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The World Cup is over. What soccer should I watch now?

Two U.S. men's national team players — Tim Ream, left, and Brenden Aaronson, right — playing for their respective English Premier League teams in October.
Stu Forster
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Getty Images
Two U.S. men's national team players — Tim Ream, left, and Brenden Aaronson, right — playing for their respective English Premier League teams in October.

Yes, the 2022 World Cup has come to an end. After a thrilling final that saw Lionel Messi and Argentina topple defending champion France on Sunday, the countdown begins for World Cup 2026, which will be co-hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

If you, like many Americans, caught the soccer bug but aren't sure where to turn next, we're here to help. Professional soccer happens worldwide all throughout the year — more than any one person could ever possibly watch — and much of it is viewable or streamable in the U.S.

So let's help you narrow it down. Here's a recommendation guide based on what players and teams and styles of soccer resonated with you.

I rooted for the U.S. and want to keep watching those guys

For a European club team, we'd suggest Leeds United, an English Premier League squad featuring two top players from the U.S. men's national team (USMNT), captain Tyler Adams and midfielder Brenden Aaronson. Both are starters for Leeds, and Aaronson, especially, has earned his way into the hearts of Leeds fans with his energetic, tireless style of play. The American connections don't stop there – the squad's coach, Jesse Marsch, is also a Yank, along with the club's minority owners, the York family, who more famously own the San Francisco 49ers. And, overall, Leeds feels like a good match tonally for fans of the USMNT – not currently a powerhouse but still decent, often a bit of an experiment.

If you'd like to jump straight to a top-flight European club that happens to have an American player, your options include Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, also in the Premier League; Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, a perennial contender in Germany's Bundesliga; and Weston McKennie at Juventus, the Goliath of Italy's Serie A. (Conveniently, Chelsea and Dortmund will face off twice early next year as part of the European club team tournament called the Champions League. Put 'em on your calendar now!)

And, of course, a bunch of the USMNT players play here at home in the MLS. Nashville SC had the most playing time among this World Cup roster, with defender Walker Zimmerman and substitute Shaq Moore.

If you're a Yankees-Lakers-Patriots kind of sports fan, then let us introduce you to Paris Saint-Germain, the top-flight French club that somehow features all three of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Messi.
Franck Fife / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
If you're a Yankees-Lakers-Patriots kind of sports fan, then let us introduce you to Paris Saint-Germain, the top-flight French club that somehow features all three of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Messi.

I liked South American clubs like Argentina! Winners are great

Did you like Argentina, or did you like Messi? Messi, the otherworldly soccer GOAT, plays for the French club Paris Saint-Germain — although his contract is up next summer, and the soccer world is rife with rumors about what might happen next, including speculation that he could, maybe, possibly, come to the U.S. to play for David Beckham's MLS club, Inter Miami.

Like most high-level national teams, Argentina's players mostly compete overseas. Still, South America has plenty of vibrant leagues and clubs of its own.

The most exciting soccer on the continent is overseen by CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, which organizes regular tournaments between South America's national and club teams alike.

For next year, we suggest tuning in to the annual Copa Libertadores, which pits the best club teams against each other throughout the year, culminating in a single-elimination tournament that will stretch from July to November. There, you'll see some of the best South American teams, including Argentina's River Plate and Boca Juniors and the dominating Brazilian teams of the last few years, Flamengo and Palmeiras.

PS: Did you catch our podcast about Messi and Argentina soccer?

I liked France!

Lucky for you, France has a vibrant professional league called Ligue 1. Its undeniable heavyweight is Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG is where you'll find the sensational French forward Kylian Mbappé, who scored more goals in the run of play (in other words, goals that weren't penalty kicks) than any other player in this year's World Cup. PSG is a star-studded, world-class team that has top-tier players from other countries' national squads, too, including Brazil's Neymar and Morocco's Achraf Hakimi. Oh, and Lionel Messi, too, although he may not be around for too much longer.

Two other standout French players, striker Olivier Giroud and defender Theo Hernández, play together with AC Milan, another excellent Italian squad. (As a bonus, you might catch U.S. defender Sergiño Dest coming off the bench for Milan, too.)

I loved watching the non-European, non-South American underdogs, like Morocco

The best leagues in the world are mostly in Europe, so most of the world's best players go there to play – including the stars of those thrilling underdogs we saw emerge from the group stage this year like Morocco and South Korea.

You can find Son Heung-min, the mask-clad Korean forward whose divine pass set up South Korea's crucial extra-time go-ahead goal against Portugal, playing for Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. Son shared last season's Golden Boot award – given to the Premier League player who scores the most goals – with the Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah (who didn't play in this World Cup because Egypt did not qualify), who is still with Liverpool.

Moroccan striker Youssef En-Nesyri, who scored Morocco's only goal in the quarterfinal vs. Portugal, and goalkeeper Yassine Bounou (who goes by "Bono") both play for Sevilla in Spain's La Liga. And the thrilling midfielder Hakim Ziyech also plays for Chelsea, a very international club whose roster currently includes four African players in addition to Pulisic.

In the underdog spirit, give the MLS a go. The league is an underdog among leagues, but still sent nearly 40 players to the World Cup – including Argentina's Thiago Almada, the Atlanta United midfielder who is the first active MLS player to make it to the World Cup Finals. There are 28 teams across the U.S. and Canada, with plenty of vibes to choose from. Big-money perma-contenders? Try LAFC. Gaudy uniforms? Inter Miami. Mascot is a giant soccer ball with a crown? Charlotte FC. Mascot is actually just a real-life lumberjack who saws a slab off a log every time the team scores? The Portland Timbers.

Alex Morgan of San Diego Wave FC scores past Ashlyn Harris of NY/NJ Gotham FC in a National Women's Soccer League game last summer.
Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Alex Morgan of San Diego Wave FC scores past Ashlyn Harris of NY/NJ Gotham FC in a National Women's Soccer League game last summer.

I liked the actual soccer, but I kinda hated all the flopping and time-wasting

You're going to be so happy to learn that flops and time-wasting are less of a thing in women's soccer! Really, it's science.

A 2011 study in the journal Research in Sports Medicine found that men's games had more than double the number of "questionable" injuries per game – defined by researchers as injuries in which there was no blood and the player appeared fully recovered in five minutes or less. Men's matches had more than 11 such "injuries" each game; women had only 5.

Another study from 2012 found that male players wasted more time in general than women – not just with injuries, but with goal celebrations and substitutions, too. The researchers tracked stoppage time across dozens of men's and women's World Cup and league matches. Women's league games had the lowest duration of stopped play.

In short: Watch women's soccer! The U.S. has a fabulous women's soccer league called the NWSL. There are currently a dozen NWSL teams, and the league is expected to add two more teams for the 2024 season. Tune in to the San Diego Wave or Seattle's OL Reign to catch U.S. women's national team heroes Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, respectively. Or catch the delightful international forwards Debinha and Diana Ordoñez, who together scored 23 goals for the North Carolina Courage last year. Next year's season begins March 25.

I'm gonna be straight with you, I don't really have the energy to watch soccer all the time. I just like the World Cup

Totally get it. Lucky for you, there's a women's World Cup only eight months away, and the U.S. women's team is a powerhouse! The Americans have won the last two World Cups and are the early favorites to win this one, too. After that, you can take a nice, long break from soccer until 2026.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.
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