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Irrational lower-division supporters should come back to reality

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Early this morning the Chattahooligans, a supporters group of 4th division NPSL club Chattanooga FC, put out a series of tweets aiming criticism at Terminus Legion.

This was a shot at Terminus Legion's apparent lack of support for the Atlanta Silverbacks while claiming to be supporters of all Atlanta soccer. The Chattahooligans pointed out that Terminus Legion have turned the bulk of their attention on Atlanta United, with the Silverbacks falling by the wayside.

The tweets echoed the sentiments of an increasingly vocal faction amongst supporters of lower-division clubs, predominantly in NPSL, that have a great deal of animosity towards MLS and the current structure of pro soccer in the U.S.

A driving force behind this hatred of all things MLS, has been the league's moves towards aggressive expansion. With the additions of NYCFC and Orlando City in 2015, plus a minimum of four more teams over the next two years, MLS appears to be going all-in on expanding the league to new markets, even if that means stepping on a few small clubs.

In Detroit, not unlike Atlanta, news that MLS is likely coming to town caused a stir with supporters of the city's NPSL club. While many may be excited by the prospect of being the next MLS expansion, loyal supporters of Detroit City FC fear it will likely be the end of their club.

MLS's manifest destiny type approach to expansion isn't always a bad thing for supporters of lower-division clubs. Take for example the cases of Orlando and Minnesota. Rather than start from scratch with two expansion teams, MLS grabbed a couple teams from the 2nd and 3rd divisions, Orlando from USL and Minnesota from NASL. It appears as though they may plan on doing the same thing in the near future in Sacramento and Cincinnati.

As a lifelong supporter of the Charleston Battery, a 3rd division club, I understand many of the frustrations that are felt by other avid supporters of small clubs. Watching your team play in a lower division with no hope of a promotion or relegation system taking them to the next level. Seeing former USL rivals like Portland, Seattle, and Orlando move up to MLS leaving your club behind can stir a bit of jealous resentment.

While I comprehend fully why some may feel angry about it, can you really blame soccer fans in Atlanta for choosing to support Atlanta United over the Silverbacks?

The Silverbacks were once a solid club with a loyal following, but years of bad business decisions and front office volatility have driven the organization straight into the ground. In January, after failing to secure stable ownership, the NASL announced the club would be halting operations dropping down to NPSL. As painful as it may be for diehard Silverback fans, their club's future is murky at best, and it's hard to fault Terminus Legion and other Atlanta soccer supporters for flocking to Atlanta United over a dying semi-professional club.

Not surprisingly, some Silverbacks supporters have joined the growing movement of MLS bashing 4th division soccer hipsters. A movement whose primary concern is being anti-establishment and supporting obscure teams you've probably never heard of. It's easy to blame Atlanta United for the Silverbacks' downfall, but the fact is years of terrible ownership doomed the club long before MLS came to Atlanta.