Americans are begging for sports to return, and some of our professional leagues aren’t making any promises that they will (looking at you, MLB). Major League Soccer will be returning July 8th, but it’s clear that many people prefer soccer of a higher quality. Luckily, European soccer has had no problem returning and the Premier League is in full flow as we approach the final eight matches of the season for each team.
Some readers may be familiar with Premier League teams, with Manchester United, their noisy neighbors Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool all being globally recognized clubs. However, not everybody has decided to support a team to this point and now is as good a time as ever to choose one. With Americans having to wait at least a few more weeks for their major domestic leagues to return, the Premier League provides an opportunity for sports fans to support a team for the remaining matches. So choose a team, enjoy the beautiful game and learn more about sports outside the country you grew up in.
I’ve compared all 20 PL teams to an American team you may be more familiar with to help you choose your new favorite soccer club.
Arsenal – San Antonio Spurs
Between the obvious comparisons of Arsène Wenger and Gregg Popovich, and the lack of success in recent years, this was easy. Popovich became the Spurs coach in 1996 and has enjoyed great success in that time winning five NBA Championships. Arsène Wenger took over Arsenal in the same year and won three Premier League titles before leaving the club in 2018. On top of that, Wenger left the Premier League as the only manager to lead a team the entire length of the season without a loss. Add seven FA Cup victories to the list of honors, and you’re looking at one of the most successful managers in England’s long history of soccer.
Popovich was able to win an NBA Championship thrice following the 2004 season, while Wenger and Arsenal’s last premier League title was that season, but the story has been much the same in recent years. Arsenal have slipped out of a guaranteed top four finish, finishing fifth or sixth in each of the last three seasons, while Spurs have finished 7th in the Western Conference in the last two season, an being bounced out of the playoffs in the first round in both seasons. Oh, and both teams are currently having their worst season since the turn of the century.
Aston Villa – Cleveland Browns
Unfortunately for Aston Villa, I think readers know where this is going. From 2008 to present day, the Cleveland Browns have not been able to win more than seven games in a single season. This includes a pair of seasons (2016 and 2017) where the Browns won just one of 32 games. To make comparing the two teams easy, we’ll look at Villa in the same period. In both 2008-09, and the following campaign in 09-10, the club finished sixth – a super respectable finish in the Premier League. Since then, things have not gone according to plan.
2010-11 started the club’s downfall. The finish 9th, which isn’t bad but was just the beginning of a downward spiral from when they were finishing in sixth. After that, they battled relegation for three years before finishing in last place in 2015-16 picking up just three wins all season – very Browns-esque. For those unaware, in England, and most other soccer leagues, a system is used where the bottom three teams are relegated to the second division (English Championship) and three teams from that division take the relegated teams places for the following season. Villa stayed in the second division until final returning to the Premier League this season. However, they sit in 19th place, and are amongst the favorites to be relegated this season.
If you’re looking for an exciting team to follow for the remainder of the season, but don’t necessarily want to just choose a team who will be at the top of the table, cheer for Aston Villa to avoid relegation and remain in the Premier League.
AFC Bournemouth – Charlotte Hornets
The first challenge I’ve faced finding an American team comparison was presented to me when I saw Bournemouth. However, I think I’ve found a good comparison. When Bournemouth entered the Premier League at the start of the 2015-16 season, fans were excited. Manager Eddie Howe had taken the club from League Two (England’s fourth division) to the Premier league in just seven years, including a gap where he managed Burnley for a little more than a season and a half. As if this was not remarkable enough, Howe was just entering his 30s when he took over as permanent manager and still had decades to look forward to in his managerial career. The excitement was there when they arrived to the Premier League in 2015, and this was about the time a freshly rebranded Charlotte Hornets had Kemba Walker begin to breakout and become a more exciting team.
