Almost all soccer fans remember the first time they watched a soccer match, or at least the first time they were drawn into the game.
Some are pulled into the sport by the FIFA World Cup or the European Champions League, while others fall for a popular domestic league like the English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga.
At some point, fans embark on their soccer rite of passage — selecting the club that will bring them both joy and heartbreak for the rest of their lives.
If you’re a new soccer fan, don’t let this choice be a rash one. Use this guide to make a careful decision that follows your heart’s desire.
Strongly consider choosing a club from the five major leagues: the Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France).
Teams from these leagues have a rich history and compose the bulk of the teams in the widely watched European Champions League.
I’d recommend picking a team that you can actually watch on TV. If you’re in the U.S., choosing an English, Spanish, Mexican, or American team is your safest bet.
Despite these recommendations, don’t hesitate to follow a local club. Major League Soccer in the U.S. is steadily rising, and the atmosphere created by the passionate fans who are truly proud of their local team is unmatched, even at the biggest stage.
If you follow a nearby team, you can attend matches regularly without spending a fortune. It will be much easier to find other fans who support the same club, and you won’t have to struggle in finding your team’s jerseys.
What do you value as a sports fan?
There are many different types of sports fans, and some are more respectable than others. Figuring out what you value as a fan is a great way to find the right soccer club for you.
Do you want to follow a team with a rich history? These are the clubs that have it all: passionate fans, money, great players. But keep in mind that a successful history can only bring a team so far in the present.
Some of these clubs have been on a downward spiral for quite a while, but you can be confident in the fact that they are actively striving towards progress every season.
If this sounds like the type of soccer fan you would be, consider supporting one of the following teams: Manchester United (England), Liverpool (England), Inter Milan (Italy) or AC Milan (Italy).
How about a team that has no history but is going in the right direction? These are the sort of teams that have little success historically and few club legends, but you can tell by their progress that they will be a top squad for years to come.
The main benefit of supporting this type of team is that almost every achievement is new and never taken for granted. If this sounds like your cup of tea, pick Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.
But keep in mind that there are lots of envious fans out there that will take every chance to mock and laugh at you for becoming a “bandwagon fan” to a hot club.
Everybody loves a fun underdog, and you can always take this route. This would be a team that struggles with consistency, but has the potential to put on big performances here and there.
When your team loses matches, it will hurt much less because you have low expectations. On the flip side, you’ll always have other fans’ support when you’re up against a big team. Almost every victory will be massive and have you feeling over the moon.
But be careful and smart about your choice if you do follow the underdog route. You don’t want to pick a team that is fighting a relegation battle every season.
Relegation is a process in soccer where the worst teams of a league are transferred to a lower division the following season. Relegated teams usually lose a lot of their star players, receive little to no TV coverage and struggle in making top quality signings.
Some underdog teams I would recommend are Everton (England), Valencia (Spain), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Marseille (France) or Lazio (Italy).
Do you care about specific superstars? There’s nothing wrong with being attached to players rather than teams.
In the NBA, some of LeBron James’ fans will support whichever team he plays on. Similarly, you might want to support Juventus (Italy) just because your favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo.
And of course, there’s always the type of fan who loves winning all the time.
You probably won’t get a lot of respect if you choose to follow this route, but it will sure feel nice when your team is doing well and winning trophies almost every season. I’d recommend FC Barcelona (Spain) if winning is what you value most.
If you’re extremely new to soccer, don’t rush your decision. Watch a lot of matches to decide what you value and enjoy most.
After watching a ton of games, you might be tempted to choose a team that’s doing well at the moment. Don’t fall for the bandwagon bait.
If you’re still stumped after doing your research, consider picking your friend’s team so that you always have someone to talk about your team with. Or pick your friend’s rival club, to heat up the moments when you watch matches together.
And once you do pick your team, make sure you don’t change it. There is nothing soccer fans hate more than other fans who change their favorite teams all the time.
With this advice, you should be well on your way to selecting a favorite club. And once you do find your team, your entire soccer-watching experience will be transformed into one that has you biting fingernails and cursing at your screen from time to time.
But hey, that’s all part of being a fan of the beautiful game.