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The new fan’s 2016-17 guide to finding a favorite Premier League club

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Must read preface: For several years on my own site and then on a Western New York soccer blog, I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. In no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game. And as time goes on, this is less and less a necessity. We are talking about the biggest league in the world, after all.

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But the fact remains that people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. ‘They’ had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery. And now ‘they’ have got to twice watch their beloved club, massive as it is, flub its way to the second tier. Again, just what I’ve heard from ‘them’.

I almost always advocate choosing a club that isn’t already a giant because that’s my background as a proud Buffalonian, but do what feels right. Maybe you’re a Yankees or Cowboys fan who enjoys feeding off the hate of others. By all means, continue onward!

So without further ado, I submit to you my 2016-17 beginners guide to selecting a Premier League team. For each team, we’ll let you know which Americans are on their team — if any — who their fans tend to hate, and give a very loose comparison to American professional teams.

1. Arsenal
Last championship: 2003-04
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Gunners
Location: London
American players: Gedion Zelalem
Biggest rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United
Comparison: New York Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

The good news, if you choose Arsenal, is that you’ll have so much company. Arsenal is the most-supported team in these here United States of America, and their passionate fan base is almost impossible to miss.

They have a massive celebrity supporter base, too, from Idris Elba to Prince Harry, Steve Earle to Jay-Z, there’s a bountiful group of shiny fans. There’s some magic to the club, for sure. French manager Arsene Wenger fashions players who play the game with flair and the club has begun to spend again after paying off a great deal of debt. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are incredible talents, and Santi Cazorla could be among the more unheralded out-and-out superstars of all-time.

For a big club, they provide their fans a fair bit of misery. They’ve won two of the last three FA Cups, but haven’t seen a Premier League title since 2004. Their club is massive, has gobs of money, and their manager still talks like he’s running a not-for-profit.

2. Bournemouth
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 2/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Cherries
Location: Bournemouth, Dorset
American players: Emerson Hyndman
Biggest rivals: Southampton
Comparisons: Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Lightning

What young, promising manager Eddie Howe has done with this club to get them to the Premier League and keep them there is amazing. Chairman Jeff Mostyn kept the team from administration with his own money, and engineered one of the biggest rises in English soccer history. Now they’re investing in the club, and have a promising squad.

Their crest is a man heading the ball incorrectly, unless of course the Cherries player is clearing the ball from danger. We’ll be rooting for the upstarts this season.

3. Burnley
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 3/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Clarets
Location: Burnley, Lancashire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End
Comparisons: Pittsburgh Pirates, Calgary Flames

Manager Sean Dyche looks like he eats wood for breakfast, thinks condiments are for lesser weaklings, and gets in bar fights as a hobby. He expects his small market club to play in a similar fashion, and likes to use the same lineup as often as possible. SportsWorld’s Joe Posnanski wrote a story on Burnley the last time they were promoted. It was called “David and Goliath and Burnley”. Read it.

4. Chelsea
Last championship: 2014/15
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Blues
Location: London
American players: Matt Miazga
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham, Millwall
Comparison: Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Redskins

A simply massive club with loads of accolades and glory — not to mention a deep-pocketed owner in a big, big city — Chelsea took a step back last season when their players seemingly quit on their abrasive but brilliant coach Jose Mourinho (now with the Manchester United). Given the huge support for Arsenal in America, it seems lots of folks hate Chelsea. New manager Antonio Conte won’t have a problem with that, nor will current forward Diego Costa and center back John Terry, two of the more detested but respected players in the world.

5. Crystal Palace
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 9/25
Nickname: Eagles, Glaziers
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Wimbledon
Comparisons: Memphis Grizzlies, Kansas City Royals

Palace is a truly intriguing option due to incredible fans and their manager, Alan Pardew, who is at best a goofball and at worst a lunatic. Palace is a real working-class London club, and the Eagles have flair and work rate in their club. I love their modern crest, though they aren’t new jacks. Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend are very good, exciting players, and both Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak bring the steel.

6. Everton
Last championship: 1986-87
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Toffees, The School of Science
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool
Comparison: Boston Bruins, Denver Broncos

Everton gives you the ability to back a team with proud history, and a team involved in one of the best rivalries in sports (The Merseyside Derby with Liverpool). The club has had two of America’s biggest players in Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, and has a classy color scheme and simple crest/kit. With new investment coming and a good manager in Ronald Koeman, Everton is one of my top prospects for new Premier League fans.

7. Hull City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 5/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Hull, Yorkshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Sheffield United, Leeds United
Comparisons: Sacramento Kings, Cincinnati Bengals

Hull City is back in the Premier League, but respected manager Steve Bruce quit before the season because — many believe — he was frustrated at the lack of investment in the club (which is for sale). Great nickname, colors, and “bounce-back-ability” here, and no one will accuse you of jumping on a bandwagon. You can never count out Hull, but in a sense you’d also be silly to count on them. Here’s hoping the Tigers surprise us this year.

