This is my last article for RSL Soapbox. It’s been fun and I appreciate the cheers and jeers over the years (I apologize for the rhyme). I figured I’d revisit what was probably my most read article as a Soapbox writer.
So here it is, my soccer mantra: Real Salt Lake is my team and Major League Soccer is my league. People say, but what about the Premier League? La Liga? Bundesliga? They tell me those leagues are better. Whatever: RSL is my team and MLS is my league. It’s a hierarchy superseded only by the US National Teams.
There have been some huge changes in MLS over the past two years since I first put this list together. New teams. Drama of teams possibly moving. New owners and ownership groups. A revolving door of coaches. We’re looking at a completely different league, now. If you’re like me, your list probably needs some adjusting. Atlanta has taken MLS by storm; they’ve raised the bar on the pitch and given everyone a villain. They’ve stolen the title of most obnoxious fanbase from Seattle. And like Seattle, they’ve won hardware to back it up.
With the advancements and money that teams are bringing to the table, other teams are being left behind. San Jose won last year’s Wooden Spoon, the reward for the last placed team. Orlando has a killer stadium and strong fanbase, but the product they put on the pitch has become a recurring joke: they’re like free points for opponents. Minnesota has made some moves this offseason that have eyebrows rising; might they actually be competitive this year?
We’re now at twenty-four teams, with three more slated to join over the coming seasons. The league is growing. Changing. RSL needs to adapt to this and I believe the academy pipeline over dropping big bucks is the right move for us. We’ll see.
I’m not a hateful fan. I don’t hate rivals except for during the ninety minutes we’re on the pitch. Sporting KC are the Joker to our Batman—they complete us. We’re not who we are without them. But you’ll notice Western Conference teams nestle at the bottom of the list. It’s because of that whole playoffs thing. I always want Western Conference teams to lose. When it’s two Western Conference teams playing each other? Both should lose.
RSL is my team and MLS is my league.
So here’s a fun, entirely non-scientific, emotionally-based, wholly-personal list of my own hierarchy of teams. Make your own in the comments section!
- Real Salt Lake—:D
- New England Revolution—My wife’s from New England. I earned my MFA from Western New England University. Boston was the final stop on my New York to Boston cycling trip last summer. It has a special place in my heart, despite the Rev’s stupid American gridiron throw-egg stadium.
- Montreal Impact—IMFC won me over during their almost-fairytale-run in CONCACAF Champion’s League a couple of years back. Nacho Piatti remains my favorite non-RSL player in MLS. He’s a joy to watch. And I’m visiting Montreal this summer for some poutine!
- DC United—I was stationed in DC for three years in the army and DC United (MLS’s original United team in black and red) was the first MLS team that had any name recognition for me thanks to a childhood friend and his support of this team.
- Philadelphia Union—Have you ever had a Philly cheese steak in Philly? The best. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Hilarious. I want Philadelphia to be a good team. It’s a bit of a pity ranking. The airport has a display case dedicated to them, at least!
- Columbus Crew—So, the Crew are saved. That’s good. Precourt was pushed away. Excellent. A new coach. A new identity. Fill that stadium, Columbus. Every match. Prove you were worth it.
- Chicago Fire—A team with a storied history and a sad stretch the past few seasons. They’re getting left behind in MLS’s new era. Can they become something again? I hope so. Chicago style pizza is excellent!
- New York Red Bulls—New York style pizza is better; too bad RBNY are in New Jersey. As an introvert, I’m not the biggest fan of the New York metro area—too many people.
- NYCFC—It was fun to cycle through the city, though. I might be excited to talk about riding past the NYCFC stadium, but we all know it isn’t really their stadium. It’s the worst soccer stadium in the league. Bar none.
- FC Cincinnati—I have no idea yet. They had a sweet US Open Cup run to the semifinals in 2017 which put them on everyone’s radar. They’re got an interesting roster. Cincinnati style chili is delicious. Mostly I’m indifferent to them. We’ll see.
- Orlando City—Just laugh along with me, folks. Just laugh. Their fans deserve better. Oh so much better.
- Toronto FC—What’s up with TFC? They went from “Hey everybody, look! It’s the best team the league’s ever seen” to whatever last season was. I once liked them for the USMNT synergy. After that World Cup debacle against T&T? Ewwww. Still a rotten taste. Might as well blame TFC.
- Vancouver Whitecaps—Another team struggling to keep up with the new MLS. Canadians are nice, though. I suppose.
- Minnesota United—There’s a big hmmmm attached to Minnesota this year. Will they actually be competitive? Their roster says yes, but only time will tell.
- Colorado Rapids—Who cares anymore? I want them to get better because it’ll push us to be better. I want this rivalry to matter. Like it once did. Right now they’re just sad. I’d say their fans deserve better, but only three or four show up, so whatever.
- San Jose Earthquakes—We couldn’t beat them last season. Worst team in the league and we only got two of six possible points. Have they even done anything to improve? I donno.
- Houston Dynamo—Texas. Yuck. I have a writer friend who lives here with her wife, though. So I guess that gives Houston points over Dallas.
- FC Dallas—I was always a big fan of Óscar Pareja, but he’s no longer with FC Dallas. So what’s there to like? Nothing. It’s Texas. There’s nothing to like.
- Portland Timbers—I love their kits, sure. I like the city. But I love to watch the Timbers lose oh so much more. Plus, they steal all of our talent. Borchers and Grabavoy are RSL’s, dammit! RSL’s!
- LAFC—Another LA team. Just what we all needed. Meh. We knocked them out of the playoffs last year, though. That was sweet. So very sweet. Hopefully a rivalry will arise.
- LA Galaxy—This is a lopsided relationship. Like with New York, I’m just not a fan of the huge metro. Utah fans generally dislike LA teams, but the LA fans don’t think much about us either way. It’s still been fun to watch them flounder!
- Seattle Sounders—I don’t think Seattle know who they are anymore. They don’t know how to start their seasons. They’ve lost their attendance records. They’ve relinquished the title of most annoying fanbase. Who are you anymore, Seattle? Who are you?
- Atlanta United—The league’s villain. They won hardware. Their fans are annoying as all get-out. I went to basic training in Georgia, so I’m not too fond of the place. It’s muggy, hot, and it smells. They’ve set the standard, though. It’s up to us to not be left behind by MLS’s villain. Respected and hated.
- Sporting Kansas City—The team RSL fans love to hate. In pure honesty, they make us better and make the league fun. Their fans are quality, both as adversaries and in their reflection of us. We’re the small-market MLS teams with huge chips on our shoulders. But how dare I say anything kind! Down with SKC!