If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty disillusioned with American football. Between high school players being violent douchebags, college level players being treated like replaceable farm-hands, and the NFL never once being concerned about their own players health and safety, it is a difficult sport to support.
Think about it – calling American football “foot-ball” makes ZERO sense. Kickers aren’t even considered real players and that oblong shape barely qualifies as a ball. Luckily for me, I’ve been watching actual football longer than I’ve been watching America’s bastardization of the game. European football is alive and well in 2020, my friends, and it’s entertaining as hell, too. No postponing matches due to too many thick necks in the meat locker; Europe as a whole has a much better grip on this thing than we do, and it is reflected in their professional sports leagues. Look at how much better they are at hosting large sporting events than us.
With stadiums totally empty until just recently, European soccer clubs are still able to play their full schedules, with their full teams, at their full pace. It has been a wonderfully entertaining season thus far; certainly better than watching the Denver Broncos play a practice squad QB or watching LSU use their players at test subjects for herd immunity.
So, at this point, you may be wondering: “Professional athletes actually playing at a professional level? That sounds great. But how do I get into it?” Well, my friends, I’m here to help. Football, as they call it in Europe, is more commonly known as "soccer" here in the States. To avoid confusion, I will refer to the sport in question as soccer for the rest of the article.
Why should I care about soccer?
No one said you have to “care” about what you’re watching, weirdo. I’m just telling you who and how to watch if you’re ready for something new. They call it the beautiful game for a reason. For instance, this clip:
That’s Messi, the soccer player equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Grown men like me wear shirts with his name on it; that’s how good he is. But more on him later.
Soccer, when played at the highest levels, is thrilling as hell. There is a key qualifier in that statement: when played at the highest levels. I hate to say it, but I can’t watch the MLS. I commend MLS fans and their sincere efforts, but Major League Soccer is not for me. As much as the MLS resists the moniker, it is a retirement league at worst and a farmer’s league at best. Me recommending that you get into soccer by watching the MLS would be like Maria Taylor recommending you get into football by watching the CFL. Sure, they are technically professionals, but they are undeniably a few steps (or maybe even a few flights of stairs) from the top. If you want to get to the top of soccer, you’ve got to go to Europe.
Europe has so much to offer, and that’s mostly because it’s not all one country. Given the breadth of European soccer's variety, there’s a short but steep learning curve for getting into European soccer. But no worries! I’m going to push you right over that curve and onto your couch.
Who would I even watch?
Fair question. Allow me to recommend three European leagues which are worth your American time and interest: The German League, the British League, and the League of Champions. All of these leagues are easily viewed, but more on that later.
The Bundesliga - The German League
Der Bundesliga is high-scoring action and packed full of Americans. As such, it’s an ideal Yankee starter pack. The German League scores more than any other in Europe with 3.2 goals per game on average, and I can attest that five goals per game is a normal occurrence. Remember Messi? Here’s Bundesliga’s best, making Messi look more like Sloppi.
The music is not dubbed over. It’s just what the Bundesliga sounds like.
That cool guy cleaning up the mess? He’s Alphonso Davies, and he’s a bad man. I mean that in a good way, of course. He’s not quite American, but he’s Canadian, which is regionally close, so America wins again. And hey, speaking of America, check out curls here.
As luck would have it, this charming young man is from Missouri. He’s only twenty years old! Do they even make them that young, still? This kid can’t even drink in the States, but he’s free to kick back Das Boot in Germany. Finding a professional loophole that allows you to drink underage? Well played, Sargent. Well played.
Seven Americans have started for their German clubs in the Bundesliga this year, most of them under the age of 21. The future is looking bright for American soccer, and it’s mostly happening in Germany. Mostly.
Just like college football, the Bundesliga is a high-scoring and often unpredictable affair featuring a talented group of young Americans. To further the analogy, stand-outs in the German league tend to graduate to higher paying leagues. I would never accuse Bayern Munich of being in a farmer’s league, but it is what it is. One such graduate of the German system is American soccer’s Latest Jedi: Christian Pulisic.
Until recently, Christian Pulisic played in the Bundesliga. Last year, the Great American Soccer Player from Hershey was snatched up by one of the English Premier League’s richest clubs, Chelsea. Check out this recent goal:
There’s a smile in every goal.
That’s an American kid, trained in the Bundesliga, ripping up one of Europe’s top leagues, the English Premier League. Which brings me to…
The English Premier League - The British League
Spaniards will certainly take issue with this, but The English Premier League (used interchangeably with “The Premier League") is the top European league, at least in terms of American ratings. That’s because the Premier League, much like its name suggests, is one of the most entertaining leagues to watch due to team owners’ deep, oily pockets. The money going through the English Premier League is legendary and worthy of an article all its own. Money, corrupt though it may be, buys talent. There are about eight teams in the Premier League that have plenty of money and talent to go around. Near every weekend you’re bound to find at least one high-level match up, and this year the race for the title is predictably unpredictable. Check out this gorgeous goalazo, which is becoming a weekly occurrence.
That is Harry Kane's teammate and friend Heung-Min Son, lovingly nicknamed Sonaldo. He is an elusive and rare South Korean tiger.
All that money and talent makes for consistently exciting soccer games. When you watch the Premier League, you’re guaranteed to watch some of the best. All the Ronaldos, Maradona (RIP), Zlatan, Beckham, and countless other greats built their legends in the Premier League. There’s a good chance Messi will spend his due time in the Kingdom too, though nothing is official. Curiously, if Messi does end up in Manchester, then
The best way to get into the Premier League is to mark your calendar for top teams: Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Die hard fans will take all sorts of issue with this list, but I don’t care. These teams, most seasons, and certainly this season, are the most entertaining to watch. If you spend time watching these clubs (interchangeable with “teams”), you have a much higher chance of seeing top quality soccer. If you see top quality soccer, you’ll start to appreciate how great it is. Let’s stay focused, people.
