More Soccer Pls
June 27, 2010 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I'd finally like to segue from obsessing over the world cup every four years to keeping up with professional leagues. I'm not very interested in the MLS, so what's a good starter league or upcoming tournament to dive into first?

Champions League? Bundesliga? Premier League?

What are some of the best websites to keep up with? Are there any that track most, if not all leagues and tournaments?

Lastly, I'd like to be able to watch soccer on my computer - are there any dependable free sites, pay sites, of bootleg sites which stream soccer games throughout the year?
posted by domakesaypat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The three leagues you list are ideal.

The Premier League is highly entertaining and is very well televised. Depending on where you are your options for viewing it online will be different. There is a British show called 'Match of the Day' which is allegedly put up on file sharing sites very quickly after being televised.

The Bundesliga is also good to watch and well televised, but it isn't done as well as the Premier League.

The later rounds of the Champions League are fantastic, the earlier rounds tend to be a bit dull. It's a bit like the NBA, the play-offs are great, the regular season has too many games. Personally I follow the Champions League following the Group stage.

Streaming soccer sites come and go.

Zonal Marking is a great site. Many people like Unprofessional Foul. The Guardian is good for the Premier League and reasonable for the Champions League.

Finally, if there is an MLS team in your city go along and see if it is fun. Attending live soccer is worth it even if the standard is not as high as the Premier League.
posted by sien at 7:01 PM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

ESPN3 streams a lot of soccer, though I'm not sure which leagues it shows outside of the MLS (incidentally, and I say this as a foreigner, the MLS is criminally underrated, there's tons of attractive, exciting football played... if you do have a local team, go to a few games... this will also help you understand how soccer is played on the large field, because even on a widescreen, you only see a part of the pitch).
posted by Kattullus at 7:39 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Premier League is easiest to see in the US followed by Serie A and then La Liga all on FSC. Champions League is great but I view more as an adjunct to week to week football. You'll have a hard time watching group stage games in the US anyway, and knock-out games aren't until winter time.

Bundesliga is not as widely televised in the US. The differences between Serie A, La Liga, Premier League and Bundesliga in terms of style of play are pretty obvious once you watch a few games. Really it is up to you to decide which you prefer.

Ease of access though its premier league by a mile. And the blogs mentioned above are worthwhile. As is the guardian.
posted by JPD at 8:38 PM on June 27, 2010

Best answer: Yep, definitely the Premier League for you.

Match of the Day is a great way to get into English football. They give you the highlights of every game played that day, nicely edited, with great analysis from former players. And it's presented by the wonderful Gary Lineker (or Colin Murray sometimes, and he's all right, too). If you watch this every week, you'll quickly get to know the teams -- and, bonus, the managers, as they usually show them taking a few questions from reporters. (This is how I was exposed to the awesomeness of Mick McCarthy.) Oh, and it has a really catchy theme tune. I really cannot praise this programme enough.

You can download it at various torrent sites but you can also access the BBC's web site through a proxy and watch it there. (You'll have it to watch it live, though, as it's not on their on-demand iPlayer service -- at least for Premier League games. Match of the Day during the World Cup is on iPlayer -- you might want to try a World Cup MOTD to see how you like the programme.) Here is a good proxy, with a flexible payment system.

Read the Guardian. Check out EPL Talk and BigSoccer.

I know many Premier League matches are shown here in the US, on Fox Soccer Channel and the like. A great thing for you to do would be to find a pub nearby that shows Premier League matches -- bonus points if expats drink there -- and then go watch the matches in the company of devoted fans. This will be way more fun if you have some friends to discuss and debate with.

Finally, choose a team to support. Watching Match of the Day will help you here. You'll get to know the teams, the players, and the managers from there, and you should be able to pick out which you prefer fairly quickly. I'm completely biased here as this is the team I support, but definitely consider Everton. They're a great team with a lot of history, a real clever manager, and very passionate supporters. You'll recognize several of their players from the World Cup -- from the American team, Tim Howard is their goalkeeper, and Landon Donovan was on loan to Everton for a few months earlier this year (hopefully to return someday!).

Don't support Manchester United, because people will tell you you know nothing about soccer and then tell you all the reasons they hate Man U.

