8 Reasons to Start Following the English Premier League Next Weekend…

…And how to choose your Club

 

Perhaps you’re here because you have a couple of friends who are borderline crazy when it comes to soccer. Maybe you’re looking for something to kill the hours until the NFL kicks off in September. Or maybe you’ve spent so much time rolling kids in FIFA over the years that you want to take the next step and start following the real thing. Whatever the reason may be, we’re here to help you commit to a club that you’ll promise to follow – through the good times, and the bad (choose wisely, because there is no switching!).

Still not sure if the Premier League is for you? Take a look at some of our favorite features of the Premier League below (Team Selection Guide immediately following):

 

I. The Television Coverage

Imagine if there was no Sunday Ticket. No Red Zone. Imagine if the only televised NFL game each week was Monday Night Football. If this sounds unbearable to you, let’s take it one step further. Imagine all of it, but also consider what it would be like if I told you that anyone living in the UK with basic cable could watch any and every NFL game, live, at their leisure. Tell me: Is this something you might be interested in?

Thankfully, we don’t live in that scenario. But flip it around and you’ve arrived at the very strange and imbalanced reality Americans find themselves a part of when it comes to the Premier League: Believe it or not, we actually have far better coverage of the league in the United States than the English themselves do across the pond.

Beginning in 2013, NBC Sports started covering the Premier League and they have been anything but greedy as far as offered contents goes. NBC, NBCSN, and USA usually carry the biggest matchups each weekend. But where NBC really got it right was in the creation of its Extra Time platform, which provides audiences with literally every single Premier League match throughout the season. If the match that you want to watch isn’t on the primary channels mentioned above, there is a strong chance that your cable provider has the Extra Time package channels available (they are usually lingering close to where the NBA and NHL season packages are located – but of course, the Premier League ones don’t require a subscription). And if your cable provider doesn’t offer up this option, the NBC Sports website and NBC Sports Live app (available for iOS and Android, compatible with Apple TV) have all of the matches available to stream for free at excellent quality.

Don’t have time to watch a full match? NBCSN provides condensed versions of the matches that recap the most important moments in smaller 5 and 10 minute formats. There are also studio pre-match and post-match shows and a Goal Zone channel (admittedly a Red Zone clone) that floats in and out of matches, cutting to each goal, save, and match-changing moment as they happen. One of my favorite pieces of Premier League content is NBC’s Men in Blazers studio show (they have a podcast too), which feels like The Daily Show – just without the politics. Comedic duo and English soccer enthusiasts Roger Bennett and Michael Davies are hilarious, often weaving pop culture and American sports references into their own content to satisfy even the most on-the-fence viewers.

II. The Premier League Calendar

The season begins on August 12, 2017 – a full month before the first regular season NFL game and two months before the start of the NBA season. There are 10 matches on most weekends (20 teams), with 9 of them being played on Saturday and Sunday mornings and the final match on Monday afternoon. As far as the actual match times go, one match usually begins at 7:45 AM on Saturday morning, one at 2:45 PM on Monday afternoon, and the rest are staggered somewhere between 10:00 AM and 12:30 PM on Saturday morning and 8:30 AM and 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings.

Translation: If you decide to give the Premier League a shot and want to stick with it once the NFL and college football seasons start, you’ll find that the majority of weekend matches are over before the first pigskin kickoff of the day.

III. The Scheduling Format

One of my biggest gripes about American sports is their tendency to implement imbalanced scheduling. Despite the relatively short season, the NFL has a somewhat agreeable home-and-away approach to their division matchups, but the combination of luck-of-the-draw home vs. away non-division scheduling and lack of appropriate rest in a given week (e.g. Thursday night game immediately following a Sunday game) is enough to drive some fanbases mad. College football is even worse because of the condensed schedule, and while I understand that teams like Bama and Auburn trade off hosting games like the Iron Bowl each season, I hardly think that “well, we’ll get ‘em next season when they come to our neck of the woods” is a palatable silver lining for the traveling fan base when they have to wait a full year to potentially get revenge. The lopsided college football schedule is even worse when there are friendly stakes on the line – like say, for example, a Buckeye fan who must listen to his/her friend talk about the Wolverines big win in Ann Arbor for a year. Arbitrary division and conference alignment in American sports can also make you wonder whether the “best” teams are actually being sent to the post-season (just look at the NBA where the Western Conference bubble teams would coast into the 4 or 5-seed in the East).

