Well, what a season. For those latecomers among you (I can see you at the back), I’ve been following the Philadelphia Union for the 2011 MLS season. Originally I was asked by MLSUK to follow the U, but after about a week (maybe a week and a half, tops) I was hooked and felt like a proper fan. I was welcomed into the Union community by the fans on Twitter and through the website itself. I’m just writing a short (and final) piece for Diary of a Major League Soccer Convert, which ran throughout the season on MLSUK and which I was proud to be a part of.
For this second year team to go as far as it did (in comparison to last year) and reach the playoffs was an unbelievable step towards a great and prosperous future for the Union. I had the pleasure of being welcomed into the Union fan base, the best in the league no doubt, with open arms. I received gifts and bought a Union home strip too, which I wear with pride. I will continue to wear it too, such is the passion I now have for the Union. I could actually write forever but will save both our time and summarise with: I love Philadelphia Union.
This love has me planning a trip to Philadelphia next year to hope to catch two home games. I must admit, at the start of this season, I saw myself drawing on the negatives of this team and MLS in general. I didn’t think I would enjoy the experience I volunteered for. Unfortunately for previous-me, I’ve loved every second. You know this though, don’t you? I digress. My trip next year will hopefully involve two home games, but ultimately is at mercy to the MLS schedule.
The MLS schedule is madness. Why change it so drastically? I realise that MLS aren’t trying to expand too quickly, yet I feel adding one team a year, making the conferences unbalances, is almost a backward progress. Yes, they’re expanding and adding teams, but they’re also messing with a format that doesn’t need to be overcomplicated, so as to turn away the casual followers and newcomers. Three games versus a rival team, regularly of course – discounting cup games, per season is bound to dilute rivalries. Unbalances conferences are a bit trivial too. Why not wait another year and add two teams to the scheduling. That way there can be better planning for introducing the teams. I’m not saying they haven’t thought this through, it just seems like they’d ignored major details. Good news about the playoff system though, and I’m happy about that. The changes makes it a bit more like NFL too, so maybe a few fans will migrate when there’s inevitably another lockout next season, eh?
Been sat here for half an hour wondering how I can sign off for the season (maybe even forever?). I just want to thank each and every one of you who has given me their support, engaged me, contradicted me even, asked about my thoughts/opinions or even sent abuse. I’ve loved it all and had a blast, it’s been overwhelming experience being a Philadelphia Union fan this year, and long may it continue.
Follow Major League Soccer UK on Twitter @MLS_UK Follow Samuel Paul Barker on Twitter @TheSamBob