There's so much great football out there for you to discover! Have fun! (And definitely consider going to an MLS game when the need to see a match live strikes.)
posted by Put the kettle on at 9:04 PM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

One more thing: keep an eye out for friendlies between international teams and MLS teams. AC Milan recently played DC United (and lost!) and Portsmouth FC (recently relegated from the Premier League to the Championship) are playing DC later this summer. You may well get to see some quality international teams without having to fly to Europe.
posted by Put the kettle on at 9:11 PM on June 27, 2010

For ESPN3: besides the World Cup, I've only really watched Serie A, but it seemed like they usually streamed one or two Italian matches each weekend - often the teams at or near the top of the standings. (I was watching mostly for Roma, who finished second this year, and they usually but not always streamed their game.) I wasn't paying much attention to other countries besides Italy, but I think they had similar coverage for La Liga, Premier League, and Bundesliga. The website also lists Eredivisie and the Portuguese League, as well as Football League (which I presume refers to the English league below the Premier League).
posted by sigmagalator at 9:18 PM on June 27, 2010

One other thing you may want to consider is getting a soccer game if you have a console.

FIFA 10 on the PS3 or Xbox is absolutely superb. It's the best football game since Kick Off and Sensible Soccer. From that you get some sense of immersion and you can also use it to learn the names of the players. The tactics and skills are not quite right compared to real soccer, but it's still a lot of fun to play.
posted by sien at 12:13 AM on June 28, 2010

I second Match of the Day if you can get it. I've found it to be really great for understanding the WHY's of football and it's also nice that they condense it down to the "best bits". :)

For the same reasons as ManU, don't go right into supporting Chelsea. It's like getting into baseball/basketball and going for the Yankees or Lakers. Everton's a good choice and you'll have interesting derby games with Liverpool to look forward to.

Obligatory: Mon the Arsenal! I've found them to be pretty popular with ex-pats for some reason.
posted by like_neon at 3:46 AM on June 28, 2010

Things that make me laugh - an Arsenal fan advising people that being a Chelsea fan is front running.
posted by JPD at 4:24 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

In addition to reading the sites mentioned above play Fantasy Football. It keeps you interested in all of the games every week, helps you appreciate the more "minor" players like NZogbia etc, keeps you appraised of stats like who's keepin the clean sheets and who's getting all the assists and depending who you play with is surprisingly social. And it's fun!

I also agree with watching the matches in pubs rather than at home, although I know a rowdyish pub scene full of expats at 8am can be a bit intimidating - bring some friends.

And I disagree with those saying to avoid supporting the glamour teams. I'm from Ireland where people are very passionate and knowledgeable about football from birth - and almost all support Man Utd, Liverpool and Everton etc. It ain't a big deal. I have no clue how you could possibly pick a team without seeing a ball being kicked anyway, but as a new fan stating that you're wound up with passion for Wolves or Fulham is a bizarre sort of posing to me. If Chelsea, or Man Utd, or Arsenal get a lot of airtime where you live and you find yourself drawn to their players and their play then go for it - be the glory hunter! I'd argue that you'll get more mileage out of watching a team playing in Europe anyway.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:39 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite] (run by ESPN) is pretty good for game stats from a range of competions - their gamecast feature (example) is good for analysing the formations that teams play, and looking at where on the field the players actually spent time (use the 'heat map' or 'average position' functions). Could be useful, especially in conjunction with something like Zonal Marking (as mentioned above).

For an irreverant look at the game, I like Read the columnists and the letters and the piss-take articles.

I'm not a huge fan of Match of the Day. It's adequate for highlights, but not brilliant - I think it often fails to show the full passage of play leading up to a goal, for example. Their post-game analysis is reasonably good, though I find the presenters too interested in matey banter with each other, a lot of the time. But it's only an hour, and it will give you a feel for the big incidents each week.

You might also want to watch the odd Spanish game. Even if you don't follow the league, try to watch Barcelona and Real Madrid - they have so many great players.

For games: you could also try the Football Manager series, but be warned it is either incomprehensible or mindblowingly addictive. It WILL give you an idea of tactics though (the various forums built up around the game have some excellent discussion of tactics, which you can follow even if you don't play the game, see and (see this example of USA-England in the World Cup, described in FM10 terms)
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:06 AM on June 28, 2010

Watching free streaming soccer is a horrible experience. You get what you pay for.
Invest in a cable package or a dish package. UEFA Champions League, English Premiership and Serie A (Fox Soccer Channel in the US) LigaBBVA, Serie A, Bundesliga (GolTV). And Setanta has a little bit of everything.

You must follow UEFA Champions League. I feel as many do that The UEFA Champions League has eclipsed The World Cup in the prestige department. The best players in the world all play for European clubs.