The Premier League takes a far more down-the-middle approach to things: With 20 total clubs, all teams play each other twice – once home, once away – which seems appropriate given how much home-field advantage influences the result of a soccer match (even the best teams in the league are sometimes happy to get out of an away match against the bottom feeders with a draw). Instead of divisions and conferences, the Premier League groups all 20 clubs into a single table, thus providing very little room for doubt as to whether the champions are truly deserving of their title come season’s end.

IV. The Length of a Match

Whether you buy into the concern over this generation’s depleting attention span or not, it’s hard to argue with a sport that is flat-out efficient in its presentation. If the Premier League schedule says your match will start at 10:00 AM, the ball will quite literally be kicked-off at 10:00 AM. There is no built-in 17-minute pre-game show. The first half is 45 minutes, with a few minutes of stoppage time added. There is a 15-minute halftime. There is a 45-minute second half, with a few minutes of stoppage time added. There is no overtime. There is no video review. There are no commercials. It’s 45 minutes, 15 minutes, and 45 minutes. TWO HOURS. That’s it. Efficient.

V. The Promotion/Relegation System

Whether you’re new to the game or not, most Americans have probably heard of the promotion/relegation model being discussed within the context of whether it could be applied to American sports like the NFL, NBA, or MLB. Rather than going on at length about this topic, just believe me when I tell you that you won’t be seeing it in the U.S. anytime soon.

The Premier League, like most other non-U.S. domestic soccer leagues, is built upon the promotion/relegation system. Believe it or not, there are actually nine (9!!!) tiers of English soccer, with the Premier League sitting at the top of the pyramid. Each season, the teams that finish in 18th, 19th, and 20th place in the Premier League (aka the three worst teams) get “relegated” to the English “League Championship.” At the same time, the teams that finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the League Championship get “promoted” into the Premier League for the next season, while the teams that finish in that league’s bottom three get relegated down the pyramid to League One. This chain continues further and further down the line until you reach the absolute bottom of the pyramid. Without going into the specific number of teams that get promoted and relegated into and out of each specific league, all you really need to know is that the Premier League replaces it’s three worst teams each season with the top three teams from the division directly below it.

If this concept is still difficult to digest, just think of Major League Baseball and its A, AA, and AAA farm systems. Imagine if the three MLB teams with the worst records in 2017 were sent down to AAA, while the best three AAA teams were upgraded to the majors the very next season. This exercise obviously requires you to ignore the relationship that the minor league clubs already have with their Major League affiliates, but you get the gist of it.

The promotion/relegation system has garnered interest from American fans due to its inherent ability to discourage “tanking.” With no draft system in place for players (club soccer exists within a singular global, free market), and because teams in the Premier League receive financial compensation from the league that is directly proportional to the place in which they finish, there is no benefit to finishing near the bottom of the table. In fact, not only does placing lower in the table earn your club less monies than the teams that finish above you, but finishing in one of the bottom three will also land you in the next lowest league to start the following season where the financial compensation is not nearly comparable to the Premier League.

The promotion/relegation system also adds another entertaining component to the Premier League season. In most sports, we typically concern ourselves with the teams who are championship contenders or vying for playoff births at the end of the regular season – simply put, we pay little concern to the teams near the bottom of the standings. But in the Premier League, matches that involve the teams fighting for 17th place – one spot outside the relegation zone – can be equally as entertaining as the title race that is happening at the other end of the table.

VI. In-Season Tournaments

When you consider a sport like the NBA and its perceived lack of parity, most fanbases know whether their team is part of the upper or lower crust before the season even starts. And when your season is 82 games long (this happens in MLB too), fans have very little incentive to attend games once their team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Teams either want to be near the top of the latter to compete in post season play or near the bottom to benefit from a top draft pick; The worst place to finish in most American sports is near the middle of the pack.

