Dear Eurosnobs

I know, I know.  This is not a topic that strikes you as intellectual.  You’re probably past the petty squabbles and name-calling.  Generally, I’d be on that side of the fence myself.  Unfortunately, I see the “Eurosnob” attitude among as subset of American fans as something beyond harmless simpletons sniping at Major League Soccer from behind their Barcelona scarves.

I suppose I ought to start by outlining what I mean by the term “Eurosnob”.  Supporting a big European team doesn’t make you one.  Electing not to watch MLS doesn’t make you one.  Life is busy, not everyone lives and breathes soccer and the casual observer might just want to kick back and take in the odd Champions League game.  That’s all completely fine.

Hell, I’m an out-of-town Man United fan myself.

My gripe is with that particular subset of American soccer fan that paints a picture of themselves as football crazy, a passionate, die-hard lover of the game: They fawn over Messi, engage in talk on tactics, gossip, of the latest controversy, but should you even sneeze in a way that sounds like the letters M, L and S in their presence, they react like you’ve slapped the corpse at an open-casket service.

“MLS??? Screw MLS!!! That league’s a joke!!…..” they proclaim. Then they’ll proceed to rant nonsensically about an aspect of the league that they only seem to view as a problem because the EPL and La Liga do it differently.

Here are a few choice rebuttals to some of their favourite topics:

“Playoffs!! Screw playoffs!! Don’t Americanize my game!  Every other league has single table!!”

Actually, a number of central and South American leagues have championship playoffs or had them at some point.  In fact, there are a few European leagues that use them too. The majority actually use them to determine promotion and/or relegation.  On top of that, most of those nations aren’t a five hour flight from coast-to-coast, which is actually why the US tends to employ regional conferences and playoff systems in the first place.  Not to mention the fact that every continental tournament and indeed the World Cup are effectively playoff tournaments for most of their later rounds.

“MLS needs Promotion and Relegation to be taken seriously!!!”

No it doesn’t.  If anything, you need to stop raising this for me to take you seriously.  What is the rationale behind this argument?  Do these people ever stop to question why promotion and relegation exists at all?  Ever occur to them that all these European leagues tend to have clubs that predated the league by a decade or two in some cases?  Y’see, pro/rel is a system brought about to cater for the fact that there were literally hundreds of football clubs throughout England in the late 1800s, many of which could potentially have competed at the highest level.  Pro/rel was a means of shuffling teams into their rightful tiers.

Does the US have a plethora of teams primed to enter MLS and take it by storm?  No.  More importantly, does every MLS, NASL and USL Pro club have the finances and fanbase to cope with yo-yoing between leagues without losing their attendance and going bankrupt? No again.  Promotion and relegation is just one solution to an issue that American soccer doesn’t have.

“MLS SUCKS!!! It’s like, amateur level!!!”

Again, no.  It’s not Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga level.  Then again, neither are the overwhelming majority of other leagues.  It’s a league that continues to improve.  Right now, I would hold upthe average, healthy MLS starting XI against nPower Championship clubs.  Things drop off after that due to salary cap restrictions and the general talent pool, but in all honesty what do you expect?  The thing hasn’t been around for two decades yet.  It exists in a nation that still treated the sport with disinterest, even scorn in some quarters, at the time of its inception.  All things considered, it’s doing very well.  It deserves your praise, not your ire.

And while we’re on the subject, who are you to whine and complain about the state of your domestic league when you refuse to support it?  I’m frequently baffled by the lack of enthusiasm to get on board with leagues and clubs so near their inception.  Surely if you’re passionate about the game, the concept of having a team and league on your doorstep that you can help build should fill you with fervour, not irritation.

On top of that, seeing as MLS offers multiple weekly contests between decent teams of similar ability which you shun in favour of watching Barca or Chelsea put a team with a fraction of their talent pool and resources to the sword (while Ian Darke proclaims that the Premiership is so unpredictable), I have to question if you genuinely know what a good game of football actually is.

“The names!!!! The STUPID names!!!!”

Okay, this is where MLS simply cannot win.  If you call your team The Wiconsin Somethings, it’s an “Americanized nickname!!!!!”, if you call them Bayern Green Bay, it’s a “crass wannabe Euro rip-off name!!!!” and if you go for FC, United or SC, it’s “too generic”.  The LA Lakers name made little sense after they moved from Minneapolis.  Bayer Leverkusen are named after a company that makes Asprin.  Rapid Vienna.  Grasshoppers Zurich.  Tottenham Hotspur.  Young Boys. After a while, you stop thinking about it.  Does anybody really care that Real Salt Lake are called that anymore?

“They sometimes have FOOTBALL LINES on the field!!!!!”

If Barcelona did that, would you stop watching? It only counts for a couple of teams a few games a season anyway.

“They made the CLOCK COUNT BACKWARDS!!!!!!!”

They changed that a very long time ago.

Of course, much of this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  I won’t tell people what to do.  I will urge them though.  MLS is far better than it is given credit for.  It is hurt by unrealistic comparisons not with similar leagues but with the top leagues in the world.  Nobody is laughing at people for watching Liga MX.

Being at the Man United/LA Galaxy game at the Rose Bowl showed some unfortunate attitudes from sections of the United contingent.  There were people, most of which were certainly not from England, looking on at the Galaxy supporters section, shaking their heads in bewilderment.  You could see all over their faces that they saw a group of people, singing for their local team in their domestic league as something ridiculous – pathetic even.

When I see that these people will turn out in droves to see European giants yet hold our home team in disdain, it makes me wonder what they’re thinking.  What, because LA Galaxy aren’t up to the standards of a club that was founded in 1878, they aren’t worthy of anybody’s time?  Do you go home and shake your head at your 9 year old kid because he isn’t a successful lawyer like your 78 year old neighbour’s 40 year old son?  Do you walk out of the kids Christmas Pageant because it paled in comparison to the broadway production of Cats you saw last month?

I can’t tell these people to make it their mission to help their domestic league grow into something they might seek to watch.  However, I can express similar disdain to that which they point at a league I’ve come to care about.

The bottom line is that if you’re scoffing at people because they follow MLS, you’re the pathetic one and I’d strongly reassess how passionate about the sport you truly are.

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