Overrated websites: Zonal Marking, The Guardian's football page is probably the pinnacle of soccer journalism right now. I also like Gazzetta dello Sport.

MLS is actually over-rated, I feel. Everyone keeps telling me how better it is now, but I just don't see it. I think it's just the USA USA flag-wavers trying to pump up the American game. So, I agree- avoid it. You're not going to miss anything important. It's sort of third division. Go with Serie A. Extremely under-rated here in the US because of the anti-Italian sentiment of many American soccer fans. To me, the English, Spanish and Italian leagues are the three most compelling leagues in the world.

I'm not a United fan, but I cannot stand the "don't support perennial winners like Man Utd. because everyone will think you are a douche" sentiment. It's laughable.
Find a team you like because you like them.
posted by L'OM at 8:25 AM on June 28, 2010

Seconding sien. Zonal Marking is probably the best football analysis you'll find, and going to games, even in a not-so-great league, will teach you far more about the sport than years of TV viewing. The camera follows the ball, and rarely shows more than a narrow slice of the pitch at any given time. That's not a criticism of the broadcasters...I know they have to present an entertaining spectacle, but the home viewer loses out on a lot of the off the ball movement that's key to how a team performs.

MOTD usually provides a decent summary of the week's play, but Infinite Jest is right about the commentary. The 'analysis' they do typically consists of "referees suck", "but he got the ball", "what is this strange foreign 'squad rotation' nonsense", etc. and so forth.

Basically, get your highlights/games wherever you can, read Zonal Marking, ignore 95% of the English press, and try to go to a few games a year.
posted by Kreiger at 8:41 AM on June 28, 2010

Arsenal fans being glory hunters? Please. Fave pastime is complaining about how long it's been since they got any silverware.
I am one of the unfortunate who became a fan of theirs after the last World Cup because I really liked Lehmann and Henry. How's that for a laugh? And now I'm happily stuck because it's true, I've become loyal to the team not the players.


Zonal Marking is amazing but I gotta say it goes over my head as a casual fan of football, could be overwhelming to someone who wants to just enjoy watching. But if you're totally into geeky tactics analysis then you won't find better.

Also, another tangental part of football soccer is Soccer AM. Why it's called Soccer AM when it's a British show about football is a mystery. I don't know if you'd actually have to be living in England to enjoy it but I do. It's sort of the pop culture side of the sport. I can't think of a US equivalent but I was not that into sports when I lived there.
posted by like_neon at 9:06 AM on June 28, 2010

Watching free streaming soccer is a horrible experience. You get what you pay for.

Disagree 100%. Great way to watch games you would have no other access to. Is it perfect? No. But a lot of the time it's the only option.
posted by inigo2 at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2010

MLS is actually over-rated, I feel. Everyone keeps telling me how better it is now, but I just don't see it.

I do see it. Right now it's on par with mid-table Championship, and the Championship (the second division of English football) is better than many European first divisions. Attendance-wise it's actually right even with the Championship (mainly due to Seattle's 36K/game and Toronto's 20K/game pulling the overall average up). I'd argue that the MLS is better than the SPL if you lay aside Rangers and Celtic.

The critique of the MLS mainly comes from years of watching EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga, and Serie A and then wondering why it's not as good as it. It's like driving a Mercedes, a Porsche, and a BMW, then bitching that a Ford Taurus isn't as good as them.

As to the actual question: If you want top-shelf football, then you want Champions League, which ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel show extensively. League-wise, though, the EPL is what's coming to dominate in this country, so it's probably the most readily available product. Otherwise, I'd go with Spanish football.
posted by dw at 2:23 PM on June 28, 2010

If you're really desperate to get games, and you've exhausted all legitimate options, I highly recommend for high-quality torrents of a large range of games (all major European leagues, many internationals, and lots of MLS games too, as well as some from other leagues). I personally have never had good experiences with streaming, but maybe that's my internet connection.

Oh, and I echo those who suggest going to games, if feasible. MLS might not be as high quality as the best leagues (I don't know, I haven't watched it), but there's nothing like the atmosphere of a live game, and equally, it helps you appreciate the game more.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2010

Also, you may want to read Soccernomics and Inverting the Pyramid.
posted by sien at 5:08 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've just realised that no-one actually posted any 'un-official' streaming sites for you. The standards are and They'll take a bit of fiddling, and won't be terribly reliable, but oftentimes they're all you can get for live Premier League matches.
posted by Kreiger at 8:12 AM on June 30, 2010

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