Because of the promotion/relegation model described above, Premier League teams will always compete given how detrimental finishing at the bottom of the table can be to the organization, but additional in-season tournaments provide further reason to continue to support even the lowliest of clubs.

You may already be familiar with Champions League, which takes the top finishers of the best domestic leagues throughout the world from the previous season and pits them against one another to crown what you might consider to be the overall club champion. English soccer also organizes the FA and EFL Cups — two English domestic open cup-style tournaments — which allows for participation from upper and lower-level clubs alike. Because the cups are scheduled throughout the Premier League season, many of the top-tier teams that consider themselves to be in the hunt for the Premier League title elect to field weaker reserve teams to rest their starters for a potentially important league fixture later in the week. For this reason, Premier League teams near the bottom of the table (and even some clubs from lower divisions) find success in the FA and EFL Cups because the playing field is somewhat leveled as a result. Further, the matchups are randomly selected for each round of the tournament, so strong clubs can theoretically be drawn against other strong clubs and eliminate one another while a weaker team benefitting from favorable opponent selections can find themselves advancing deep into the bracket.

VII. The Quality of Play

While the Premier League doesn’t carry the two biggest names in the sport (Messi and Ronaldo both play in Spain’s La Liga), it does feature many of the best players in the world. Most importantly though, the Premier League distinguishes itself from most domestic leagues by offering the strongest parity between the top and bottom of the table. I mentioned earlier that home matches provide a decided advantage in the Premier League, meaning that even the teams at the bottom of the table and their supporters feel like they have a fighting chance against the league’s upper crust on a given day. If you don’t believe me, google Leicester City’s 2015-16 miracle Premier League title when the club managed to win the entire league after having been recently promoted from the lower division just two seasons prior and spending most of the previous season in the relegation zone. Bookmakers also confirmed that Leicester’s pre-season 5000-1 title odds were the longest in history for champions of any major sport. To put that in perspective, the longest pre-season odds for an eventual champion in American sports belong to the 1999 St. Louis Rams and 1991 Minnesota Twins – both of whom were merely 300-1 (!!!).

VIII. The Supporter Atmosphere

Soccer (and this isn’t specific to the Premier League) supporters culture is inherently inclusive. Walk into a Manchester United-appointed pub in New York City wearing the color red during a Saturday morning match and the cheerful contingent of scarf-adorned strangers supporters at the bar will greet you with a hug and a round on them. Maybe it has something to do with the sport being relatively niche over here, encouraging strangers to interact with one another in a way that we wouldn’t come to expect with the NFL (Duh — of course 90% of people in the bar on Sundays during football season are NFL fans).

Regardless, Americans are becoming more and more private with limited social capital to speak of so, at the very least, give me complete strangers conversing and enjoying themselves in public over a pub full of individuals engaged in a staring contest with their mobile fantasy lineups.

. . .

If you’ve made it this far, there’s a good chance that you’ll be tuning in to the Premier League’s opening day on August 12th. So now that we’ve roped you in, what club are you going to support? If you need some help, check out the list of 2017-18 Premier League clubs and our U.S. sports comps below before you make your pick!

ARSENAL

2016-17 Premier League Finish: Below Tottenham

2017-18 Prediction: Below Tottenham again, 5th – 7th

US Sports Comps: Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and their fans (the ones who booed Santa Claus)

The Sell: The Gunners are one of the most recognizable soccer brands in the world, and have arguably the most attractive attacking style in the league (that is, if you appreciate the Spanish tiki-taka style of short passing, possession-based soccer). Arsenal were responsible for one of the most historic seasons in all of soccer history, calling themselves “The Invincibles” when they didn’t lose a single match during the 2003-04 Premier League season. This just so happened to also be their last title and the beginning of a 13-year run of bad luck, injury, or <insert any other fan excuse here>. In the absence of league title aspirations, club supporters have instead opted to highlight their celebration of St. Totteringham’s Day – the day each year when London-based rival Tottenham can no longer mathematically catch Arsenal in the table (Spurs finally ended this seemingly 500-year streak in 2016-17). Like most Philadelphia fans, Arsenal supporters are quick to build their team up in the preseason and equally swift in chastising ownership and management when each season takes a downturn.