8. Leicester City
Last championship: Last season!!!
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Foxes
Location: Leicester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Comparison: Seattle Seahawks, New Jersey Devils

You could hate sports, and you’d have heard of Leicester City’s last season. The most unlikely championship story in history, with castaway players and a forgotten manager rising up to claim the Premier League crown from the richest of the rich. I can’t tell you not to root for the Foxes, though I also wouldn’t bet on them repeating the glory. That said, they’ve proven me horribly wrong before!

Foxes is a great nickname, blue is a solid color, and who doesn’t love the silky skill set of Riyad Mahrez?

9. Liverpool
Last championship: 1989-90
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Reds
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Everton, Manchester United
Comparison: Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Flyers

Superstar players? Check. Intense, fascinating manager? Check. Title-winning history you can brag (and brag and brag) about? Check. Still plenty of misery to feel like you’re somehow an underdog? Check.

No wonder American fans have seemingly flocked to the Anfield set.

10. Manchester City
Last championship: 2013/14
Years in Premier League: 20/25
Nickname: Citizens
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Manchester United
Comparison: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Angels

Some folks will tell you that you can’t support Man City because they’re a club that’s done all their recent winning on the backs of incredible investment from deep-pocketed owners, but as time goes on we’re learning they were an early-adopter. Still, City has spent crazy money, most recently to bring one of the most brilliant managers in the world in Pep Guardiola. Plus, you’ll love the same team as Noel and Liam Gallagher, and their banter game is, generally speaking, top notch.

11. Manchester United
Last championship: 2012-13
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Red Devils
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City
Comparison: New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, New England Patriots

A little shine came off United when it struggled to keep up legendary manager Alex Ferguson’s lofty standards once the Scottish coach left the team. But United has spent almost as much money as any club on Earth and should never, ever be considered anything but a favorite with the biggest financial influence in the game. Now with vilified but brilliant manager Jose Mourinho and the fanciest attack this side of Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United can get back to seriously contending for any trophy in the world. And you can sort of feel like you aren’t jumping on any sort of bandwagon.

12. Middlesbrough
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 15/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: The Boro, Smoggies
Location: Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
American players: Brad Guzan
Biggest rivals: Sunderland, Newcastle United
Comparisons: Buffalo Bills, New Jersey Devils

There is no American club that would be considered the third-biggest club in its market, is there? Here’s the good news, it may not be that way for long. With Newcastle laboring in the Championship for at least a season and Sunderland a consistent struggler, The Boro is taking advantage of its return to the top flight by bringing players aboard who can help keep it in the Premier League. Boro also made an unlikely run to the League Cup in 2004, and thrived in the Europa League (going all the way to the final before losing). They embraced a nickname, Smoggies, which was once foisted on the club by dissenting opposition fans. I respect the heck out of that.

13. Southampton
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 18/25
Nickname: Saints
Location: Southampton
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Comparison: St. Louis Blues, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Vikings

Saints have a whole lot of “Moneyball” to their program, and chairman Ralph Krueger literally wrote books on leadership. The ex-NHL coach is an incredibly impressive man, and the way Southampton has replaced assets with cheaper assets is admirable. With one of the best young programs in the world, pound-for-pound, and a certain bit of magic around St Mary’s (their home ground) you could do worse than Southampton.

14. Stoke City
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 9/25 (Return 2008-09)
Nickname: Potters
Location: Stoke-on-Trent
American players: Geoff Cameron
Biggest rivals: Port Vale
Comparison: Green Bay Packers (without the titles), Portland Trailblazers

There’s a bit of “How are they doing this?” to Stoke City’s continued improvement, and manager Mark Hughes has brought a real strong mentality to the squad. Stoke has one of the most unheralded American stars in history when it comes to Geoff Cameron, and the Potters are a true underdog that has found a way to bring and keep tremendous talent to a smaller market.

15. Sunderland
Last championship: 1935-36
Years in Premier League: 16/25
Nickname: Mackems, Black Cats
Location: Sunderland, Tyne-upon-Wear
American players: Lynden Gooch
Biggest rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough
Comparison: Sacramento Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs

There’s decent tradition in Sunderland to go with new manager David Moyes, who many think has gotten a bum rap from his last few managerial stops, but the club has seen a series of seasons that include hanging out near the bottom of the league before surviving by the skin of its teeth. It’s incredible that they even survived their moribund last three seasons to remain in the top flight. Sunderland is owned by an American and has a relationship with DC United of Major League Soccer. Another fun fact: their nickname isn’t an actual word (Mackem is short for Make Them, abbreviated).

