By Ryan McAdams
The start of another soccer season is upon us and so is another season of me having to explain at length that not every game ends zero-zero. Rather than me tell you why you should love soccer, here are seven things that it does better than the “Big Four” American sports. Take note NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL!
One of the coolest things about each new soccer season is when new teams are added to the league. At the end of the season, the bottom three teams in the top tier league are replaced with the top three teams in the league below them.
For example, in the Premier League, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Aston Villa finished at the bottom last year and will be replaced with Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City. One of the top benefits of this would be the obliteration of tanking. A team like the 76ers or Braves wouldn’t be able to throw complete seasons away for draft picks because they would risk dropping down to the second-tier league. This would make more teams competitive and create more drama for teams that otherwise have nothing to play for. Instead of Sabres fans cheering at their team losing a game to give them a better draft pick, that win becomes super important to the Sabres remaining in the NHL.
Additionally, you’d get to see new teams, players and jerseys each year when new teams get promoted to replace whoever happened to get relegated that year. One last bonus this plan adds is that money hungry leagues (all of them) can add expansion teams without the traditional negatives that come with adding new teams. Las Vegas wants a football team? Sure thing! But they start in the lower division and have to work their way up to the NFL without the ridiculousness of an expansion draft.
In soccer, players are allowed to be loaned to other clubs for a season or partial season in exchange for that team paying the players salary. Usually this occurs when teams want a young player to have more regular playing time than they can offer, or when they want to sell a player that’s hard to get rid of. The concept of loans in other sports leagues leads to a wide range of fascinating possibilities.
For my favorite football team the Jets, I love the possibility of loaning Geno Smith to another team to see if he can develop into anything resembling a starter, while the Jets still attempt to reach the playoffs with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Maybe Christian Hackenberg is loaned to the Browns after RGIII and Josh McCown suffer season-ending injuries and turns into a star by the end of the season due to regular playing time (ok this is a little too biased, reeling it in a little).
Combining loans with the aforementioned promotion/relegation two-tiered sports leagues idea, we get even cooler possibilities. Maybe the Mets finally give Brandon Nimmo some playing time by loaning him to the Reds as part of the Jay Bruce deal, allowing Nimmo to avoid the corner-outfield logjam in Flushing for a year and giving the Reds an exciting young player to try and avoid relegation. Maybe instead of awkwardly backing up Brett Farve for three seasons before his eventual retirement/unretirement, Aaron Rodgers could have been loaned to the Las Vegas Cardsharks in League 2 and honed his craft there. Rodgers could have developed into an elite quarterback faster (theoretically), the Packers would have realized it’s time to move on from Farve (theoretically) and the Cardsharks could have rode Rodgers to a promotion to the NFL. Everyone wins!
If we attempt to reach an even crazier scenario with loans, maybe instead of leaving Cleveland in chase of rings, LeBron asks to be loaned to Miami for just a year instead, then returns to the Cavs without ever having to have to go through The Decision. Maybe Mike Trout is loaned to the Blue Jays for the rest of the year to create the most ridiculous lineup ever and give him a shot at a ring that he clearly won’t have any time soon in Los Angeles. Maybe JR Smith gets loaned to a team that lets him play games shirtless. The possibilities are endless!
3. Cups & Tournaments
On top of regular season games, there are multiple cups and tournaments going on throughout the year that teams participate in. These tournaments are great opportunities for small clubs (even from the other tiers) to make a name for themselves and for teams that wouldn’t normally have a chance at hardware to go for glory in an otherwise lost season.
Imagine the Cubs avoiding the suffering of another World Series-less year as their season is redeemed by their brilliant run to the Jackie Robinson Cup (baseball’s tourney would be the easiest to name by far). Like soccer, these tournaments would run parallel to the season and offer hope, excitement and extra games to otherwise disinterested fanbases. Also, powerhouse teams like the Spurs or the Patriots would have to debate whether they want to ignore the cup(s) and put all their resources towards the league, or go for both if they think they can do it. Do you heavily rotate to focus on winning the championship despite being only a few wins away from a trophy in the Cup tournament?
New York Rangers fans could finally pretend their team matters with a Gretsky Cup victory, the Braves could shock everyone with hardware in a season they end up getting relegated to the second tier and the new Seattle Supersonics could upset the Warriors in the Brian Scalabrine Cup (working title) final in a legendary 2-OT game. While this probably wouldn’t work in the NFL due to player safety concerns, what fan of other leagues wouldn’t love to see more games, more playoff atmosphere and more excitement during the season?