BOURNEMOUTH

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 9th

2017-18 Prediction: 8th – 10th

US Sports Comps: Butler College Basketball, Kansas City Royals (2009-2016)

The Sell: As recently as 2010, the Cherries were playing in League Two, the 4th division of English football. An incredible three promotions in just six seasons moved Bournemouth into the Premier League in 2015, and last year Bournemouth (pronounced BORN-myth) punched waaay above their weight to a 9th place finish. Despite the club’s small footprint, ownership has been pouring quite a bit of money into the club over the last few seasons suggesting that this club may just be primed to become a Premier League mainstay.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

2016-17 Premier League Finish: N/A

2017-18 Prediction: Relegation

US Sports Comps: If the Sacramento Kings would have followed owner Vivek Ranadive’s suggestion to play 4-on-5 defense with a cherry picker after noting its success at a 7th grade girls’ basketball game

The Sell: Again, I don’t recommend hitching your wagon to a club that is projected to head back down to the League Championship division next year. I’m also hesitant to see the upside in supporting a club that sounds more like an entrée at a fancy bistro.

BURNLEY

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 16th

2017-18 Prediction: 15th – 17th

US Sports Comps: Jacksonville Jaguars, Charlotte Hornets (The Bob-Hornets, not the Peli-Hornets)

The Sell: The Clarets are one of the oldest clubs in England and are one of only five teams to have won all four top divisions of English soccer – which is both prestigious and a back-handed compliment at the same time considering not too many of the top-tier clubs have spent much time (if any) in the lower divisions anyway. 2017 will mark Burnley’s 4th season in the top division since 2009, where they have combined an impressive home record with laughable away form. Last season, for example, it took the Clarets until April 29th (!!!) to secure their first away win. Perhaps most troubling is a lack of incoming players this summer after the club announced that star English center back Michael Keane has departed for Everton. Do I see any pros in supporting Burnley? Well, their claret and blue color scheme is always nice and their 2017-18 kits are one of the best in the league, so there’s that I guess.

CHELSEA

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 1st – League Champions

2017-18 Prediction: Top-4

US Sports Comps: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Golden State Warriors (IF they managed to sign Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo, and Chris Paul, and unveiled the ultimate defense-first heel lineup with Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia)

The Sell: Your reigning 2016-17 Premier League Champions. Fresh off an utterly embarrassing 10th place finish in the 2015-16 campaign that led to the sacking of now-Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, 1st year manager Antonio Conte led the West London club on a league title run that never appeared to be in doubt – Chelsea held a comfortable lead at the top of the table for what felt like the entire season. With a defense-first reputation, the club’s lone criticism of late would likely be its inability to attract world class strikers. However, Chelsea seem primed to pick Romelu Lukaku away from Everton, who finished 2nd in the Premier League in goals last season (ironic considering Lukaku once belonged to Chelsea but was loaned away and eventually sold to Everton). Chelsea have fielded a number of unpopular personalities over the years, including John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, and Diego Costa – if you enjoy playing the heel role, Chelsea is for you.

CRYSTAL PALACE

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 14th

2017-18 Prediction: 11th – 14th

US Sports Comps: Nashville Predators, Virginia Commonwealth Basketball

The Sell: Crystal Palace does not have much history or top division success to speak of in their club history, though they did manage an impressive run to the FA Cup Championship two seasons ago before losing out to Manchester United in heartbreaking fashion. Still, the appeal with Crystal Palace lies with Sellhurst Park in South London, which is known for its wild atmosphere and noisy fans. Much like last year’s Nashville Predators’ playoff run, or VCU’s “Havoc Dome” and “Rowdy Rams,” Crystal Palace has become a feared away fixture for even the strongest Premiere League clubs thanks to the noisy Palace supporters. If you want to hitch your wagon to a club with energetic atmosphere despite being relatively unproven, this may be your team.