Excitement doesn’t equate to success, and excitement tends to wear off. This was the case for both teams who now sit near the bottom of the list in terms of attendance in their respective leagues. Bournemouth has made some deals that didn’t end up working in their favor as they aimed to bring in young English talent and have their fans watch the players develop every week. Unfortunately, Jordon Ibe who joined the club for a club-record fee of £15 million has scored just three goals in 78 appearances. Dominic Solanke later joined the club for an undisclosed fee which is believed to be greater than that paid for Ibe, but has scored zero goals in 35 appearances. While the scenario is different for players like Nicolas Batum and Terry Rozier with the latter having his best season to date in the NBA thus far, the point stands that the excitement is gone because of a plethora of things, with bad business not being excluded from the list.
Brighton & Hove Albion – San Diego Padres
Neither team has a great history, but reasons may still exist for excitement. Brighton remain in the Premier League, and are likely going to avoid relegation this season which is a positive given the past few decades. The San Diego Padres have never won a World Series, and have only managed a single win in their two trips. Brighton finished in 17th place last season, just one spot above the relegation zone, while the Padres won just 70 games and finished last in their division.
Despite all the negatives, things are looking good for both sides. Brighton improved from last season, and are looking to make themselves Premier League mainstays for the first time ever. This is a great achievement for a club who has never been in this position before as it is common for recently promoted teams to get relegated within a few seasons of their arrival. The San Diego Padres recently landed Manny Machado in free agency and while he didn’t match numbers of the past, it is still reason to be excited heading into the shortened 2020 season. Fernando Tatis Jr on the other hand, did work out. The rookie played 84 games, smashed 22 homers, drove in 53 RBIs and batted .317. This pair, along with others should give Padres fans to be very excited for the future. While Padres fans may have higher aspirations than Brighton fans, both are excited as they’ve been in decades.
Burnley – Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles play in the AL East, which is not easy. The Yankees and Red Sox are both usually good, and always have amongst the highest payrolls in the league, and even the Blue Jays and Rays can provide solid competition from time to time. The Orioles very rarely do more than finish in last place in the division. However, while more than half of their last 12 seasons have resulted in last place finishes in the division, they also had a five-year run where they didn’t drop below third. In 2014, the Orioles topped the division and surrounded that with three third place and a second place finish in that five-year spell.
Burnley are much the same, where you can’t go into the season with any expectations, but can usually prefer mediocrity. They’re a team who prior to retuning to the PL in 2016, just couldn’t seem to stay there. In 2009, they were promoted, then sent back down the next season, and the same story happened in 2014-15. However, since returning in 2016, they’ve remained in the Premier League, even if they play the ugliest style of soccer in the league by far. They’ve finished in 15th and 16th in two of their three seasons since return, but also punched way above their weight in 2017-18 somehow managing to finish in seventh. A much smaller sample size since their return to the PL, than we have Baltimore, but the situations are similar. Usually bad, but can sometimes do a little better than expected. For these two teams, certainly do not set high expectations, though they will overachieve every now and then if you set the expectations as low as possible every year.
Chelsea – Boston Red Sox
These two teams are fairly comparable historically, and in the past few decades. Chelsea fans are teased for having no history prior to their first premier League title in 2004-05. If you want to find Chelsea winning the England’s top division prior to that you’d have to back nearly half a century to 1954-55. The Red Sox also endured a lengthy drought of trophies, stretching back even further to 1918. However, both clubs added to their trophy cabinet at the same time, with the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004, and Chelsea being crowned champions in 2014-15 as previously mentioned. Since then, Chelsea have added four more titles, while the Red Sox have added three World Series trophies with each becoming one of the most successful franchises in their respective leagues history.
Both teams have mixed success with years of underachieving as well. Between the Red Sox two most recent World Series victories in 2013 and 2018, they had multiple seasons playing below .500 baseball and finishing last in the AL East. Chelsea have battled similar demons. In both 2014-15 and 2016-17, the London-based club were crowned champions, but the season in between they finished in 10th place, just narrowly squeezing into the top half of the table.
In this century, both teams are amongst the winningest clubs in their leagues, but they’ve also disappointed fans on several occasions. Chelsea sit in fourth place currently and are aiming to secure this position to ensure UEFA Champions League play next season.