16. Swansea City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 6/25
Nickname: The Swans, The Jacks
Location: Wales
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Cardiff City
Comparison: Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Suns

A big time rugby area, Swansea is also a travelers dream: friends have told me it’s a gorgeous place to visit. They flirted with relegation last season and have watched a lot of assets go, but there’s no debating that Swans are a group that grind for their fans and city. The Welsh side has made some head-turning signings in Mike Van der Hoorn and Borja Baston, but also let mainstay Ashley Williams and star striker Andre Ayew leave town.

17. Tottenham Hotspur
Last championship: 1960-61
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Spurs
Location: London
American players: DeAndre Yedlin, Cameron Carter-Vickers
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham
Comparison: Washington Capitals, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Cowboys

Spurs are a good team to pick. They have an awesome name, an inventive manager and a cool-albeit-goofy logo. They also play in London, so visiting them is an A-plus idea. Tottenham hates Arsenal, so it’s a good bet for vitriol as well.

Spurs also have a ton of extremely likable and/or exciting players, and have surged into the UEFA Champions League. The players are strong and deep, with superstar striker Harry Kane, young flash Dele Alli, and midfield general Moussa Dembele. There’s also terrific French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. There’s really a terrific tradition at the North London club and perhaps they’ve moved from being “so close” to being truly elite again.

18. Watford
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 4/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Hornets
Location: Hertfordshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Luton Town
Comparisons: Arizona Coyotes

The Hornets finally made it to the Premier League without being instantly relegated. The club questionably cut ties with manager Quique Flores, and will be counting on star forwards Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to do a lot of heavy lifting this year. Sir Elton John’s favorite club, this is a side that once gave USMNT star Jay DeMerit a shot… and he ended up their captain.

19. West Bromwich Albion
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Baggies, West Brom
Location: West Midlands
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Aston Villa, Wolverhampton
Comparison: Milwaukee Brewers, Indiana Pacers

I’ll let Wikipedia show you why I have respect for the fans of this club:

“Albion have always enjoyed loyal and passionate support… Supporters of the team celebrate goals by bouncing up and down and chanting “Boing Boing”. This dates back to the 1992–93 season, when the team was promoted from the new Second Division. In recent years fans of the team have celebrated the end of each season by adopting a fancy dress theme for the final away match, including dressing as vikings in 2004 in honour of Player of the Season Thomas Gaardsøe. In 2002–03 Albion’s fans were voted the best in the Premier League by their peers, while in the BBC’s 2002 “national intelligence test” Test the Nation, they were found to be ‘more likely to be smarter than any other football supporters, registering an average score of 138′.”

That said, until they cut ties with manager Tony Pulis, they will not be playing a style of football I’d enjoy watching on a week-to-week basis. Their fans pride themselves on enjoying beautiful football, and Pulis has not been bringing that.

20. West Ham United
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 21/25
Nickname: Hammers, the Irons
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Millwall, Leyton Orient
Comparison: Brooklyn Nets, Oakland Raiders

West Ham United has a lot of money, a new stadium, and an incredibly deep team given its relative lack of big stage success in recent years. There is every reason to believe West Ham is primed to surge into annual contention for UEFA Champions League places and, given their city and backing, you could be getting on board with a next level club while they’re still an underdog story (of sorts).

The focus of some hard-nosed supporter stories — the film “Green Street Hooligans” was penned about fictional West Ham fans — the Hammers have plenty of grit on the pitch as well.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.

MLS Saturday wrap: Quakes keep firing; Toronto, SKC falter

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MLS doesn’t have too many days like Saturday, with four away teams collecting wins on a seven-match docket.

The surprise is lessened a bit by the identity of the losing hosts: struggling Vancouver, Colorado, and Sporting KC: Wow, that last one is taking some getting used to, isn’t it?).

[ MORE: Where will Bale go? ]

In a league where only two of 24 teams are above .500 on the road (DC United and LAFC), it’s still saying something about a hot weekend in these United States of America (and Canada).

Columbus Crew 2-1 Montreal Impact

The Crew’s early advantage looked like business as usual by halftime, as Caleb Porter’s struggling men conceded in stoppage time, but David Accam netted right after the break to give Columbus a much-needed three points.

Toronto FC 1-3 Houston Dynamo

TFC opened the door for New England or Orlando City to climb into the top seven by going into an early hole and failing to rally. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore came off the bench, the latter scoring, but the Reds did little on Alejandro Pozuelo’s day off and the Dynamo get a big road win to move without touching distance of a playoff position.

This is not adequate defense.

