My 10-Year Love Affair with Major League Soccer
Ten years ago, I was merely nine years old and recording NHL games off Channel Five had become somewhat of hobby.
I had become fascinated by American sports.
It was an alternative. I felt like I was different to my friends, and more in touch with the wider world, because of my love for athletic competition across the pond.
My fixation towards American sports continued to grow, particularly when I watched my first MLS game.
Like the NHL, I stumbled upon MLS by accident.
My natural inclination was to tape the NHL for about six hours on a videocassette simply labeled “NHL.” To this day, I can’t quite fathom why I used to over-record by so much.
One day, around this time of year in 1999, I had just obtained my weekly fix of ice hockey. Usually I would’ve stopped the tape right away but for some reason I didn’t follow normal protocol.
Thankfully, the next program featured my first true sporting love—soccer!
I didn’t really care that I didn’t know the participants; I mean Miami Fusion and MetroStars sounded cool enough to demand my attention for the next 90 minutes.
Okay, the quality of soccer on display was by no means mind-blowing, but I couldn’t have cared less.
Why would I? It was soccer after all.
The following week, I knew exactly why I was recording Channel Five for six hours. In fact, the NHL was becoming less important to me. It wasn’t long before I was frantically reaching for the fast forward button on my remote.
I just wanted to watch a game of soccer. I wanted to watch an alternative to the English Premier League. I wanted to be different from my friends.
While my friends were clambering to view games between Manchester United and Arsenal, I couldn’t wait to see the Tampa Bay Mutiny and New England Revolution do battle.
The season rolled on and I began to have a deep affection for the Miami Fusion. The South Florida outfit were not going to be world-beaters any time soon and they drew the smallest crowds in the league.
To me, they seemed like the underdog. I wanted to be a fan of the franchise when they finally made it to “The Promised Land.”
Regrettably, three seasons after I first began to follow the league and Miami, the Fusion ceased all operations after the 2001 season.
The following seasons seemed to offer less of an appeal to me. Consequently, I watched less and less of the league that I had once treated like some sort of religion.
MLS had consumed me, but not anymore.
Whenever I played soccer with my friends, I would inevitably end up playing in goal. No doubt my friends would imagine that they were Dennis Bergkamp or Alan Shearer. I, on the other hand, dreamt of being like Nick Rimando or Tony Meola.
After the burden of MLS had been, sadly, removed from my shoulders, I began to dream of one day following in the footsteps of Iker Casillas.
MLS would later enter the spotlight in mainstream British media when David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy, thus more coverage of the league was available to the interested British fan.
Many Brits were getting to grips with MLS for the first time, but not me. I would like to be able to say I welcomed the league wholeheartedly back into my life, alas there was something wrong.
MLS wasn’t the way I remembered it.
Miami still didn’t have a team to replace my beloved Fusion, but that was the least of my worries.
I couldn’t, and still can’t, quite put my finger on what had changed. I think it was loads of little things that revealed themselves in due course.
Since then, I have gradually allowed MLS back into my life.
After a more than rocky relationship, I am prepared to embrace the league, for better or for worse.
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