Hey all you new NWSL fans out there. Yeah you. I have a message for you.
Pick a team.
Pick an NWSL team and stick with them. For one whole season; just pick a team and stick with them. Even if they break your heart. Maybe especially if they break your heart.
Sports in America has a lot of do with pride. We take pride in our team when we slip on a hat or a jersey or a pair of sweat pants with their crest stamped on them. And the connection we have with that team is what keeps us from maybe losing interest in that team when there isn’t a World Cup or an Olympics to get our soccer juices flowing.
I know a lot of you just found the NWSL at the tail end of last season. You got high on the World Cup and you decided to log on to YouTube and watch those same players go head to head with each other. And suddenly you got to see some great match ups. Tobin Heath’s Thorns taking on Kelley O’Hara’s Sky Blue was a great match. So was Hope Solo’s Reign taking on Carli Lloyd’s Dash.
But if you want to keep the league going and healthy you can’t just be a fan of Tobin Heath or Hope Solo or Morgan Brian. You have to be a fan of the Thorns or the Reign or the Dash. You have to buy in to that team as more than one to four national team players. If you really want to support the league you have to buy in to one team even if your favorite national team player is traded or gone for national team duty or out for a season due to pregnancy or injury.
Fan bases take time to grow. As year four of the NWSL gets ready to start it’s hard to really have the baked in relationship to one of the ten teams in the league unless you live in one of the cities. I get that. I live four hours away from three different teams so any home town pride for a team isn’t there for me.
That is why I present the following tips on how to pick an NWSL team.
1) Look at the team as more than a showcase for USWNT players.
Sure the Dash have Carli Lloyd who hit a hat trick in a World Cup final. But will that World Cup final moment and Carli Lloyd really be enough to keep you a fan of the Dash for more than 2 or 3 games? Most likely no.
So look at the team rosters. Look for other players that you might know. Watch past games and see what other players stand out to you. Try to find ones not on the national team that you really like. Try to find a team with a style that you enjoy watching.
2) It’s alright to be pissed off at your team.
I am a Reign fan. I make no bones about the team I support even if I try to take my bias out when I’m writing about the NWSL or another team. But no team in this league pisses me off like the Reign. Because they are my team. Because I invest time and energy and even money into them and sometimes they just let me down.
But you know what? If I team pisses you off that means you care. That means you are invested in them. And that is a great sign.
3) It’s alright to like players on other teams without it being your team.
One of the biggest problems I faced when trying to pick my team after finding the NWSL was feeling like if I picked one team it would cut me off from supporting other players I liked. And then I remembered the MLB and NFL where I have my team, the Red Sox and Packers respectively, and I still managed to like other players in those leagues.
Case in point, I am a huge Becky Sauerbrunn fan. She is one of my favorite 3 players in the world right now. And yet I am not an FCKC fan. I can want Sauerbrunn to do well, really well in fact, and still not call myself a fan of the team or support them. In fact I personally hope they end up at the bottom of the table. But that is the Reign fan in me coming out.
The bottom line is whatever team you pick is not as importuning as picking a team and sticking with them. And it’s ok to say that you’re a fan of one team but like another. I like the Chicago Red Stars a lot but they just aren’t my team.
Whichever team you pick for the upcoming NWSL season I want you to remember the most important rule. Portland sucks.