For a while, I’ve kept an eye on Major League Soccer (as best I can without pay TV) – the comparisons to the Hyundai A-League are many and there are occasionally discussions of an A-League All Star team taking on an MLS All-Star team (if that was to happen, it would need to happen twice a year – once in June/July and once in December/January).

Anyway, while I had theoretically supported the New England Revolution on the basis that I had lived up that way nearly 10 years ago, I never followed them closely. On the 1st of August, I decided that I had to make a decision.

Given my use of social media, I felt that the best way to determine which club wanted me the most was how willing they were to communicate with an Australian who had no affiliation with their club in the past. I thought this would be an interesting experiment to run.

So I started (poorly) by tweeting all 19 MLS clubs with the following tweet “I’m trying to choose an MLS team to follow, so explain to me why I should support <insert team’s twitter handle here>”.

I sent this out in quick succession and then (rightly) copped abuse from my existing followers because I was spamming their feeds.

After an hour and a couple of retweets by a couple of clubs, I realised that the fans were the tenet behind my experiment, so I have to go to them direct. Fortunately, the clubs have all the official supporter clubs listed on their website, so I slowly worked my way through all 19 MLS clubs and tweeted their supporter clubs, asking why a West Austalian should support their team.

It wasn’t long before the responses started flowing in. It was particularly interesting to see the smaller markets push the hardest for my support. I sat and tallied the results for each team, to try and work out who was most keen for my support. The teams were:

  • Columbus Crew (18)
  • Sporting Kansas City (12)
  • Montreal Impact (8)
  • Real Salt Lake (8)
  • Chivas USA (3)
  • New York Red Bulls (3)
  • LA Galaxy (2)
  • New England Revolution (2)
  • Philadelphia Union (2)
  • Portland Timbers (2)
  • Seattle Sounders (2)
  • Colorado Rapids (1)
  • Toronto FC (1)

There were 5 teams whose fans never got back to me:

  • Chicago Fire
  • DC United
  • FC Dallas
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Vancouver Whitecaps

From that first list, I was able to bring the list down to 4 teams – Columbus, Kansas City, Salt Lake and Montreal. I immediately removed Montreal from my list because it would be like me supporting a team from New Zealand. That left me with a list of three teams. As the week progressed into the weekend, two teams were truly engaging with me – Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City. Both had fans offering me radio streams, video streams, live blogs – any way I could keep up to date with them.

Both sets of fans continued to engage with me during the following week, and it was a really tough call. Ultimately, I found that the COLUMBUS CREW fans provided me with more information about their club, encouraged me to get involved with the club and ultimately helped me make my decision. This is nothing against the SPORTING KANSAS CITY fans, who were gracious in their slender defeat and I am still welcome on a podcast should I ever get over that way.

The fact that the fans (and staff) continue to engage with me is truly impressive. What I was really happy about is that the club had a way for me to truly become a part of the club – by being able to donate season tickets to kids that would otherwise not be able to get to games, I was putting funds into the club while allowing others to enjoy the game in my absence.

What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of thanks from the club. Once this blog post went up on the club website, my Twitter feed was quickly filled with fans and club staff thanking me for getting involved in such an impressive way. Once I posted it on my Facebook page, my friends were incredibly impressed as to what had been done.

So I’m now a proud member of the Columbus Crew – albeit over 18,000 kilometres away from Columbus Crew Stadium. One day I will be able to get there and meet the people I have spoken to, cheer on the players, socialise in their restaurants, and claim that free meal from Cafe Del Mondo that I was promised if I ever become a Columbus Crew fan 🙂

There’s a number of Crew fans and staff I want to thank, and I’ve included their Twitter handles in here so you can contact them too:

If you want to try this experiment yourself, think about what sort of reaction you want from the clubs and fans. You want them to engage with you, so go out and engage with them. Only a couple of tweets back were negative about other clubs (I did have to give bonus points to the U Sector from Toronto FC who claimed that their team was shit but they still turn up every week) and all the clubs were happy to have me involved in the MLS.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.