EVERTON

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 7th

2017-18 Prediction: 5th – 7th

US Sports Comps: Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Clippers

The Sell: Everton are one of the most storied and successful clubs in Premier League history – although you probably wouldn’t know it if you just started tuning in over the last 20 years. The Toffees, or “The People’s Club,” are based in the city of Liverpool, England, so they often play second fiddle to the city’s namesake, Liverpool F.C. Everton’s most recent struggles have been centered around financial struggles keeping the club from targeting (and retaining) top-tier players. With a new ownership group in place beginning last season, the club have already shown their willingness to spend, securing some of the biggest available names around the league before the start of the next season. Everton have also developed a strong fanbase in the U.S. having signed a number of American players over the years, including Landon Donovan, Brian McBride, Joe Max Moore, and Tim Howard, the latter spending the majority of his career there. Sylvester Stallone is also a huge Everton supporter, which was made apparent in the recent film Creed when Stallone managed to have the film’s main event shot in front of a packed crowd at Everton’s Goodison Park.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

2016-17 Premier League Finish: N/A

2017-18 Prediction: Relegation

US Sports Comps: The Tim Couch Cleveland Browns.

The Sell: If you want your club to spend more than just next season in the Premier League, I’d look elsewhere.

LEICESTER CITY

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 12th

2017-18 Prediction: 8th – 10th

US Sports Comps: The Little Giants, Scotty Smalls, Rudy, Randall “Memphis” Raines stealing 50 cars in 72 hours, Average Joes dodgeball team, and any other scripted Hollywood underdog story you can think of

The Sell: Three seasons ago, Leicester City (pronounced “LEH-ster”) were recently promoted to the Premier League and spent nearly the entire year staving off relegation. The following season, Leicester were heavy relegation favorites and their odds of winning the league title were set at 5000-1. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the longest pre-season odds for an eventual champion in American sports belong to the 1999 St. Louis Rams and 1991 Minnesota Twins who were both 300-1 to win. In what can only be described as the most unfathomable feat in all of sports history, Leicester went on to win the 2015-16 Premier League title with a roster of relatively unknown players. The Foxes had a disappointing title defense during the 2016-17 campaign that saw the club fire manager Claudio Ranieri and sell prized French midfielder N’Golo Kante to Chelsea. Leicester did end this season with a strong showing, which may foreshadow a strong start out of the gates for 2017-18.

LIVERPOOL

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 4th

2017-18 Prediction: Top-4

US Sports Comps: Boston Red Sox, Notre Dame Football

The Sell: Liverpool are one of the winningest clubs in league history with 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, and 15 FA Community Shields, and they continue to be a strong bet to finish in the Top-5 each year as well. Liverpool’s ownership group is actually the Fenway Sports Group (Boston Red Sox), and Forbes recently named Liverpool as the 6th most valuable club in the world. Liverpool have a very strong global brand and draw support from many notable celebrities as well, including Dr. Dre, LeBron James, Liam Neeson, and Daniel Craig. If you don’t support Liverpool, there is a strong chance you’ll be listening to their somewhat overconfident fans’ preseason guarantees about how the upcoming season is theirs for the taking.

MANCHESTER CITY

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 3rd

2017-18 Prediction: Top-4

US Sports Comps: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees (1995-2012)

The Sell: Man City have long lived in the shadow of their big brothers Manchester United, but new ownership in the late 2000s (along with an unprecedented spending binge) has injected new life into the club leading to league titles in 2012 and 2014. Despite three straight top -4 finishes the last 3 seasons, many would argue that City have underperformed despite having arguably the most talented roster from top to bottom. With the more recent league title and four straight seasons finishing above United, City have given their supporters the satisfaction of painting the town blue and, for the first time in a long time, making everyone reconsider who the true class of Manchester really is. It is also worth noting that Manchester City owns the new-ish MLS side NYCFC, so if you prefer periwinkle and pride yourself in pointing out that New Jersey is not New York, this may be the club for you.

