Don't believe the hype.
With the start of the English Premier League season this weekend the hyperbole will be on overdrive about how the EPL is the "best league in the world."
Well, there's nothing further from the truth.
In fact, there is no such thing as the "best league in the world." Although MLS has also publicly claimed it's striving to be "one of the best leagues in the world," the concept that there is any real world ranking of domestic leagues — scientific or subjective — is completely fictitious.
Richest league in the world? You can measure that. Highest-scoring league in the world? Easy to figure out. Most popular league in the world? There's probably a gauge for that, too. Most competitive league in the world? MLS has a claim on that one.
But "best league in the world?" It doesn't exist.
Here's why: If you've been bitten by the soccer bug by now and you thoroughly love the sport, you have probably picked a club team by now — because fans follow clubs and not leagues — and that's where it really all begins and ends: with the team of your heart, whichever league or country that team is located.
But while our club team and its matches serve as the regular main course to satiate our football appetite from week to week, we invariably find ourselves consuming servings and snacks of plenty of other soccer that fill the gaps depending on the day: whatever's on when you're lounging around the house on the weekend, whatever's on at the bar, whatever's on TV when you kick back on the recliner at night or whatever games are being talked about on your Twitter timeline.
Over the course of a year, all that amounts to an overdose of highlights, more than a handful of your national team's matches, the odd Copa Libertadores and UEFA Champions League match, a world soccer derby here and there — I try to never miss a Roma vs. Lazio — and a game every month or two featuring your favorite national export. If you're American, that's probably Jozy Altidore these days. If you're Colombian, you're looking up Monaco matches.
And that's just TV. Because the average fan will also likely attend anywhere between five to 10 live matches in their city or a short drive outside their hometown: in the USA that means MLS, international friendlies, and national team matches including El Tri.
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Soccer is like food in that way. We have the staples we keep going back to, but every now and then we'll taste some Italian, Greek, Thai and Indian cuisine. Sometimes cooked at home, other times going out to restaurants, the stadiums of food.
You don't hear anyone talking about the best food in the world, do you? And there is no best league in the world. It's our club (staple food) and a smoragasbord of other soccer (the variety).
So for the MLS supporters who are left scratching their heads this weekend and wondering how to reconcile their fandom with the EPL PR machine that's about to rev into high gear: Tune it all out and don't let the marketing and over-the-top commentary brainwash you. The EPL can be your post-meal yogurt hangout.
No need to feel any inferiority complex at claims that the EPL is the best soccer product ever made. Instead, count yourself among the lucky to have found the soccer love of your life. Your club. There are plenty of lost souls out there who float from team to team, league to league, channel to channel, hoping to find love, but never wind up committing to a single badge.
The soccer world is a collection of clubs, not leagues. And yet so many haven't found a club they can call their own. They've missed out.
Because true soccer passion is not based on brands, marketing, TV contracts or how deep an owner's pockets are. It's not based on the name of a league or a country. It's based on your heart and the jersey colors that drape it.
Go ahead, tell me that's not true.