It’s hard to believe, but the 2017-2018 Premier League season kicks off this Friday with Leicester City traveling to Arsenal! Some of you may be new to watching the Premier League, and that’s ok! We here at TGS have come up with an American reference of some sort for each of the 20 Premier League teams.
American comparison: Doug Flutie
Small, mighty, and full of competitive spirit, 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 two seasons ago for the first time ever. They are by far the smallest club competing in the top division (their stadium seats just 11,464). 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. Last season saw them take an incredible step forward by finishing in 9th. Another mid table finish like that will have their fans believing they can stick around for many years to come.
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’ streak of 20 consecutive seasons finishing in the top 4 came to an end last season with an extremely disappointing 5th place finish. Their last Premier League title was that 2003-2004 “Invincibles” team. 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. Despite last season’s setbacks, they did win the FA Cup for a record 13th time. The pressure is on manager Arsene Wenger to get the Gunners back in the top 4 immediately.
American comparison: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars suck. They lose a lot of games seemingly every year. The same can be said for Burnley. Quite frankly….they just aren’t very good. Last season saw them finish in 16th place, tied with Watford as the final two teams to survive in the Premier League. A newly promoted team last year, Burnley did perform admirably at home (winning 10, drawing 3, and losing 6) but on the road they were horrendous. In their 19 away fixtures, they only won ONE of them (1 win, 4 draws, and 14 losses). The goal for the Clarets will be simply to survive.
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 five 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. The Blues are the reigning champions of England after a thoroughly dominating season saw them win the league by winning a Premier League record 30 games.
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. It was a rough 2016-17 season for Palace as they finished 14th. Avoiding relegation, however, is considered a successful season amongst many middle of the road teams.
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. New manager Ronald Koeman guided the Toffees to a 7th place finish last season. It may be tough to replicate that success this year with top striker Romelu Lukaku off to green pastures (and a greener bank account) at Manchester United.
American comparison: Every clichéd 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 two seasons ago 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. Unfortunately for the Foxes, the sequel is never as good as the original. Despite a successful run in the Champions League, the domestic league season was very disappointing. In mid-February, Leicester was actually sitting in the relegation zone. After shockingly firing beloved manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes were able to string enough wins together to finish in 12th place. This year they will aim to get back into the top half of the table.
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 manager Jurgen Klopp was able to get the club back into the Champions League, finishing 4th in 2016-17. Despite this success, they still finished a whopping 17 points behind league champions Chelsea. It will be interesting to see if they can sustain their success under Klopp in the Premier League while also have to play the demanding Champions League schedule.
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! A third place finish a year ago was considered slightly disappointing with the arrival of new manager Pep Guardiola.
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). Manager Jose Mourinho is their third since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired. It was a disappointing first season under “The Special One” as United was only able to manage a 6th place finish, but they did win the Europa League which secured them a spot in this season’s upcoming Champions League. New signing Romelu Lukaku from Everton should help the team get back into the top 4 conversation this year. 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. Two seasons ago the south England squad won 18 games and finished in 6th, but then top goal scorer Sadio Mane left for Liverpool and manager Ronald Koeman left for Everton. They still managed an 8th place finish a year ago, but won only 12 games. 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. It came out just this week that Saints defender Virgil Van Dijk announced his intentions to want to be transferred away from the club.
American comparison: Northwestern Basketball
The Potters are one of those teams that sits 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. Their finishes the last five seasons: 13th, 9th, 9th, 9th, and 13th. Stoke have never won a top flight title, so they relate nicely to Northwestern, who have never even made an NCAA tournament (2017 update: DAMN YOU CHRIS COLLINS FOR RUINING THIS REFERENCE FOR ME). I’d advise staying away from picking these types of teams.
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 twelve 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. Be careful though, as Swansea nearly went down last season but made a late season surge to just narrowly stave off relegation.
American comparison: Chicago Cubs
Tottenham has a crazy, passionate, sometimes delusional fan base. 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, but Chelsea simply would not slip up to give them a shot to overtake them. Over the past two seasons, no one has accumulated more points in the table than Tottenham. The Spurs boast one of the most talented young teams in the league, headlined by superstar striker Harry Kane. The Cubs did it last year; is it Tottenham’s turn this year?
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: Charlotte Hornets
There really isn’t too much to say about the Baggies (yes, that’s their actual nickname). Like the Hornets, 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. Last year they moved into a brand new stadium and managed to finish in 11th place. Expectations are much higher this year with the offseason signings of goal keeper Joe Hart and Mexican international team star striker Javier Hernandez, aka “Chicharito.”
Brighton and Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United
American comparison: Being called up from Triple A and sent to the Big Leagues
These are your prospects. All three of these teams had tremendous years down in the lower level Championship league and have been called up to the big league. Newcastle are right back up, winning the Championship last year after an abysmal 2015-2016 season saw them get relegated out of the top flight. Brighton and Hove Albion finished 2nd last year in the second tier and also earned an automatic promotion. This will be their first ever time in the Premier League, and first time being in the top division of England in 34 years. Final newcomers Huddersfield Town are also making their Premier League debut after securing the final promotion spot via the Championship playoff last season. Teams that are freshly promoted tend to struggle right away in the Premier League and often get sent right back down. Newcastle may be an exception to this, as they have been a Premier League team for all but 3 of the seasons since the league debuted in 1992.
There you have it. Pick a team. Get to know them. Learn to love them. Have any better American comparisons for the teams? I’d love to hear them! Shoot me a message on Twitter @Jared_Leeper.
The action kicks off this weekend across the NBC networks. Rise and shine, grab a drink, and let the season begin!