Or better yet…to MLS or not to MLS, that is the question.
As I sat at my computer watching the Orlando City Soccer Club have their debut MLS match two weeks ago, I began to wonder. Witnessing 62,510 purple clad supporters of the Orlando City Lions cheer on their team in their debut sparked a sort of pride in me as the city finally got behind something that it could possibly identify with besides the theme parks. This then raised the questions. Am I a fan of this team? And should I be?
As a fan of sports, I am not what one would call a fair-weather or bandwagon fan. I am loyal to my teams through thick and thin. But I’ve never been a big fan of Soccer, futbol, the beautiful game, or whatever else we want to call it. I’ve had casual interest and watched World Cup matches and various EPL/MLS games in bars as a distraction.
Currently, I live in Portland, Oregon and soccer is big here, very big. The Portland Timbers are one of the most supported soccer teams in the US and the city frequently likes to go by “Soccer City, USA”. This is a very devoted and passionate fan base, which I can respect and appreciate. I feel like it would definitely be a great team to support as I quite enjoy the atmosphere here in Portland. But for this exploration of my desire to find my MLS loyalty we need to dig deeper.
I grew up in the Orlando area for most of my life. I witnessed the Magic become an NBA team. I watched the losing seasons, was there at finals games, and have followed them my whole life for the most part. From Scott Skiles to Victor Oladipo, I’ve supported the city and the Orlando Magic. But that is basketball, a sport I play and regularly watch.
Now, with futbol, it is a different story. I played a bit of Soccer in middle school but was not all that much interested in the sport. I was too busy playing basketball and baseball. Essentially, I have no established loyalty to any sort of Soccer team or deep understanding and reverence of the game. It just never came up, until now.
I live in a soccer friendly town and since I have no previous sort of loyalty it would be natural for me to gravitate towards being a Timbers fan. It makes sense, I have friends and co-workers who support the Timbers. It would be easy for me to watch the games. Plus the energy of the fans here is very enticing. They also wear lots of green, which is my favorite color.(Though I can’t imagine being a fan of something based on the colors of uniforms.) But, my first professional soccer experience was in 2011 before I moved away from Orlando. I witnessed a fledgling USL Orlando City team beat a longtime EPL team, Newcastle United, in a friendly match. I watched this with my brother who is much more into futbol than I am by far. It was a pretty fun and memorable experience.
So I have some sort of link to the Orlando City Lions but I should probably be a Portland Timbers fan based on regional location. I don’t like the thought of being a fair-weather fan so when I choose something to support, I would say I’m a fan forever. I am not going to become a Trailblazers or Seahawks fan just because I now live in the Pacific Northwest. It just isn’t happening, period. I respect the teams, but my NFL and NBA roots have long been settled so they aren’t changing now. I may go to a game every once and a while, but in my heart they aren’t who I wish to win the Finals or Super Bowl at the end of the year.
MLS is a different beast though. I’m conflicted on how I should approach this or whether I should care at all. Do I arrive at my fandom through logic or initial experience? Also, could I support both teams and would that be wrong?
I will probably be seeing my first MLS game soon and most likely it will be the Orlando City vs Portland Timbers match next month. Who I will root for though, is still anyone’s guess.