MLS: Relating Each Team to a Premier League Parallel
Have you ever thought about the similarities between MLS and Premier League clubs in the modern era? A decade ago it would have been silly to think of parallels between the massively different leagues, but as American soccer has progressed, suddenly its domestic league has started to resemble the EPL more and more.
We are even at a level where teams share a number of characteristics despite being located thousands of miles and an ocean away. I began to look into some of these inter-league parallels and realized there are more comparable teams than what you would initially expect.
Here is a list of each MLS team and the English Premier League club it most reflects.
Note: This is a subjective list and it is obvious that some comparisons are stronger than others. Nevertheless, if you would have different pairings than the ones on the list, feel free to comment with your opinion. Have fun and enjoy!
Chicago Fire—Stoke City
Chicago and Stoke have labeled themselves as two teams who are willing to spend money, but never enough to get their much-needed star.
It seems like Chicago and Stoke always throw enough cash to be competitive, but they don’t really have the budget to compete for silverware year in and year out. Both teams live and die with their forwards and find a way to finish mid-table at the end of every season.
Chivas USA- QPR
If you think about it, these two teams are practically parallel franchises living thousands of miles away. Both play second fiddle (Or worse) in their big market and can’t seem to produce anything worth watching on the field. Attendance has been a big problem for both QPR and Chivas, who are dead last in league support in MLS and EPL. Finally, you have two teams whose future is plagued by a mist of confusion. Will QPR be able to survive the drop? Will Chivas USA be relocated in the upcoming years? The questions are endless. The parallels are obvious.
Now, I realize that Colorado and Bolton don’t share equal amounts of history or success, but I do see the similarity in terms of unfulfilled potential.
Both clubs have suffered significant offensive setbacks over the last year that prevented the squads from ever really competing at full strength.
Conor Casey, Caleb Folan, and Omar Cummings, the three offensive studs on the Rapids' attack, all missed serious playing time last year due to significant injuries. The same goes for Bolton, where Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong’s absence have had serious effects on the Bolton attack all season.
I am not saying that Bolton would be as successful as Colorado if they had these players back, but the fact that both teams have suffered unfortunate setbacks in the last year should be noted.
Columbus Crew—Norwich City
Both are teams that on paper should be no more than bottom feeders in their respective leagues, yet each year they make the most of their talent and find a way to surprise the table.
Last year, after losing MLS All-Star Barros Schelotto, the Crew were not expected to finish anywhere near a playoff spot, yet for most of the season Columbus found itself near the top of the Eastern Conference and was very close to winning the division.
On the other hand, Norwich was predicted by many to be a relegation lock at the end of this season, yet consistent play and fight has kept them mid-table throughout the first seven months of the campaign.
Both teams also are relatively distant from surrounding clubs in terms of location, so they can still be successful despite being in a small market. The impressive play considering the small budget is what makes these teams so similar.
Hopefully, I am not the only one who recognizes the incredible similarities between DC United and Liverpool. Both clubs have incredibly prestigious histories, yet have struggled the last couple of years to recreate their “Glory Days.”
From unfortunate injuries to unsuccessful transfers, these teams have suffered it all the past few seasons as their passionate fans await anticipated silverware. However, as the MLS and EPL continue to become more competitive, DC and Liverpool’s quest for redemption is only getting harder.
FC Dallas—West Bromwich Albion
West Brom and Dallas are two incredibly disciplined clubs that are balanced on attack and defense. Both teams have their specific stars, but these players are not necessarily relied on to provide the game-winning goal.
Team play is the name of the game for both Dallas and West Brom as they find ways to be competitive with nearly every opponent.
The phrase “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” can’t be applied to either of these teams. In fact, both of these teams spend incredibly small amounts of money considering their recent success on the pitch.
The Dynamo are one of the most “cautious with their checkbook” clubs in the entire MLS, yet are coming off a trip to the MLS Cup Finals and are second in the Eastern Conference.
The same goes for Everton, who are famous for being one of the most consistently competitive clubs in the Premier League despite keeping their wallet zipped throughout most of each transfer window.
Getting the most for their bucks is why these clubs lie together in this list.
Los Angeles Galaxy—Manchester United
Don’t tell me you have never seen the comparisons. Both have been the “Top Dawgs” in their league the last couple of years and always find ways to pull out the three points.
However, it is not just the recent trophies that define the Galaxy and United, as each team also has incredible amounts of history and prestige from winning the top prize frequently throughout the years.
They are the reigning champions, the team everybody around the world thinks of whenever the league is mentioned and the team nobody wants to face when three points are on the line.
While both Montreal and Wigan do show promise, each are likely to remain near the bottom of their table at the end of the season. Despite Montreal and Wigan containing a lot of offensive potential, the fact of the matter is both teams lack that true superstar to take the team to the next level.
The good news: Youth is on their side and hints at a better future.
New England Revolution—Blackburn
New England and Blackburn have been in the news more often lately for their front office confusion rather than their play on the pitch. Both teams have made headlines with their managerial controversies the last couple of years because frankly, there is not much to talk about in terms of football.
While the clubs have their fair share of history, they both have entered a sort of dark era that will be difficult to get out of.
