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The Neutral Chronicles: When the international break is a blessing

You may not have a club team to support, but chances are you've got a national team.

American and Mexican fans take in an international soccer game.
American and Mexican fans take in an international soccer game.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the unique aspects of professional soccer is that club and international soccer are both very important. NFL players don't go off to play for their national teams in World Cup qualifiers (mostly because the vast majority of football players are American), and even for sports with an international component like baseball and basketball, the "club" side is far more important day-to-day than the odd tournament every two-to-four years.

So while club fans bemoan the international break, for legitimate reasons ("I have to wait how long before my team is in action again?!"), for the neutral, international soccer is a blessing.

I will say that when I had an MLS team actually playing soccer, I was certainly a "club over country" fan, but that never meant I didn't like international soccer. For all of the critiques about international soccer, that it adds to players being overworked (not international soccer's fault exclusively, but fair point), that the quality is lower than club soccer because a collection of players get together for a few days at a time and usually just kind of wing it (also fair, but there are good games and bad, just like in the club version), and people just don't care to watch national teams align and play soccer (I mean, alright, you borderless idealist), there's still a lot of fun to be had watching it.

I think of club and international soccer like potato chips and pretzels. Some people like chips more, others like pretzels, but most of us like mixing it up sometimes and eating each once in a while.

And without international soccer, we wouldn't have "a little tournament" called the World Cup. Your co-worker or sibling's significant other wouldn't be asking whether Landon Donovan is going to this next tournament, or tell you he/she is a huge Italy fan or whatever. You wouldn't be able to make small talk with them every four years about the sport.

For a club neutral, seeing soccer featuring national team(s) you do root for gives you an opportunity to still be a fan. You may not have chosen a club team or have lost your local team, but most of us have a nationality and have at least some kind of allegiance on that front. You get to feel like a fan, and in most cases, there is no selection of national team allegiances -- you are a fan of a country due to personal ties. It's all wrapped up in your heritage and birth and hometown.

So sure, international soccer is not perfect. For all of the financial and sporting benefits of friendlies, there seems to be too many of them at times and teams' interest levels flag as a result. But tournament play and qualifiers are good clean competitive fun, and with the current international window, we can see games that count, including CONCACAF's World Cup qualifiers. And while nationalism can get out of control and fans can take their personal allegiances in scary directions, most of us want to see "our" country do well, nothing more.

And when club beefs get out of control, bringing fans together on a national basis can soften tensions and bring a country together. This ideal breaks down, of course, but there's still plenty of benefit to come out of uniting on a national basis every month or two.

For the club neutral, it's a chance to fill that occasional craving for pretzels.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!