Philadelphia Union 2-0 Chicago Fire

Marco Fabian scored a beauty and Anthony Fontana also netted as the Union assured themselves another week atop the Eastern Conference. Chicago remains winless away from home.

Sporting KC 0-2 FC Dallas

What in the world is going on? SKC could not find the net with more than one of their 17 shot attempts, and fell five points back of a playoff spot. Worse, the hosts allowed sixth-place Dallas to move five points clear of them.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 New York City FC

It didn’t take long for youngster Sebastian Anderson to go from hero to goat, as the soon-to-be 17-year-old gave the Rapids a sixth minute lead before taking a red card 27 minutes later. Heber and Alexandru Mitrita scored late in each half to drive NYCFC’s dreams of the top spot in the East. The visitors are now seven points back of first, but have four matches-in-hand on Philadelphia.

Real Salt Lake 1-1 Minnesota United

Darwin Quintero and Marcelo Silva traded goals in a fair result.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-3 San Jose Earthquakes

Make it three-straight wins for the Quakes, who rode Cali Clasico momentum and overcame an early Doneil Henry goal through Vako, Chris Wondolowski, and the in-form Magnus Eriksson.

Kane scores from midfield to beat Juve

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Harry Kane lobbed Wojciech Szczesny from nearly 50 yards to send Tottenham Hotspur past Juventus early Sunday morning.

Maybe he wanted to embarrass a former North London Derby rival, or perhaps he just wanted to avoid penalties.

The goal was made more remarkable by Kane’s blast radius including two men marking him near the Juve part of the center circle.

[ MORE: Where will Bale go? ]

It was an entertaining International Champions Cup match on Sunday morning, with goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Gianluigi Buffon plenty busy.

Tanguy Ndombele came off the bench to assist and impress for Spurs and Matthijs de Ligt making his Juve debut as a sub.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain scored for Juve, and the latter probably should’ve won it with a dragged shot in the 83rd minute.

Spurs goals came courtesy of Erik Lamela, who tapped in a rebound of a bullet shot from 17-year-old Ryan Parrott, and Moura.

The Brazilian was fed into the box by a sweet Ndombele pass moments after the new Spurs midfielder subbed into the match.

Here is Ronaldo’s goal.

Bale leaving Real Madrid; Where to?

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Gareth Bale is not going to play for Real Madrid this season. The jersey he will pull onto his body remains a mystery.

Real manager Zinedine Zidane said that “it’d be better” for the club and player if he was sold tomorrow, claiming it’s nothing personal but that Bale is simply not in his plans.

[ MORE: Watford chasing Sarr ]

Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett poured gasoline on those comments by blasting the French legend as “a disgrace,” saying the player and agent are “working on” an exit.

From Marca.com:

“Zidane is a disgrace,” Barnett told AFP. “He shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid.”

Obviously it’s far from disgraceful for Zidane to publicly admit that a massive player and personality may no longer fit the bill, and Barnett’s harsh words are more than agent talk: He wants a higher fee than will come from Real saying, “He’s 10000000000% available.”

Barnett does represent Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw, and there are so many reasons to think the Welshman could move to Manchester United. A return to Spurs is obviously romantic, but the club’s wage structure would be a concern to deeming this a fit.

Bale wasn’t fantastic last season, posting eight goals and three assists in under 1800 La Liga minutes and adding three goals and two assists in under 500 Champions League minutes (In fact, he was the 14th ranked player in UCL advanced stats according to Who Scored).

He is not far removed from monster campaigns with Real, and it’s no surprise that his production would drop off in a world without Cristiano Ronaldo around him (and vice versa, to a lesser degree).

There are a lot of reasons to wonder whether Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy would consider what it takes to bring Bale to town. It would instantly and realistically elevate the discussion about whether Spurs could seriously rival Liverpool and Man City for a Premier League title while adding Champions League mettle as well.

The idea of Bale playing with Harry Kane the way he worked with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema is electric, though the prospective move took a hit by Zidane’s lack of love for Christian Eriksen.

Bayern Munich is another potential avenue for Bale, as is the Chinese Super League.

But we wonder if the 30-year-old would sign up for massive David Beckham wages at Inter Miami with a loan to a Champions League side for a season ahead of the Super Becks’ opening campaign in MLS. What better way to engender some fan interest amongst Floridians and Manchester United fans than a nice loan? We’re sure Zlatan brought some Red Devils’ eyes to LA, for what it’s worth. Spurs would work here, too, as would any side hopeful of expanding their American imprint.

Maybe Bale isn’t ready for that step. He’d surely prefer adding to his four Champions League titles and probably likes the idea of doing some bigger things for Wales, but there’s a lot of dough in America and really it’s not going to cost him his place with the Welsh side (though concerns about competition would be legit).