(Editors note: Updates for 2017-18 are in!)
The 2016-2017 Premier League season kicks off this weekend! By now, you are definitely interested and have many reasons to watch! Now, it is time to choose your own team to support. You only get one chance at this, so choose wisely. Below you will find some hard hitting, in depth analysis (not really) on each team. I have given each team some sort of American frame of reference for you to get to know them. Pick a team, grab a drink, and tune in this weekend and cheer them on!
American comparison: Doug Flutie
The Cherries hail from England’s south coast. As recently as 2010, they were playing in League Two, the 4th division of English football. An incredible three promotions in just six seasons moved Bournemouth into the Premier League last season for the first time ever. They are by far the smallest club competing in the top division. Considered by many to be everyone’s second club, it is easy to root for the Cherries to succeed and try to establish themselves in the league. They may still struggle near the bottom of the league, but they just may have a hail mary or two in them this season.
American comparison: Dallas Cowboys
Full of big dollars, big talent, and a luxurious stadium, Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world. Their logo and brand are incredibly recognizable. Arsenal had one of the most dominant runs in the early 2000s, including an undefeated campaign in 2003-2004. Despite a great history, lately fans of Arsenal have been in for constant gut punching disappointment. The Gunners have finished in the top four for 20 consecutive seasons, but hasn’t won a title since the 2004 Invincibles. Every year it seems will be the year Arsenal ends their title drought, and every year a key injury, bad luck, or whatever other lame excuse their fans come up with end up denying them.
American comparison: Boston Red Sox
In the past ten years, Chelsea has become one of the most popular clubs in the league after they began knocking off the evil empire of Manchester United. Since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003, the Blues have won four titles, after a long spell of being largely irrelevant. Like the Red Sox, Chelsea plays in the league’s oldest stadium, Stamford Bridge. This historic venue was built in 1877, and has been home to Chelsea since 1905. Chelsea had a miserable 2015-16 campaign just one season removed from winning the title, finishing 10th. New manager Antonio Conte will aim to get them back in the top 4 immediately.
American comparison: Iowa State football
Crystal Palace does not have much of a history. Zero top division titles, zero FA Cup titles, and zero League Cup titles. Their fans couldn’t care less. Every game at Selhurst Park in south London is a raucous, noisy atmosphere. They love their team no matter how little history they have. For my ISU friends, this is the team I have tried steering them to, as I think Cyclone fans can relate to loving their team despite not having a great history. They are still fairly new to the Premier League, having only come back up after an 8 year absence in 2013. A fantastic run to the FA Cup final last season could be a springboard to Palace becoming an established mid to upper table team in the near future.
American comparison: New York Jets
It’s not easy being the 2nd best team in your own city. Everton share the city of Liverpool with, well, Liverpool. Their stadiums are separated literally by a city park. The Toffees have not had much success of late, their last title coming way back in 1987. They have nowhere near the history of their city counterparts. Everton has been a popular pick for American fans with Tim Howard being the goalkeeper from 2007-2016. He has since departed for the MLS, and Everton are beginning a new era with Southampton manager Ronald Koeman making the move to the club in this past offseason. Expect Everton to be a mid-table team who could possibly break through into the top 6.
American comparison: Every cliched sports movie you’ve ever seen
Scrappy underdogs fight against all the odds to pull off the unbelievable. Rocky, Charlie Conway and the Ducks, Jake Taylor and those misfit Indians, Falco and the Washington Sentinels, you know, literally every underdog sports movie ever. What Leicester did last season, it tops all of those combined. Picked by several pundits to not even stay in the league, Leicester defied 5000-1 odds and shockingly won their first league title. It truly is hard to grasp how unfathomable the feat is. I’m obviously biased since this is the team I chose when I started following the league two seasons ago. I welcome any and all newcomers to the Foxes bandwagon!
American comparison: Nebraska Football
Fans of Liverpool are still of the belief their team is as relevant as they were in the 1980s. The only problem is, the reality of the situation does not agree with them. Liverpool won anything and everything in that decade (6 top division titles) but has not had a title winning season since 1990. Liverpool plays their home games at Anfield, one of the most raucous environments in the Premier League. New coach Jurgen Klopp is hoping to return the club to their glory years. Perhaps if they left the Premier League for a weaker league, they’d have more success? Nah, they probably still wouldn’t.
American comparison: Miami Heat
Money really can buy you championships. A massive influx of foreign ownership wealth in the late 2000s allowed Manchester City to sign several high priced, talented players. This led to Premier League titles in 2012 and 2014. Despite the success, the team still plays games at the Etihad Stadium to often sparse crowds, earning their grounds an embarrassing nickname, the “Empty-had” . Big money, star players, and fans that are around when things are great!