Crystal Palace – New York Islanders
Both of these teams spent a long time struggling. The New York Islanders have been a transformed team under Barry Trotz, the man who won the 2018 Stanley Cup then found himself with the Islanders. Young Isles fans are seeing their team as good as they’ve ever been before. So what’s the problem? Well, they’re not playing particularly beautiful hockey. Does that matter to people who have seen them struggle? Probably not, but it doesn’t make them a fun watch if you’re a neutral. What does make them a fun watch is Mat Barzal. The 2018 Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) winner is electric, and brings excitement to the Islanders. While four years his elder, Wilfried Zaha is the same to a typically boring yet effective Crystal palace team. Roy Hodgson, who has been a manager at the senior level since the 1970s, has Palace sneakily sitting in 9th place, which would be their best finishing since rejoining the Premier League in 2014 after a 9-year absence.
If you want to cheer for a slightly above average team in terms of record, and don’t care if they’re near the bottom in terms of beauty, go buy yourself a Crystal Palace scarf.
Everton – New York Mets
The little brothers. Everton and the New York Mets share a few characteristics. Everton is Liverpool’s local little brother, and the Mets share the same relationship with the Yankees. Both the Yankees and Liverpool are the clearly superior clubs both currently and historically. Yankees fans likely care more about their rivalry with the Red Sox, while Liverpool supporters likely cares more about their rivalry with Manchester United. It’s tough being the little brother, but both Everton and the Mets have tried to compete by adding stars to their team.
The Mets currently have Jacob deGrom, while Everton recently had Romelu Lukaku. The Mets are happy to add players post-stardom, so are Everton. Both clubs won championships in the 60s and 80s but have failed to match that success since. Often times fans feel that their team is going to achieve great things, but ultimately fail when it matters most. If for whatever reason you enjoy being the little brother who seemingly will never outshine your big brother, then Everton is the club for you.
Leicester City – Kansas City Royals
Whether you follow the Premier League or not, it’d be almost impossible for you to not be aware of Leicester’s 2015-16 campaign. At 5000/1 on odds, and favorites to be relegated, Leicester won the Premier League. In a league where the top teams spend freely, Leicester managed to finish above them all. Just a season prior, they entered the Premier League and nearly went straight back down as they narrowly avoided relegation thanks to a great late string of results. The Kansas City Royals won the season in the year prior in 2015, and despite losing in the World Series in 2014, the story is similar.
From 2004-2012 the Royals managed no more than 75 wins in a season. From 2004-2012 Leicester were not in the Premier League, but instead were in the second or third division of English soccer. In 2013, the Royals turned thing around winning 86 games, while 2013/14 was the year Leicester was promoted to the Premier League. 2014 saw the Royals reach the World Series, but fall to the San Francisco Giants, while 2014-15 gave fans the opportunity to cheer for Leicester in the Premier League for the first time in over a decade. Finally the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015 while Leicester were crowned PL champions in 2015-16.
Since winning the World Series, the Royals have returned to normality, becoming a poor baseball club. However, Leicester have remained a top Premier League club, currently sitting in third place. The club plays some of the most exciting soccer in the league, and you’ find it hard not to love Jamie Vardy with a bit of research. Leicester is perhaps the most advanced club regarding their understanding of advanced stats and how that translates on the field. If you’re into that, this is your club.
Liverpool – Los Angeles Dodgers
If you planned on watching a league that had an undecided winner and would come down to the final day of the season to see a winner awarded, I have bad news. Liverpool are Premier League winners this season, and while they’re amongst the most popular names in their league, like the Dodgers in the MLB, this is their first-ever Premier League title. The last time they won the division was in 1989-90, prior to the league rebranding to the Premier League in 1992. The Dodgers have come close to winning the league plenty of time since their last World Series win in 1988 (just two years before Liverpool), they’ve never come out on top.
