The European football season ended in May and no major men’s international tournaments are scheduled for this summer. The NBA season has just ended and the NHL season is about to end. Happily distracted by the Men’s and Women’s College World Series? The last one is over, and the first one will be soon.
Of course, the WNBA season is underway and I think some of you might actually be watching professional baseball. Regardless, you probably have a hole in your sports schedule at the moment – at least until a slew of women’s tournaments kick off next month, such as the European Championship, the CONCACAF W Championship, and the Women’s America’s Cup. One option to fill that gap: the chaotic and hulking beast known as Major League Soccer.
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With 28 teams (and growing), a fun gaming environment, and no dominant style or club, you can be sure there’s a giant mess waiting for you during the playoffs and you can probably find a team that matches your general aesthetic requirements. To help you find the right team, let’s look at a fun and familiar concept: being observant.
Every spring, I rank all 98 teams from Europe’s Big Five leagues based on how interesting they are to watch. I have developed a formula that takes into account team quality, shot frequency and quality (both for them and their opponent), pressure, intensity and overall attractiveness, and offers a sort of bonus points to teams that consistently participate in close matches and/or teams . who put on a fruitful show against good teams. Bayern Munich have been in first place for two years in a row, which, frankly, is a sign that the statistical model is calibrated correctly.
As the 2022 MLS season approaches its midpoint, let’s take a look at who are the most and least watched clubs in the top US and Canadian men’s soccer leagues on a scale of zero to 10. For each, I’ve included the European club that most suits their style. (Note: while quality plays little role in the formula, there are plenty of good but uninteresting crews, as well as a few spectacular train wrecks. Looking at you San Jose.)
Don’t watch if you don’t have a keen interest (Score: 0–0.9)
28. Nashville SC (0.6)
Nashville has a cool new stadium and could very well make the playoffs this season. His games tend to be close, but usually because NSC makes few shots and hardly gives opponents quality looks. They both score and concede barely one goal per match.
Closest European analogue:Wolverhampton Wanderers. No team in Europe has fared better, removing the task of “scoring goals” almost entirely from the to-do list.
27. Houston Dynamo (0.8)
Another potential playoff contender – in fact, everyone in the Western Conference still has a chance of making it to the playoffs – Houston almost never presses the ball and hardly tries to hold the ball vertically. Dynamo had moments of inspiration in attack, but they were less and less.
Closest European analogue:The Stade de Reims, a French team comfortably positioned in the middle of the standings with almost no memorable performances this season.
26. Vancouver Whitecaps (0.9)
The team that gave the world one of Bayern’s most exciting youngsters, Alphonso Davies, are not overjoyed after the Canadian’s departure. The Caps’ leaky defense guarantees you’ll see some goals, but they’re usually not achieved through exciting, through action.
Closest European analogue:Sampdoria. Both teams play in neat-looking old stadiums, both wear blue kits, and both tend to have memorable seasons, lately with sketchy defenses.
25. Colorado Rapids (0.9)
The defensive top players in the Western Conference try to press and attack directly from time to time, and few undertake longer game changes (a personal aesthetic favourite), but they’re not really doing it particularly well this season, and after a wild early start (Lost to LAFC 3-0 and a 3-0 win over Atlanta), six of their last 13 matches ended 0-0, 1-0 or 1-1.
Closest European analogue:Espanyol. One of my favorite teams to watch midway through the 2021-22 season. The No. 2 Barcelona team gradually degraded into forgetful play and finished 14th. Let’s see if Colorado avoids a similar fate.
At least that’s football on TV, right? (Class: 1-2.9)
24. Inter Miami (1.0)
Inter play in a glamorous venue and behave like a glamorous team – David Beckham is their president, former Napoli and Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain is their designated player and they are one of the clubs rumored to have a chance on Lionel Messi if he ever decides to come and aim for 100 goals in a season, but they have yet to put on a glamorous game. They finished 10th and 11th in the East in their first two seasons and they are currently ranked 10th this season. But excellent pink home sets.
Closest European analogue:Troyes. Pretty sure “We aim to play like a low-scoring French yo-yo team” wasn’t in the promotional material.