New York Red Bulls—Chelsea
While Chelsea may have a little more than an Emirates Cup in their trophy case, the parallels can be seen between these two big spending clubs. There is no denying that Chelsea and the Red Bulls are friendly with their checkbooks, as each team has garnered a reputation of “Supplementary Spenders” in the modern age.
However, the fact that their big budgets have not necessarily led to anticipated success means the club is constantly in turmoil with its fans and management. Two incredibly demanding fan bases are constantly being fed with results that simply are not acceptable considering their potential.
What is another similarity? Coaching changes are surely on the way this summer.
Philadelphia Union—Aston Villa
The Union and Villa are two teams that are struggling to find their identity right now. After the departure of star players last offseason, both the Villans and Union can’t seem to find their footing in their current season.
That remorse is mixed with the fact that new, highly anticipated signings (N’Zogbia and Adu) have done very little to get the team back to where the supporters expect it to be. The identity crisis going on in Philadelphia and Birmingham right now was created in a very similar fashion.
Both teams are very balanced when it comes to attacking production. It is this feature that makes Portland and Sunderland so tricky a fixture whenever your favorite club is playing them.
Whether it is Alhassan, Nagbe, Jewsbury, Perlaza or Boyd, the Timbers may have more legitimate goal-scoring threats on the field than any other team in MLS. The same goes for Sunderland, who can find the much-needed goal from Larsson, Bendtner, or even Richardson at any given time.
Neither team relies on one specific player to supply the majority of the goals, and that is why it can be so difficult to keep them off the scoreboard at times. The consistent support from each excellent fan base also helped me in my decision of putting the Timbers and Black Cats on the same slide.
Real Salt Lake—Arsenal
The similarities between Arsenal and RSL can be recognized by even the most disillusioned of Gooners.
Both clubs have established themselves as powerhouses in their leagues, but via a different path than most. Both teams strive to develop their stars rather than buying the best available, a method often less used but seemingly as effective.
While Arsenal have Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Kieran Gibbs, RSL developed key players such as Luis Gil, Will Johnson, and Fabian Espindola. The success of Arsenal and RSL is based on development and intelligent trades rather than big transfers.
San Jose Earthquakes—Wolves
Wolves and San Jose are joined by the hip in this slideshow due to the fact that each club lives and dies with their one star.
Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Fletcher are the heavily relied-on goalscorers who put the team on their back to salvage any points possible for their club. Both players have more than double the goals of the second leading scorer on their team, and their success often is what determines if the club earns the three points or not.
The other similarity is that both sets of supporters absolutely love their team, no matter their spot in the table. It is a very respected characteristic that often goes lost in the modern day of football, and I applaud both fan bases for that.
When you look at these two clubs, it is quite easy to see how they relate. Both clubs have plenty of history when it comes to Cup tournaments, as the Sounders are three time reigning champions of the USOC, while Tottenham is the third most successful club in FA Cup history.
Both also have a great habit of finding good young talent, as the Sounders' offense is loaded with stars such as Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, and David Estrada, while Spurs boast the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Kyle Walker.
Finally, the most significant relation I see between these two clubs is the brand of attractive football that they play. Whether you are a Sounders fan or not, you have to admit their style and swagger on the pitch is one of the best in the league, and that is a characteristic very similar to the Lilywhites of North London.
Sporting Kansas City—Newcastle
Can’t you see it? The two teams who have taken their league by storm the last twelve months and have incredible offensive firepower at their disposal are SKC and Newcastle.
The emergence of Demba Ba coincides with CJ Sapong’s ascension to the top of the MLS goal list, while Graham Zusi and Yoann Cabaye flashed on the scene to be premier playmakers in their respective league.
The fact that both teams are very young and vibrant means both SKC and Newcastle play a very entertaining style of football for the neutral fan. It also means that each club can boast this talent in a fairly small budget and not have to spend the big bucks to remain competitive.
Finally, the correlations between St. James Park and Livestrong Sporting Park on a Saturday afternoon makes this selection very easy: SKC is the Newcastle of MLS.
It is the slide of the new, entertaining clubs of England and the US.
Toronto has established itself as one of the biggest spenders in the league in the last year and now remains the only MLS club in the CONCACAF Champions League. Their variety of offensive weapons is eerily similar to Fulham’s revamped attack with Dempsey, Dembele, and Duff leading the way.
These are two teams that have proven themselves in the last year and are certainly on the rise in 2012.
Vancouver and Swansea are seen as the new kids on the block in England and the States, but their similarities go way past that.
Both teams have a multitude of weapons on offense and can be very fun to watch when they are confident. The fact that the Whitecaps and Swans are exceeding expectations with a limited budget is also a parallel that can be seen between these two clubs.
Vancouver and Swansea are also relatively liked by neutral fans, giving them an plenty of honorary supporters when game day arrives.
You might have noticed throughout the list that the blue giants of Manchester were not paired up with a team. That is because, quite frankly, Major League Soccer doesn't have a club that parallels the style, management and money of Manchester City.
Maybe a few years down the road, a rich owner will flood a massive market with a team name that rhymes with the Yew Nork Bosmos. Hey, anything is possible! We could have a MLS Manchester City before you know it.
Cheers and thanks for reading!