Liverpool finished in second place in 2013-14, and 2018-19, while the Dodgers have lost in the World Series in 2017 and 2018. The English club has made themselves look like the team to beat in the years ahead, and the Dodgers have done the same in recent years winning 90+ games in every year since 2013 but haven’t been able to go the distance in the playoffs. The Dodgers will hope this comparison brings them the success that Liverpool have set themselves up for.
Manchester City – Golden State Warriors
If you thought Chelsea got mocked too often about their lack of history, allow me to introduce you to Manchester City. Long time little brother to Manchester United, the blue side of Manchester has dominated domestic competitions in England for the last decade. Winning four of the last eight Premier League seasons, and six cup competitions in the same time span, it’s safe to say City were England’s team of the decade. The Golden State Warriors also have a similar story, winning three of the last five NBA Championships, and featuring in every final since 2014-15. Both teams have featured some of the best players in the league as well, with Stephen Curry winning a pair of MVPs and Kevin Durant winning back-to-back Finals MVPs. Manchester City have had players match individual success, with Vincent Kompany being just one of two defenders to win Player of the Season in the past decade. Sergio Aguero, the Premier League’s highest foreign scorer, and Kevin de Bruyne being amongst the best in the league.
A personal favorite connection of mine is the team’s coaches. Steve Kerr has been a part of the Warriors success, even if people choose not to acknowledge it. Pep Guardiola has won his entire managerial career whether it be in Spain, Germany, or now England. Greater than that, Steve Kerr and Pep Guardiola were also both under-appreciated players on teams that won ample trophies. Steve Kerr played a role in the Chicago Bulls’ most recent three-peat, as well as winning two championships with the San Antonio Spurs. Pep Guardiola won 15 trophies during his 11-year career with Barcelona as a player. These two know how to get the best out of a team stacked with superstars, and this has led to individual success, and the success of their teams.
Manchester United – New York Yankees
Americans know the New York Yankees as the most recognizable team internationally, and English people view Manchester United in the same light. This is because they’re the most successful team in their league’s history. The Premier League began in 1992, and Manchester United have picked up 13 titles since. However, they’ve only won two in the past decade (zero since the 12-13 season) and the Yankees just completed their first World Series-less decade since the 80s, and you’d have to back pre-Babe Ruth to find another decade-long WS drought.
Despite a lack of recent success, things are looking better for both teams as the 2020’s begin. The best part? Most of the stars players for these teams have come through the system. Aaron Judge was drafted by the Yankees, while Gleyber Torres was picked up in a trade before making his MLB debut. Of course, the Yankees still spend big money every year but why shouldn’t they? Manchester United follow a similar philosophy. Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford both came through the club’s academy with the latter being born and bred in Manchester and joining the club at eight years old. However, Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire have been purchased to fill the gaps, like Gerrit Cole was as the Yankees searched for an ace.
Manchester United are looking to make a late push to finish in the top four to ensure they play in the UEFA Champions League next season. They also remain in the UEFA Europa League, and the FA Cup. If you’re okay with every other set of fans hating you because you’re historically the best – choose Manchester United.
Newcastle United – Detroit Red Wings
This one may be a slight stretch as I’ll be comparing the two teams today and in the nineties, but Newcastle never reached the heights of the Red Wings. However, Newcastle is historically very important to English soccer. Alan Shearer scored more than half of his PL goals with the club, and still sites top of the all-time goalscorers list in the league’s history. In the season prior to Shearer’s arrival in 1996, Newcastle finished in second behind Manchester United and hoped the goal machine would give them the boost needed to finish in first. Unfortunately, they finished second again in 1997 with Arsenal being crowned champions. This was their best spell and while they’ve finished in third or fourth in seasons since, the 1995-1997 era was the club’s peak.
The Detroit Red Wings were also dominant in this period, but managed to add to the trophy cabinet unlike Newcastle. They won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998, and have won two since. However, the team has failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs since 2013. In fact, the Red Wings haven’t even made the playoffs since 2016. Newcastle on the other hand, have been relegated twice since the turn of the century in 08-09 and in 15-16, and while they only lasted in the second division for just one season in both instances, the situation is still far from optimal.
