How to Choose a European Soccer Team
November 3, 2018
NOTE: This guide is for choosing a European club team, NOT a World Cup team to root for.
It can be overwhelming learning about European Soccer. There are so many teams and leagues, how do you choose one? This guide should help you choose the optimal team to root for in Europe.
Things to consider:
Friends and Family
If your friends or family already have a team they like then the choice is easy! It is more fun being able to watch a game together, whether it is watching live, watching on tv at a bar or party, or even just talking about the game afterward. If you have friends or family that you can visit in Europe, maybe they have a local team near their town or city, which could be a fun outing if you go visit!
TV or streaming access
Another important thing to consider is how easy it is to watch a team, both on TV and in Europe. You may decide on a team to root for, only to find out that they are only shown on obscure channels that you can't access in the United States. Most leagues have streaming available online, which can be convenient, but can also be expensive.
Seeing a soccer game live in Europe is a cool experience. If you want to see a game in-person as an American traveler, it is probably easier to see a team in a bigger city that has a big airport and public transportation than a team in a harder-to-access town. Often the bigger cities in Europe have the best teams too. You might want to choose a team in a country you have easy-access to. For example in Salt Lake City, we have direct flights to Amsterdam and Paris, so a team in those cities might be a good choice.
Size of Fanbase
The more popular teams will probably be easiest to watch on TV. However, if the team is incredibly popular, it may be difficult to get tickets to a game in Europe. On my first visit to Europe, I immediately tried to find tickets to a soccer game. Our first stop was London, which has plenty of great teams. Buying tickets there is very different than it is in the US. The games sell out very quickly, and the only way to get tickets that aren't 500+ Euros, is to become a "member" of one of the teams. Membership costs money, and even then you are not guaranteed tickets. You get access to a "member ticket exchange" where you can buy tickets from other members who won't make it to the game. Needless to say, I didn't care enough to become a "member" and decided it wasn't worth the hassle in London. Paris was easier, getting tickets there was more similar to the US where you could buy tickets online, which is exactly what I did. Basically, a popular team comes with pros and cons, as they are more popular but tickets become more difficult to get.
The league a team plays in is another important factor. In the US, I often see English Premier League games on TV. That is one of the best leagues in the world, and very popular, so it may be a good choice to pick a team in. Spain, Italy, and Germany have great soccer leagues too, and most other countries in Europe have a league too, though the most popular leagues get the most screen time. But in Europe, teams aren't guaranteed a spot in their league year-after-year. The worst performing teams get knocked out each year, and put into a lower league, while the best teams from the lower leagues move up each year. It is an exciting format, but if you choose a poor-performing team, they might not be in the same league you watch on TV next year.
Another factor is the Champions League, which is like a super-league, with all the best teams from across Europe competing. If you choose a great team, chances are they'll get to play in the Champions League against other great teams. (The Europa League is like the Champions League's little brother, very similar). I personally think the Champions League is really cool, and games only happen a few times a month which is perfect for me, as I don't like to spend too much time watching soccer. If the Champions League is important to you, definitely choose one of the top teams in a country's league, as they'll be most likely to go to the Champions League.
If you have a favorite player, you could choose to root for the team he plays for. Of course, you'll probably find great players are on every team, so if you don't know any good players, that is ok too.
This is one of the less important factors, but if you like to wear soccer jerseys, consider a team's jersey style when making your decision.
Here are some of the top performing teams in the biggest cities in each country:
- London - Arsenal
- London - Chelsea
- London - Tottenham Hotspur
- Liverpool - Liverpool
- Manchester - Manchester United
- Manchester - Manchester City
- Edinburgh - Hibernian
- Edinburgh - Hearts
- Glasgow - Celtic
- Glasgow - Rangers
France/Monaco (They share a league)
- Paris - PSG
- Monaco - AS Monaco
- Munich - Bayern Munich
- Dortmund - Borussia Dortmund
- Amsterdam - Ajax
- Barcelona - Barcelona
- Madrid - Real Madrid
- Madrid - Athletico Madrid
- Milan - AC Milan
- Milan - Inter Milan
- Rome - AS Roma
- Rome - Lazio
- Bruges - Club Brugge
- Salzburg - Red Bull Salzburg
These teams are all very good, it seems bandwagon-ish to pick any of them. But because they are all popular, they should all be easily viewable on TV or the internet. And they are all in big cities, so if you want to see them in person, it should make it easier to get there. Of course, getting tickets may be another story. Once you've picked a team, you'll learn more about the players, and it makes watching the world cup even more fun, as you'll recognize players on each country's team.