitter followers and likes per capita' is nice, too as part of an engagement metric.
But where things get a little strange is the fact that part of each metric — Costs & Fan Engagement and Teams & Performance — focuses on MLS, then on NCAA. College soccer is what it is, but two full divisions of soccer are left in the dust with those metrics. Nowhere does it matter if a city has a USL or NASL team, and while some of those teams aren't doing spectacularly in their markets, one has to look no farther than Sacramento and their Republic to see where that goes wrong.
Sacramento is a well-engaged city around their team with good attendance and reasonable ticket prices. They're passionate, and they're well in the works toward building a new, fancy downtown stadium, it would seem. The team is well-supported in the community, and local businesses (read: bars) actively advertise for the team. And where do they land on this list, you ask? Second-to-last.
It gets weirder.
Second place? 25,000-strong Mansfield, Connecticut. And why, you ask? Well, without everything revealed as to placement, we can't really say. But they rank fifth in "teams and performance" and ninth in "costs and fan engagement." I'm sure Mansfield is a lovely place (inevitably, I've never been), but how they rank as the "second best city for soccer fans" is a little insane. They're a university city — University of Connecticut sits there — and that's how they ended up ranking so well.
Meanwhile, Seattle and its well-supported Sounders, no matter what you think of them, ranks sixth, while Portland's all the way down at 23. When those two cities, recognized as bastions of the game — again, regardless of what you think of their fans or teams — rank like they do, you have to sit up and scratch your head a little bit.
You'll excuse if we're skeptical, won't you? It's always nice to be recognized, but this seems more of a dubious honor than anything else.