MANCHESTER UNITED

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 6th

2017-18 Prediction: 5th – 7th

US Sports Comps: New York Yankees, University of Alabama Football

The Sell: Not only is Manchester United both the most popular and most valuable club in the world, they are also the most popular European club in the United States.  Like the Yankees, Man U are the epitome of history within the Premier League, and have always been willing to outspend the competition to ensure they are playing with a stacked deck. And like both the Yankees and Bama, Man U is no stranger to employing some of the most successful managers. If you choose to support the Red Devils of Manchester, you can expect to get some blowback from the fan bases of the other clubs for being a frontrunner or bandwagon. But not to worry: as a Man U supporter in the U.S., there’s a good chance you’ll just outnumber the other guys anyway.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

2016-17 Premier League Finish: N/A

2017-18 Prediction: 15th – 17th

US Sports Comps: Chicago Bears, New York Knicks

The Sell: Out of the three newly promoted clubs, Newcastle are the only ones who I believe will have a strong chance to stay in the first division after this season. The club has a very rich history, passionate fanbase, and has been a home to some of the league’s most talented players over the years. They are also the 9th winningest club in all English soccer from a trophy-perspective. Newcastle spent last season in the League Championship after being relegated from the Premier League following the 2015-16 season, capping off a run of very disappointing seasons for the otherwise historically great club. The Magpies, as they are known, have an attractive black and white color scheme that is reminiscent of Italian side Juventus, and USMNT fullback/winger DeAndre Yedlin currently starts for the club.

SOUTHAMPTON

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 8th

2017-18 Prediction: 8th – 10th

US Sports Comps: Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Marlins (minus the World Series titles)

The Sell: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Premier League who holds any resentment or ill-will towards Southampton. Despite playing in the English third division only 6 years ago, the Saints have managed to impress with several top-10 finishes in their relatively short stint in the top division. Much like the Thunder and Marlins, the Saints have an eye for both acquiring talent and developing it – almost to the club’s detriment. Over the last few seasons, Southampton have lost top players to big money clubs, including Sadio Mane, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Dejan Lovren, Jason Puncheon, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, and Calum Chambers in recent years – and this isn’t even counting megastars like Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Theo Walcott who all left many years ago. If this isn’t bad enough, the Saints have also seen talented coaches like Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman leave for Tottenham and Everton, respectively. One thing’s for certain: If Southampton reinvest the compensation they’ve received for their outgoing players, the Saints could prove to be a fringe contender for a Champions League spot very, very soon.

STOKE CITY

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 13th

2017-18 Prediction: 11th – 14th

US Sports Comps: Kansas City Chiefs, Indiana Pacers

The Sell: The Potters have a reputation for two things: playing an ugly brand of soccer, and being perennial mid-table finishers. Stoke surprised many bringing in Swiss international winger Xherdan Shaqiri last season, and are in the running to sign the exciting Brazilian forward Luan Vieira, meaning the club could be transitioning away from the U-8 kick-and-chase model they are so frequently associated with. Boston native Geoff Cameron – the most talented defender in the USMNT player pool – has been a Stoke City mainstay and just recently signed a new contract extension there (Cameron has slowly transitioned into a strong Defensive Central Midfielder role over the last season with the club as well). If you’re soccer interests peak with the U.S. international squad, you may find yourself pulling for Cameron and Stoke with a notable lack of other American options in the league.