23. Sporting Kansas City (1.1)
One of the most legendary old clubs in the league – long live the days of the Kansas City Visa – Sporting brought the Preca to an American audience, and most recently gave the world Gianluca Busio. But in 2022, he’s giving the world the fewest shots possible and a steady stream of 0-0 and 1-0 games. (Their sharp 7-2 loss to Portland was the exception that proved the rule.)
Closest European analogue:Crystal Palace. Of course, Palace have been much more successful than Sporting this season, but they have played in a very similar style of “sound, fury and the fewest shots possible”.
22. Charlotte FC (1.2)
The league’s debutants are holding their own, currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and giving the newcomers plenty of high-energy pressing and long game changes. But their passive attack gives a small vertical and almost no attempts to shoot.
Closest European analogue:Turin. Does this mean we should start calling Charlotte? Bull — Bull — like Torino? I say yes.
21. Columbus Crew (1.6)
Oh, how (for a short time) the strong have fallen, or at least dimmed. The 2020 MLS Cup winners missed out on the playoffs in 2021 and could do so again. It’s not a crime in terms of watchability; however, their matches are rarely close or prolific.
Closest European analogue: Burnley, a club that has made “strong and unattractive” almost likeable in recent years. Does this mean Columbus should hire Sean Dyche? Absolutely.
20. Real Salt Lake (2.0)
They are almost constantly involved in intense games and generate quality looks at the goal. And after a disastrous 6-0 loss to New York City (noteworthy for the wrong reasons), they were quite good, scoring 16 points in eight games.
Closest European analogue:Good. Nice’s 2021-22 manager Christophe Galtier has mastered defensive style, solid ball control and often boring play. Not the worst team to compare to, but not the best either.
19. Portland Timbers (2.4)
Their fans are tense, their tifos are legendary, they have perhaps the most enjoyable player in the league to watch in Yimmy Char, there are many goals in their matches…and yet it’s a pity to watch them this year. The Timbers do nothing but poor quality shots, they have minimal defensive pressure, and against almost every good team they’ve played, they’ve ended games 0-0 or 1-1.
Closest European analogue:Newcastle United. Of course, Newcastle have been two very different sides this season – one before the scandalous takeover, the other after – but even when they started playing well, they weren’t particularly pleasant to watch.
18. Dallas (2.5)
After a terrible season of bad luck, Dallas added Paul Arriola and interesting teenager Alan Velasco, among others, and began to prosper again (recent decline aside). But FCD did it with more control than exciting play – their verticality is almost zero, there is no pressure on the whole court, and although they make some high quality shots, these are the only shots you will see in this match. .
Closest European analogue: Juventus. I love this comparison because (a) Weston McKenny of Juventus was a graduate of a successful Dallas academy and (b) Juventus under Massimiliano Allegri is an absolute “You are good and you have funny players – you should have much more fun to watch than that!” team.
Can be very funny, can be terrible (Score: 3-5.9)
17. Chicago Fire (3.3)
Chicago has made the playoffs once in nine seasons and is currently tied with DC United for the fewest points in the East. (This is MLS and there are only six points left in the playoffs.) The Fire almost never score, and they don’t concede many goals either. So why do they rank well in terms of watchability? Because their games are almost always close (within one goal 93% of the time) and they press with frenzied energy. And after four draws with a score of 0:0 in the first seven matches, the ball began to hit the net a little.
Closest European analogue:Genoa. Guess it’s a bad sign when your stylistic twin scored 27 goals in 38 games and got relegated, huh?
16. Seattle Sounders (3.7)
In 2022, the Sounders are hard to judge. They put much of their early season quality into winning the CONCACAF Champions League in May and only won two of their first eight league matches, but they have won 13 since mid-May. points in six matches, half of which had at least three goals scored. They should move up both in the Western Conference standings and in the observation rankings.
Closest European analogue:West Ham United. They defend well, they are constantly in tight matches and give us nice bursts of verticality from time to time. Sounds like West Ham to me!
15. Minnesota United (5.8)
After leaving the NASL in 2017, the Loons played mostly playoff ball throughout the game.