Newcastle currently sit in 13th place, and will avoid relegation, but their play has been disappointing. Prior to the season, the club spent a club-record fee of Joelinton who has managed just two goals thus far while sporting the legendary Newcastle #9 shirt. While 13th place is far better than the Red Wings, it’s clear both teams would much prefer the 90s to the beginning of the 2020s.
Norwich City – Miami Marlins
Part of this comparison is based on attendance, and it’s really unfair to Norwich so I’ll say it now and move on to the more important factors of comparison. The Miami Marlins have the worst attendance in Major League Baseball by far. If I was only comparing teams based on attendance, they’d match up with Bournemouth who struggle with fans just as much. Norwich are near the bottom as well, but in England it is natural that the stadiums tend to fill up more than in the MLB and are typically closer to full capacity. Norwich sit fourth from that bottom at 23,000 fans per game, but their stadium only holds 27,000, so it’s a far different scenario to Miami.
Now let’s get to the even more depressing part for these fans. Your team is bad. Norwich has not been able to stay in the Premier League for more than three seasons since 2005. They tend to go up and down, and never make themselves a mainstay in England’s top flight. If relegation existed in Major League Baseball, the Marlins may be in the same boat. However, there is not, and all we can say is that the two teams don’t give their teams much hope at the highest level. Norwich are going to be relegated again this season – unless a miracle occurs – and the Marlins are going to finish near the bottom of the entire league in the upcoming MLB 60-game season – unless a miracle occurs.
Sheffield United – Tampa Bay Rays
Normally, finding a comparison for a team that has been recently promoted to the Premier League, or bounces between the PL and Championship is difficult. However, Sheffield’s success makes it easy. Look at the graphs to the left. They may be hard to read, but I can break it down. As you can see, the second of the two graphs is titled “2020 MLB Team Payroll” while the first one breaks down annual average player salary in the Premier League for the current campaign. On the MLB graph, the third team from the right is the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite this, the Rays finished second in the AL East in the 2019 season, and even gave Yankees fans worries that they could finish on top of the division deep into the season.
The Premier League wage structure is a bit more complex for Americans to learn, simply because there is no system. Teams can essentially pay players whatever they like, with Manchester United paying individual players £300,000+ per week. Sheffield United? – Well they’re at the bottom of that graph, with their players earning on average $910,000 per season. I’m not a conversion expert, but if you’d like to do the math on what the aforementioned Manchester United player makes weekly, and how that stacks up to the average annual salary of a Sheffield United player, be my guest.
As I mentioned, if there was a direct correlation between MLB team payroll and wins in a season, the Yankees woudn’t have had a scare in the AL East from the Rays. The same is true in the English Premier League, as Manchester United sit just two points ahead of Sheffield United with eight matches remaining in the season. In their first season back in the Premier League, Sheffield sit ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. When Tottenham finished in second place in the PL in 2016-17, Sheffield were in England’s third division. If you’re looking for the true underdogs, Sheffield United is the club for you.
Southampton – Miami Dolphins
Coastal team – check. Players leaving and achieving great things in recent seasons – check. Southampton is known for producing great talent, and then moving it on to the big clubs for a good price. The Miami Dolphins are known for a number of things, but a quick analysis will tell you they’ve experienced something similar to Southampton. Ryan Tannehill left and became a Pro Bowler, and earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil both moved and became Pro Bowlers. The same is true for Southampton with Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane leaving the club to become UEFA Champions League winners, and soon-to-be Premier League winners, accomplishments they’d never have achieved at Southampton.
The English club certainly doesn’t have the history of the Dolphins, but they have history. The clubs was in England’s third division as recent as 2011, but earned back-to-back promotions to get them to the Premier League, and they haven’t left since. In three consecutive seasons starting in 2014, the club never finished below eighth. This is an incredible accomplishment giving their lack of spending. This is the club to support if you enjoy seeing players develop right in front of your eyes each and every weekend before moving on to the biggest clubs in the country.
