MLS team guides: What the heck is this?

One of my favorite books is English Football: The Rough Guide. The guide has an entry for each club in England’s top four soccer leagues. All 92 clubs.

Like most Rough Guides, it’s essentially a travel book. Want to know how to get to Bury’s home ground? Maybe find a friendly pub along the way? Maybe get some advice on where you don’t want to be seen wearing opposing team colors? They’ve got you covered.

But they also have comprehensive histories of all 92 teams. You’ll find the well-worn history of how a small club called Newton Heath became an international juggernaut called Manchester United. Better yet, you’ll get all the colorful historical incidents of all the smaller clubs. The cover of my edition (the 2000-01 edition is pictured at right; I have the first one, 1999-2000) is of Carlisle United’s on-loan goalkeeper, Jimmy Glass, celebrating after he rushed into the opposing box and scored the goal that kept Carlisle in the League in 1999. In the first paragraph on Cambridge United, we read, “there are those diehard fans who continue to insist that it is Cambridge City, not United, who should have been elected to the League in 1970.”

Books of this nature are easily outdated, of course, which may explain why I can’t find any versions after 2001. And U.S. clubs don’t have the historical continuity of their English counterparts, to put it mildly. We can thank all the in-fighting of the 1930s and the flimsy business plans of the 1970s and 80s for that.

But as MLS enters Season 17, we have a bit of history. Check the right column, and you might even find a book about it.

So I thought it would be entertaining to do something like these Rough Guides, only a bit more dynamic. Most MLS fans can’t simply trek two hours to an away game and return for a late dinner at home, but we’re still interested in knowing a bit about the stadiums, particularly because getting them built has been such a struggle for the past decade and a half. We can also update web pages any time we like, and we can even pull in RSS feeds with the latest news.

Well, it’s not quite as easy as all that from a technical point of view. I had to fuss a bit to get my embedded Google Maps to be centered on the stadiums without a bunch of extra clutter, and the plug-in I’m using to pull in the RSS feeds has a few bugs.

I’m also fussing a bit with the right format for telling the history. I’ve gone with a timeline for my first two entries, but I might go with a more narrative history instead.

I’d also like to open up to a bit of crowd-sourcing. I can’t go to all 19 stadiums this year. Tell me what’s going on. Tell me what supporters are doing.

It’s a work in progress now. But after I post all 19 team pages, it’ll still be a work in progress.

What I can’t do, however, is go through and update every page every week. I really wish someone else (, SB Nation) would do something like that. Tell me who’s in the starting lineup and who’s in or out of form. Fantasy players would love this, as would people with any sort of curiosity about each team. It boggles my mind when I see a lineup on TV with a commentator telling us, “Shalrie Joseph is really a key player for this Revolution side.” Thanks. I didn’t need to hear that again. I want to know why some dude I’ve never heard of is lining up at left mid.

That said, I could see extending this into a brief player-by-player guide. That obviously won’t be ready any time soon. Maybe by the playoffs.

And I don’t intend to regurgitate media guides onto each page. You can get stats somewhere else. (If I can easily embed something, I’ll look into it.) This is where I plan to tell you that so-and-so captained American Samoa in World Cup qualifying and reached the Hollywood round on American Idol. Or so-and-so is going to get booed every time he goes to Seattle because he once Tweeted something nasty about Drew Carey.

MLS is a colorful league. That’s what I’m hoping to capture here.

How can you support this?

First of all, again, I’ll do some crowd-sourcing. Tell me if there’s an interesting anecdote I’ve missed. Tell me if the main supporters group is making a cameo appearance in a TV show. (Yes, Timbers Army, I’ll have your Portlandia clip.)

Second of all, buy my danged book. I’m not expecting to make a ton of ad revenue on this site, and I’m not really interested in putting up a tip jar. So just look to the right and think of this as “MLS rough guide, brought to you by Long-Range Goals.”

Thirdly, please bear with me. Even if everyone who reads this buys my book, it’s not my day job. This will take some time.

The first two pages, afflicted with a couple of glitches, are posted. New England and Chicago. Enjoy.

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One Response to MLS team guides: What the heck is this?

  1. Jim Barg says:

    Love it. My local Borders had a copy of that 2000-01 guide hidden in their stacks for years. I finally bought it and then forgot to take it with me when I went to London for grad school. Sure wish they would put out an updated copy.

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