American comparison: New York Yankees
United is the biggest, most recognizable club in England. Like the Yankees, they have the record for most league titles (20 combined First Division and Premier League). By their huge standards, it’s felt like forever since their last title (2012-2013). New manager Jose Mourinho is their 3rd since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired. United have splashed a lot of money around this offseason in hopes to return to their glory days. Choosing them as your favorite is easy, and very boring. If you like Duke Basketball, Alabama Football, and the New England Patriots, this is your team!
American comparison: Miami Marlins
The Saints have enjoyed some success as of late, but like the Marlins, whenever success seems to come around, their best players end up leaving. Top goal scorer Sadio Mane left in the summer for Liverpool, and manager Ronald Koeman took the same job at Everton. It has to be very frustrating for their fans to finally get a quality team together, only to seem them taken apart a year or two later. It may be a tough year for the Saints to recover from both of those departures.
American comparison: Northwestern Basketball
The Potters are one of those teams that sit in the middle of the standings every year and fights for any semblance of relevancy. It’s just not much fun to root for middle of the pack Premier League teams, as there is usually nothing on the line in their games. Stoke have never won a top flight title, so they relate nicely to Northwestern, who have never even made an NCAA tournament. I’d advise staying away from picking these types of teams.
American comparison: Philadelphia 76ers
Every year, you think this is probably it for Sunderland. Perennial cellar dwellers, they do just enough to get by. Since returning to the Premier League in 2007, Sunderland’s highest finish is 10th. The only good thing about picking Sunderland is you know the end of the season will be exciting, as they battle to avoid relegation. They seem to always just manage, and win the Premier League lottery of staying up.
American comparison: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, any other team from Canada
Not really an American comparison eh? Just like our major sports teams to the north, Swansea City does not reside in the same country as the rest of the league. They play their home games in the country of Wales. Swansea, like Bournemouth, has made an incredible rise up the English football pyramid. They were playing in League Two only eleven years ago. Three promotions in seven seasons brought the Swans to the Premier League in 2011, where they’ve been ever since. If you’re an American cheering for a Canuck squad, Swansea would fit nicely in your favorite teams.
American comparison: Chicago Cubs
Tottenham has a crazy, passionate, sometimes delusional fanbase. They have not won a league title in quite a long time (1961), but they enter this season with perhaps their greatest chance (THIS IS THE YEAR!!). They came dangerously close to winning the title last year before fading in the final few games. The Spurs boast one of the most talented, young teams in the league, headlined by superstar striker Harry Kane. Expect a lot of excitement, but inevitable crushing heartbreak if you roll with the Spurs.
American comparison: Stanford
Most times, when you look at a logo of a team, you have a pretty good idea what their nickname would be. Both of these teams are different cases. The Stanford Cardinal, their logo should be a Cardinal right? Nope…it’s a tree. Watford is known as the Hornets, so, naturally, they have a moose in their logo.Talk about a serious identity crisis. As far as the actual team, Watford doesn’t have near the success of Stanford to show for on the field. However, Elton John is a lifelong fan, so that makes them sort of cool!
West Bromwich Albion
American comparison: Milwaukee Bucks
There really isn’t too much to say about the Baggies (yes, that’s their actual nickname). Like the Bucks, West Brom is just sort of an irrelevant team. They just are kind of…there. I don’t think I could name you more than two players on either of these teams. For the last few years, they have been near the bottom of the standings, but have managed to hang on. If you want to be bored to tears every week, the Baggies are your best bet.
West Ham United
American comparison: Oakland Raiders
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Green Street Hooligans”, you know about the culture of West Ham United fans. They have a reputation as being a tough, hard-nosed, working class group of people who love their team, much like Raider fans. Take just a glance at the West Ham United Wikipedia page, and you will see an entire section devoted to “hooliganism”. Although they don’t have any titles, West Ham is seen as a club on the rise as they move into a new stadium this season. Striker Dimitri Payet is one of the league’s budding stars to watch in 2016-17.
Burnley, Hull City, Middlesbrough
American comparison: Being called up from Triple A and sent to the Big Leagues
These are your newbies, the hot shot prospects who’ve been thriving in the lower level. Burnley and Hull City were last in the Premier League in 2015, but were sent back down after just one season (sometimes prospects just need more time to develop). It only took each of them one season to get back to the show, as Burnley won the 2nd division (The Championship) last season, and Hull grabbed the final promotion spot via the playoff round. Middlesbrough makes their first return to the Premier League since 2009. I would advise against choosing a promoted team as they often struggle and get sent right back down. Or, you could forget that advice and maybe after a year or two…