When I first learned soccer teams get new jerseys made for them every year I thought it was dumb. It’s really just for teams to make more money each season, as crazy fans will end up buying at least a new jersey per season, if not all three (home, away, alternate). It’s a ton of fun to see teams wear throwback uniforms (unless you’re Chris Sale) so it actually makes a lot of sense for fans to be pumped up for new jerseys each year.
The release of these new threads always generates a lot of buzz in the offseason, creating more excitement during a time that usually has none. Sure, sometimes you won’t be crazy about one of your team’s jersey but everyone discussing their opinions on the looks just adds to the fun. Plus, it’s always fun to laugh at the ridiculous uniforms that your rivals will have to wear that year like these atrocities:
I mean, who approved those? But anyway this is a great idea because it’s a huge money maker for teams and leagues and the new designs will give fans something else to debate and argue over. Oh and this, from one team’s jersey launch:
5. Rule Consistency
The rules of soccer have, for the most part, stayed the same for as long as I can remember. And the one time they introduce new technology into the game (goal-line technology), it was a seamless transition that doesn’t take up game time and generally makes the game better and more accurate. Meanwhile in other sports:
And while the NFL can’t figure out the most basic of rules, the MLB and NBA are having trouble with replay. Both have recently implemented video review to help make sure umpires/referees get the call right. But neither has figured out how to have that happen quickly.
Video review on challenges or umpire reviews take excruciating long in baseball, a sport that has been trying everything to speed up their games. Basketball can’t efficiently review plays either and has been trying to tweak the rules to get rid of “hacking” for a while now. The NHL has actually had some good rule changes like taking out the stupid two-line pass rule but also implemented the trapezoid which is up for Dumbest Rule Change in Recent Sports History (not a real thing). Consistency goes a long way in gaining new fans and not pissing off existing fans with infuriating tweaks to da rules. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should be adhered to by a lot more leagues.
6. Fan Songs
Every Big Four supporter gets behind their team in the most boring ways possible. “Let’s-go-[team]! Let’s-go-[team]!” Real creative Richard, they haven’t heard that one before, that’ll propell ‘em to victory. “D-Fence! D-Fence!” Thank god you were there to tell them you support them doing their job Deborah, what would they have done without you? It’s so uncreative that EVERY TEAM has a version of the same chants. And god forbid you have a stadium of split fans trying to out chant each other WITH THE SAME CHANT. You’ll have the entire stadium screaming “LETS-GO” and then a ridiculous mix of team names “CJOELTTSS!!!”
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, fans have gotten much more creative and kick the crap out of our chants/cheers. If you watched any of the European Championships, you saw/heard Iceland’s fantastic and intimidating Viking clap:
THIS IS ALREADY A MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN ANYTHING WE HAVE AND THEY’RE JUST CLAPPING!
There are endless examples of great songs made by fans, but the best are when they’re making fun of athletes, like West Ham fans chanting at a former player that reminded them of a certain bald Harry Potter character:
There’s also a ton of great self deprecating chants like:
Do these chants actually help teams perform better? I don’t know, Google it. But it definitely sounds a lot better and is less boring that what we have now.
7. Less Commercials
Easily the best part of watching soccer is the uninterrupted flow of play. You get to enjoy 45+ straight minutes of gameplay, followed by a 15 minute break for halftime when TV gets all of its commercials out of the way/when you go refill the bowl of Doritos you spilled everywhere when your team scored and then another 45+ minutes of straight soccer homie. Never will you have to deal with the atrocities of the dreaded extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial combo that watching football gets you.
The above chart, which matches similar research online, gives you an idea of just how little action there actually is in other sports like football and baseball. Most of these broadcasts are made up of replays, analysis, commercials and players waiting around for the next play to start, with very little actually happening. All this is a part of soccer as well but in much smaller doses that lets you get into the flow of the game more.
I get that soccer isn’t for everyone (no sport is, especially NASCAR), and my reason for writing this article wasn’t to convince everyone to start loving it. Nor is it a perfect sport either (please don’t google flopping, racism in soccer, or European Super League). Rather, I thought it important to point out the things it gets right because while no sport has it all together, soccer looks to be leading the pack. And if the Big Four leagues are gonna screw around with their sports, they might as well learn a thing from a sport that has it’s shit together.
Ryan McAdams is a contributing editor for YourSitch.com