America is in the golden age of soccer. While the old NASL of the 1970s did help the country become aware of the sport, we now are truly becoming a soccer nation. So the question is does your town want an MLS franchise or a soccer club? Every city, town, hamlet, one horse town should have some form of soccer to support. But does every city need to feed into the monster that is MLS? Despite being called an "MLS bot" (beep, boop) in some corners of the internet, this writer isn't so sure. Not every fanbase, or town has the elements needed to pull it off.
Listen to me before you move on. There's some places in this country that could support the league, that don't have the league in the area. Buffalo, where I have lived for the last ten years, could have supported the MLS, but the state government wouldn't allow it, and the fans ultimately missed out. But FC Buffalo, in the fourth-division NPSL, is one of the many non-MLS clubs in the country that is very well supported.
Then you have amateur clubs like Detroit City FC, another NPSL team, whose supporter culture is better than most pro clubs. Detroit City have the Northern Guard supporters club. They don't pay their players, but do well every year. Their support makes most teams envious. They have smoke bombs, swear a little too much, and march to the match. So why not put an MLS franchise there, some have wondered? MLS franchises outside of Cascadia have neutered their fanbases, by telling the fans how to act. You really think you can tell the Northern Guard what to do? I wouldn't want to. This is what true soccer is, it's about the fans, the passion, and the love of your club, not the bank account or what some foreigner with more money than you says.
Some would argue that the USL is "MLS lite," but let's say for arguments sake that it's all separate, and of course the levels of connection between the two leagues differs from team to team. The Sacramento Republic in their short life have done wonders. And it seems quite likely that within the next five years they'll be playing in MLS. However, so far, they've been a scrappy club that has an awesome fanbase, that could stay separate and still remain successful.
Or let's think of Saint Louis FC, a USL expansion club, in a soccer-rich town. Their fanbase supports the city no matter what. Every ten years we are told that St. Louis is getting the next MLS club, and yet they've been passed over more than once. Do you want to see an MLS club there, with the big league baggage and closer scrutiny over fans? Look at the mission statement of the St. Louligans supporters group, and you'll see the love.
It's a part of human nature to want to be part of the best or go home, after all clothing companies have been printing that up on every sporting line there is out there. Heck, social networking features that sentiment from all corners just about that everyday. Ok, so the machine has lots of pretty things, money, fame, and the chance to be talked about by everyone. Isn't that why we are born? So maybe we should just bow down to the machine, expect the best and listen to the league directives mindlessly in order to reach the top.
Or maybe the fiber of society itself should change through the sport, and we stand up for our rights as individual supporters. It's up to you supporters, make your voice known and decide for your club, where they go, because the sport is about you, not the players.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!