Remember, watching soccer is fun.
Watch a couple of these teams and you’ll start to see other, lesser-known teams that you may or may not like. Just like any other sport, you’ll come to know the back stories of players, teams, and fan bases. If you were educated in America like me, you’ll also learn quite a bit about English geography. It’s all quite enlightening innit, spot of tea?
Before I tell you how to watch the Premier league, there is one more European league you should know about. It is a tournament which pits the best teams from every European league against one another. It is the League of Champions, The Champions League.
The UEFA Champions League - The "Champions"
Theme clearly composed by God.
First disclaimer – this is more of a tournament than a league. Second disclaimer – you don’t have to be a Champion to play.
So, it’s a bit of a misnomer, but only during group staging. But when they reach the knock-out round, it is indeed a tournament of the best teams from every major league in Europe – Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and sometimes other countries, too, but mostly those. And even though there is an actual Club World Cup, the Champions League is the de facto Club World Cup. It’s even more accessible than the real World Cup because the Champions League happens every year as opposed to every four. And the games are thrilling! Take both semi-final matches from two years ago; this shit was crazy.
My dudes Hairy Cane and the South Korean tiger put their big boy boots on for that one. What's better than one British invasion? Two British invasions.
For context, Liverpool HAD to score four goals to avoid elimination. Against one of the best clubs of all time. 3-0 or 4-1 wouldn't of cut it - it HAD to be minimum 4-0. Incredible.
At this point, it’s worth noting that Messi, as Great as he is, has been getting slapped around at Barcelona for the past two years or so. Oh, well. Even The Greatest can’t escape his thirties.
It’s difficult to describe in American terms how epic the Champions League is. It’s like if you only took the best teams from elite leagues playing the same sport and pitted them against one another. Oh, wait! We already do that! It’s the same idea behind the College Football Playoffs (yuck). The Champions League is basically Alabama versus Clemson, every single game. The difference here is that the players are professionals and the leagues span country lines. Aside from being my favorite league to watch, it is also the league that first got me into watching European soccer. Champion for life, baby.
Messi vs Ronaldo, the definitive soccer rivalry of our generation, has occurred six times in the Champions League, including a recent December match. I planned my day around the game because every time they play it is a piece of soccer history. Game Summary – Ronaldo Re-organizes Messi.
(Intriguingly enough, Ronaldo’s recent win puts their all-time Champions League records against one another at 2W-2D-2L a piece. If that’s not begging for resolution…)
So, by now, you’re unquestionably sold on giving European soccer some of your time. Great news! But how do you do it? More great news, friend – watching European soccer has never been easier for Americans.
Where and when do I watch?
If you have a basic cable package, you can already watch most of the best European soccer. If you’re a millennial, you’re going to have to make the decision: either pay for a streaming service or become a pirate.
I am not recommending that anyone steal anything from anywhere at any time. I am here to report facts, and the truth is that websites exists where you can stream matches for free. Arg, Pirates Beware! These sites are allegedly super dangerous and can mess your life up. Resist their Siren Song!
If you plan to remain a law-abiding citizen, even more great news! Watching top European soccer isn’t that expensive. (Just kidding, all these services are way too expensive. It’s insane how much corporations expect us to spend on cable, more than 50% of which is just advertising. They are getting us to pay them to watch their ads! What a scam! But I digress.)
This season, you can easily watch four entertaining European soccer matches a week. Allow me to show you how.
The Bundesliga - ESPN+, Weekend Mornings
This is a recent disappointment, actually. The Bundesliga used to be more accessible on Fox Sports just last season. These days, you need to buy a mostly useless ESPN+ package to see anything. YoutubeTV will have some games, as will Sling Orange.
If you have a basic cable package, it’s even easier for you. The Bundesliga plays five days a week, but the best matches are Saturday and Sunday mornings, starting around 9 a.m. and noon E.T.
Even though the Bundesliga is, in one sense, the most accessible European league to the American viewer, it is also, in another sense, the least accessible European league to the American viewer. Life’s like that, sometimes. So, unless you already have some sort of ESPN+ package, I recommend you start with the Premier League instead.
The English Premier League - NBC, Saturday Mornings
The Premier League also has games other days of the week, but NBC usually only airs the Saturday matches. If you have cable, you may or may not have access to it because of your region. If you have YoutubeTV or Sling Blue, you will have access to Premier League mornings on NBC.
There are usually three games available, with starting times ranging from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. E.T. Trust me – watching British men exhaust themselves in short-shorts is way better than watching American teenagers in tight pants push one another around in the mud. This former is British, and therefore more refined.
The UEFA Champions League - CBS, Tuesday, Wednesday Afternoons*
*For the time being. As the tournament progresses, games will move to Saturday and Sunday.
Whereas the Bundesliga became more difficult to watch this year, The Champions League became gloriously easier. CBS All Access (soon to be Paramount+ because fuck originality) now has the television rights to the Champions and it only cost $6/month to watch. You could even wait until the final month of the tournament, sign up for a free month of All Access, and then cancel it before the month ends – but who would tell you to do that and who would stop you?
CBS isn't on Sling's color palette, but you should have full access with YoutubeTV. Ah, the age of streaming services- just the latest way to get jerked around by corporations. Isn’t it wonderful?
There you have it, the complete European soccer starter pack for the American. If you’re not sold on soccer yet, it’s probably because you’re too busy proving the election was stolen. If you’re like me, you’ll stop supporting American football and give your time to soccer. It’s just another way to resist, and a damn fun way to resist, too. Come to the sport that actually makes sense – soccer, the beautiful game, where you can watch men kick a ball with their feet.