We’re on the eve of the first full Saturday of college football which means we’re in the present of the first and only article that dares to combine the two unknowingly kindred spirits of collegiate athletics and Major League Soccer. They may not know it yet, but they’ve been staring at each other through the glass for a while now. Copying each other’s visages actions with enough precision to convince the other that they’re focused on a mirror. There is chaos, there is pettiness, there is joy, there are drums and horns and an in-stadium experience unlike any other.
On the field, there are players of quality that vary just enough to allow room for the spectacular and brilliant to clatter into the Cincinnati and less thought out. Two fronts meeting each other to form a hurricane of the insane, genius and odd while people who care a little too much about actions they can’t control rubberneck into infinity.
The parallels even continue off the field as players on the same team earn salaries that range from the exorbitant to the minuscule. And, hell, a team in Miami just recently got sanctioned for a recruiting violation.
So with love and admiration for both sports and malice aforethought in regard to your team in particular, we’re assigning a college football program to every MLS club for the fourth year in a row, declaring all assignments totally undebatable, taking the ball from both sports and going home.
Some are reachier than others. Some we just didn’t want to repeat the same thing from the last three years. Unless we did. For reference, you can check out 2020’s here and go backward from there. But for now, From Z to A, we start with…
Vancouver Whitecaps FC - Vanderbilt
Ok, already digging into the bag and pulling out stuff from last year. But what else am I supposed to say here? Both start with Van and aren’t very good at their respective sports. My hands are tied. Let’s move onto something more current...
Yeah, things went bad real quick.
Sporting Kansas City - Iowa
Flyover state with (mostly) consistently good results and a committed fan base for a team with the longest-tenured manager in the league that if we’re being honest with ourselves probably isn’t going to finish the year on top.
Seattle Sounders FC - Alabama
I don’t like it any more than you do but this is the world we live in. It’s going to take people with actual influence to change things here and I doubt they’ll do it. Congrats to Sounders and Bama on being sports climate change I guess.
viThe Quakes were basically running an air raid for the last three years except Matias Almeyda hasn’t been 1/1,000,000th as problematic as Mike Leach. Maybe Leach will take a page from Almeyda’s book and move to a slightly more practical approach to good effect this year? And stop taking his opinions from the “Biloxi Mom’s Vaccine Advice” Facebook page?
I know, I’m not confident either.
Real Salt Lake - Northwestern
Quick, what’s a team that you never think about until they just kind of show up in a bowl game at the end of the year? Now instead of a coach who’s been there for 14 years, imagine a coach who just leaves in the middle of a season to join another team. Pretty much RSL right?
Why play defense when you could not play defense?
(Ok, I really just wanted to link the two most polar opposite fan bases I could, I regret nothing except for the fact I couldn’t use Texas A&M to make an A&Mtifa joke again.)
You kind of have to go back for this one to work, but remember all those years where K-State was good and no one really and truly understood why other than that they’d taken the minimal infrastructure they’d been given and optimized every single piece of it? Yeah, that’s right. You see where I’m going with it.
This cat has human arms and so does this snake.
Orlando City SC - UCF
I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not because there’s a frightening amount of overlap between the fan bases and their ability to constantly be online. It’s because both teams’ only title is one they made up.
New York Red Bulls - Auburn
Turns out the new guy you hired might be even more of an issue than the last guy you worked pretty hard to get rid of despite somewhat consistent results. It’s starting to feel a long way removed from the devil magic years of the past. But mostly this is the year. Caden Clark has improved so much under this new offense. He’s focused. He’s having fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a dark horse for the Heisman.
New York City FC - Oklahoma
It appears that once again NYCFC are primed to wow everyone during the regular season even if there are a couple of moments where they just can’t put their foot on the gas. It’s going great for now though. But what’s really unfair about sports is that the playoffs are hard.
New England Revolution - North Carolina
I’m going to need North Carolina to be a little bit better than just the ACC team most likely to lose to Clemson by the least amount of points this year for this to really make sense, but the Mack Brown to Bruce Arena comparison remains a 1 to 1 comparison. Arena is just Brown if he were born in Brooklyn instead of Cookeville, Tennessee. Right down to the undeniable success.
Nashville SC - Wisconsin
A really good team! Who are their best players? You have no idea unless you’re a fan that follows this really good team! What makes them really good? They don’t beat themselves! You think! It’s honestly really unclear how they’re so good! But they’re regularly really good! Who is their coach? Ummmmmmm! But good!
Montreal Impact - Kentucky
A blue team that performs better than you would expect. That’s all I got here.
This is a good, maybe a great team. They just happen to spend their first part of their season losing when they really, really shouldn’t.
Bebelo Reynoso is Breece Hall.
Los Angeles FC - Georgia
[sighs so hard my lungs collapse]
Well. Neither team has a title in the last 40 years, that’s for sure. That’s even after some pretty high expectations over the last four years. They’ll get it figured out though. They’re too talented not to. Any day now. Wait until they open up the playbook or whatever. I hate everything.
These are definitely teams that have won a bunch of stuff although you can’t really remember when. Everyone thinks they might be pretty good again but their record against top-tier teams says otherwise.
Inter Miami - SMU
Gonna take a while to get over those sanctions, huh?
Orange. Bad. Mascots that have seen the worst of humanity and are trying to outrun their demons by attending sporting events that are loud enough to drown out the screams inside their head.
FC Dallas - Miami
D’Eriq King, meet Ricardo Pepi. Then perhaps share with him the name of a local chiropractor who can help with all the back pain from carrying your entire team.
Bonus: Dallas Burn - UAB
UAB’s Blazer and Trogdor the Horsinator are assuredly cousins or second cousins or kin of some kind.
D.C. United - Michigan
University of Michigan - DC United.— Steve Johnston (@SJohnstonCNN) August 24, 2021
Used to be dominant. Really head and shoulders above the rest. But it's been a long time since either was good.
Steve is really, really close here. But I think Hernan Losada is a bit different than Jim Harbaugh. It seems like Losada has this team on a projection to actually challenge for a trophy or two soon. Maybe even this year. Besides, it’s not like Losada is some kind of gimmicky weirdo like Harbau—
Good call Steve.
Columbus Crew SC - LSU
It’s ok, y’all. Take the year off. You won a trophy last year and that’s all that matters.
Colorado Rapids - Coastal Carolina
Just a bunch of castaways putting in one of the best seasons in the country while everyone talks about whether or not they belong at the top.
FC Cincinnati - Arkansas
A passionate fan base that keeps showing up no matter what. Let’s not talk about what’s happening on the field.
Chicago Fire - South Carolina
Bad. But also liable to haul off and ruin a team’s season in a game that makes no sense. Also, bad.
Austin FC - Virginia Tech
Great fans and a team that feels like it should kind of be doing better but it’s just kind of...not doing that? And just when it seems like it’s getting better, it’s also...not really doing that? It really does seem like they’re gonna figure it out soon. Unless...no?
Atlanta United - Texas
Atlanta United is back.
Just give it a few more coaches.