Tottenham Hotspur – Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have had their ups and downs, but over the past five years are remembered for one moment above all others – Super Bowl LI. Winning 28-3 in a Super Bowl is genuinely hard, and prior to it happening, you’d still have the Falcons near the top of the list to do it simply because of how sports have gone for Atlanta and Georgia sports of late. So, in this sense, comparing them to Tottenham is pretty easy. The London club is part of the “Big 6 clubs” but is definitely #6 historically. They have not won anything other than a league cup since the Premier League began, and even then the pair of league cups they’ve won since 1992 were in 1999 and 2008.
During the 2017-18 Champions League campaign, Tottenham met with Juventus, Italy’s strongest club. in the second of their two meetings, Tottenham held a halftime lead and the Italians needed a pair of goals if they wanted to advance to the quarter finals. Juventus scored those goals just three minutes apart, and after the match, Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini said “It’s the history of the Tottenham. They always created many chances and score so much but at then end they miss always something.” Does this remind you of any of the recent Super Bowls?
If for whatever reason you enjoy supporting teams that constantly let you down, Tottenham is certainly the club for you.
Watford – Sacramento Kings
Since returning to the Premier League in 2015, Watford has had some good players at the club. Troy Deeney, club legend and captain formed a great partnership with Odion Ighalo, who is now with Manchester United on loan. Abdoulaye Doucoure is a strong midfielder, and Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, and Ismaila Sarr are all above Watford in terms of talent, but remain at the club nonetheless. Unfortunately, the club was never able to build around their star players resulting in them failing to finish in the top half of the table since returning to the Premier League in 2015.
The Sacramento Kings don’t have a lot to cheer about, but they did when they drafted DeMarcus Cousins. The big man played for the team for seven years. and was one of the most dominant players in the entire NBA for period, but was never built around. In fact, the tram never even made the playoffs with him there. While none of Watford’s players reached the heights of DeMarcus Cousins, they still had the potential to be built around for greater success than they had achieved. Now Watford are in the relegation battle and may soon return to the second division where they spent eight seasons before their PL return in 2015.
West Ham United – New York Knicks
The moment you’ve all been waiting for – or dreading. It really seems unfair to give any Premier League team this comparison, but the similarities exist. Both clubs play in a massive market, with the Knicks of course being in New York, and West Ham in London. The Nets are of course the best team in New York, while West Ham is far from the best team in London. Both teams make lots of money and a re valued very highly, but seem to making shocking business moves whenever they get the chance. The Knicks are constantly bringing in players that get fans excited, only to realize the excitement was probably nothing more than hope. With West Ham, the same applies. The club built London Stadium in 2016 as they hoped to be playing Champions League games for years to come in the brand new stadium. However, they’re facing relegation.
These two clubs have fanbases battling their front office every season. Americans will be familiar with these issues from a Knicks perspective, however, things may be even worse in London. The picture on the left shows West Ham fans voicing their anger with the owners. In the middle of the game, fans turned to the box where the Owners sit and started cursing and throwing vulgar gestures in their direction.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – Vegas Golden Knights
This final comparison may be a slight stretch, but allow me to explain my reasoning. Prior to entering the Premier League in 2018-19, Wolverhampton had high expectations based on their purchases, and their previous season in the second division where they won the league, and finished with 99 points. Vegas Golden Knights had some good players on their team, but built high expectations based on how they performed in their first season. In fact, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and walked through the first three rounds of the playoffs losing just three of fifteen games. Wolves also lived up the expectations finishing seventh in 2918-19. This may not sound amazing, but for a club to finish this high in their first season in the Premier League, a league which features a group of “Big 6” clubs who are always expected to hold those positions, seventh was as good as they could have hoped for.
Wolves are competing for a chance to play in the UEFA Champions League next season. If you’re looking for a club looking to establish themselves as one of the top ten teams in the country for years to come, support Wolves.