SWANSEA CITY

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 15th

2017-18 Prediction: 11th – 14th

US Sports Comps: Vancouver Canucks, Curling, Geddy Lee at a Blue Jays game, Tim Hortons

The Sell: Swansea are from Wales, which is not England – kind of like how Canada is not the United States. The Swans were playing all the way down in League Two 12 years ago, but after their final promotion to the Premier League in 2011, they have managed to stay up ever since. Swansea is a possession-based club making them one of the more attractive watches in the league, although they haven’t managed to crack the top half of the league table often enough for me to really consider them contenders for a Champions League spot. If you like your jelly glazed with a side of Rush, then maybe you’ve found your Premier League calling with Swansea.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 2nd

2017-18 Prediction: Top-4

US Sports Comps: Chicago Cubs (before they won the World Series), Cleveland Cavaliers (before they won the NBA Finals)

The Sell: Tottenham haven’t won a league title in what feels like forever (1961), yet the Spurs find themselves heavy favorites to finish in the top-4 for the foreseeable future – and potentially even contend for the Premier League title. Unlike other London-based clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea, Tottenham have a positive reputation around the rest of the league, and tend to gain the support of most non-London based fans in their derby matches. Tottenham also have one of the most exciting young cores in the league, with names like Deli Alli and Harry Kane – the reigning Golden Boot winner for two straight campaigns. They also have a brand-new stadium nearing completion, so given the excitement surrounding the club, there really is no better time to be a Spurs’ supporter than now. Like Everton, Spurs are also known for having a strong connection with American talent having signed players like Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin, Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, and up-and-comer Cameron Carter-Vickers (who is still currently with the club).

WATFORD

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 17th

2017-18 Prediction: Relegation

US Sports Comps: Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans, or any other team with an identity crisis

The Sell: They are nicknamed “The Hornets,” but their crest is a red moose. They were once known as the Brewers, and then the Blues, and tried to modify their team colors countless times going from red/green/blue jerseys, to blue jerseys, to black/white jerseys, to the yellow ones they currently wear. All of these changes could probably be ignored if Watford were any good. But they aren’t. On the plus side, Elton John owned the team twice. I’m sensing a relegation battle for the moosehornets this year: support at your own risk.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 10th

2017-18 Prediction: 11th – 14th

US Sports Comps: Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Dolphins

The Sell: West Brom are particularly frustrating because gun to the head, no one can name a single player on their roster yet they still manage to waltz into your club’s home park at 7:45 AM on a Saturday morning and ruin the rest of your weekend with an uninspiring 1-0 win. The Baggies are so unimpressive on paper that their consistent mid-table finishes are practically an achievement. If you sat next to a Premier League fan at the pub, gave him a pen and napkin, and asked him to write down as many clubs from memory as he could, chances are he’d hand the napkin back with 19 names and no mention of West Brom anywhere. They are just that forgettable. I’m sorry that I don’t have anything else for you here, but flashforward to that Saturday in November when your team’s prized £35M defensive stalwart inexplicably makes a mess of a corner clearance and sends the Baggies away with a 91st minute own-goal winner, and you’ll know exactly what I mean… that is unless of course you decide to support West Brom, in which case, I ask you to watch next season and kindly explain to me how it is that they manage to win every single match 1-0 and still finish in 10th each year – I’ve always wondered about that.

WEST HAM UNITED

2016-17 Premier League Finish: 11th

2017-18 Prediction: 15th – 17th

US Sports Comps: Las Vegas (by way of Oakland) Raiders, Buffalo Bills

The Sell: Another London-based club, West Ham have a reputation for being a tough, working class group of supporters. Soccer “hooliganism” is very much synonymous with the Hammers, and if you’ve ever seen the film Green Street Hooligans, you might even have recognized the West Ham name (they were in fact the club featured in the film). West Ham almost qualified for Champions League two seasons ago, but some turmoil between ownership and manager Slaven Bilic (the animosity between the two got to be so bad that I can’t believe he is still in charge this season) and the departure of prized playmaker Dmitri Payet set the club back in a significant way during this past season – especially disappointing considering this was supposed to be a memorable campaign with the club starting play in a brand-new stadium. The club just received GK Joe Hart on loan from Manchester City, and they are linked with a pair of exciting Mexican playmakers this summer including Benfica’s Raul Jimenez and Bayer Leverkusen’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, so relief may be in sight.

 

Dave is the Creator and Editor-in-Chief for The Benchmob. He primarily writes about Soccer, the NBA, esports, and Pop-Culture.