My Journey to Becoming an MLS Fan


I have not been shy about where I stand on the topic of Major League Soccer.  I am someone who until just recently had no reason to support the league or any one of its teams.  But thanks to the Seattle Sounders FC, my journey into  MLS is complete.

I have followed European Football leagues, specifically the English Premier League for years.  I love soccer more than most other things on this planet, but no matter how much I loved the sport, I couldn’t bring myself to watch MLS.

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I remember once hearing former MLS star and USMNT defender Alexi Lalas say something along the lines of it being Un-American to call yourself a soccer fan if you don’t also support MLS.  That was maybe three or four years ago, after hearing that, I decided I needed to give MLS another try.

So that’s exactly what I did, I watched an MLS match or two and well, the result was the same, I simply didn’t enjoy it.  It would be like watching the NFL or NBA your whole life and then suddenly watching college football or basketball without a rooting interest in any team.

No one honestly believes that the quality of college sports is at a higher level than professional, but many do argue, myself included, that college sports are more exciting and more entertaining.  But it only becomes more exciting when you are passionate about the team you cheer for.

This is what I was lacking in MLS, a team to root for and a fan base to be a part of.  I grew up in Arizona and the closest team was in Los Angeles.  I would never dare cheer for any team from Los Angeles; therefore, I had no reason to ever watch MLS.

I was one of those Americans that MLS fans hate.  I talked trash about the league and laughed at people who supported it, believing that they must have been blind to think MLS was real soccer.

After college I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and lived less than a mile away from Santa Clara University where the San Jose Earthquakes play their home matches.  I decided that my best hope to begin a relationship with MLS was to meet her in person.  So that’s what I did.

I attended my first MLS match in 2013; the San Jose Earthquakes against the Colorado Rapids.  And was it love at first sight? Absolutely not.  MLS was like the girl you meet on a dating website who looks cute but then in person you find out she’s an overweight 33 year old man.

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Léo Chú's Red Card Costs Seattle Sounders in Controversial Draw with Portland Timbers /

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  • Ok, maybe I am overreacting a little bit.  The game was fine, but it was played in a college stadium that wasn’t much bigger than my high school’s football stadium.  Of course the play on the field was nothing compared to what I watched on TV each weekend, but that was as expected.  What I didn’t expect was such a lackluster atmosphere which never drew me into the action on the field.

    I assumed that similar to watching hockey in person as opposed to on TV, the experience of seeing it in person would completely change the way I felt about the league.  I did not have the experience I was hoping for and even after seeing the product in person I continued to keep my distance from MLS.

    After two years in California, my life circumstances brought me up to Seattle.  It wasn’t long after moving here that I realized something was different.  In the Bay Area, I don’t remember once seeing a person wearing an Earthquakes jersey or having a bumper sticker on their car or meeting a season ticket holder.  But here in Seattle I began to see people all around me supporting the Sounders as if they were an NFL franchise.

    I had heard that the Sounders were popular, but I was blown away by the support for a team that had only been a part of MLS since the 2009 season.  It was incredible to see people who genuinely cared for their local soccer club.  I was sucked in.

    My 2 month old son at his first Sounders match

    It didn’t take long before I bought tickets and decided to give MLS another try in a new city.  I attended my first Sounders match in May of this year.  This time, everything was different.  The stadium was full and the fans had traditions and sang songs.  For a minute, I felt like I had been teleported over to Europe.  I was no longer in a high school stadium; I was at proper stadium with actual soccer fans.

    I have not missed a Sounders match since.

    This weekend’s match is one of the most important in Seattle Sounders history.  The Sounders host the Los Angeles Galaxy with the Supporters Shield awarded to the victor (or to Seattle if it’s a draw).  I will not simply be attending the match, but I am flying one of my best friends up to Seattle to introduce him to MLS for the first time.

    Not only will it be a chance to watch an important MLS match, the final one of the regular season for both teams, but it is our last guaranteed opportunity to see Landon Donovan play in person (he may end up back in Seattle during the playoffs).

    So you can go ahead and call me a bandwagon Sounders fan.  I’ll accept that.  Until this year, I was not a fan of any MLS team or the league as a whole.  But I figure that as part of my mortgage payment I am also paying for the right to cheer for the local team.

    I still prefer watching European Football and don’t see that changing anytime soon.  But there is a lesson in this story for MLS Commissioner Don Garber and all MLS clubs.

    If you want to turn this league into something more than it currently is and if you want to get us “European Soccer Snobs” interested in MLS, make sure that the atmosphere at the matches meets and exceeds our expectations.  I understand that the play on the field is still years away from being at a similar level to what we see over in Europe, but until we reach that point, MLS should continue to invest in the fan experience and ensure that we, the fans of the sport, keep coming back week after week.

    Go Sounders!