Supporters Week: Tailgating essentials
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Supporters Week: Tailgating essentials for 2011

Tailgating may not be unique to North American sports, but its place in the world of soccer is largely limited to the US and Canada. Our soccer culture may borrow largely from Europe, Central and South America, but the tailgate is something that is truly ours.

Alongside athletic goalkeepers, it’s one of our greatest gifts to the rest of the soccer world.

But not everyone knows what it takes to make a tailgate great. Running a good tailgate is like playing good soccer: It starts with fundamentals, not flash. It’s not about oversized coolers and extravagant grills but making sure you have the essentials for an afternoon of quality pregaming. Here are the basics for a great tailgate.

The Grill

As nice as it is to have a combination gas grill-charcoal smoker at home, such luxury isn’t necessary in a stadium parking lot. In fact, it’s more likely to be a hassle than help as it may require a truck to get it there, and then you'll have to clean it afterward (you have to treat your grill right).

Enter the EZ-Grill. Available in two sizes (regular and "party” size), this lightweight, 100 percent recyclable grill lights with a single match and, appropriately, burns for up to 90 minutes. More importantly it’s beyond portable and requires zero cleaning after use.

[inline_node:330398]The Cooler

It's true that there coolers out there that are worthy of a trek across the Himalayas. But is being Yeti-proof really a quality someone looks for in a cooler? Not likely.

It's nice having a rugged cooler, but it's more important that it be portable and capable of keeping your drinks hand-cramping cold. To meet those simple needs, nothing is better than the classic 50 Quart Cooler from Coleman. With environmentally friendly insulation, four cup holders, a drain and enough lid space to act as a bonus seat, the only necessity it lacks is beer.

The Chair

Any supporter worth their salt does little to no seating during the actual game. The tailgate is another matter entirely. For comfortable and collapsible seating, you can't beat the Express Lounger Telescoping Chair from L.L. Bean. Packing down to one-16th its size, this chair won't take up a lot of room in your car but is still capable of taking the weight of a supporter of any size.

The Bottle Opener

This is key. A tailgate without a bottle opener is like a match without a ball: Try as you might, you just can't play without one.

If you're either forgetful or you not the keychain-opener type, then the credit card-sized, stainless steel bottle opener from Fitzu is for you. It's slim enough to fit in your wallet but tough enough to crack open a cold one. At $28, it may seem to be a bit dear, but you won't regret not having to open every beer on the bumper of a car.

The Ball

No tailgate is complete without a good kickaround because, hey, you have to work off those hot dogs and burgers somehow. Show everyone that you are the Andrea Pirlo of the parking lot with the adidas Jabulani. The official match ball of MLS and the World Cup in 2010, the now-iconic ball is the perfect plaything for an afternoon of scuffed shoes and scrapped knees on the parking lot pitch.

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