I considered making the headline a clickbait question (“Should New York Red Bulls fans root for Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League final?”), but I decided against it for two reasons.
Firstly, I live in constant fear of the annoying person who has to vomit up Betteridge’s Law of Headlines every time he or she sees a question mark in a title. Nobody likes you.
Secondly (and more importantly), in my opinion, it’s not a question. You should root for your own team and not somebody else’s.
Major League Soccer will tell you that you have an interest in collectively supporting another team. There’s some validity to that. A rising tide lifts all boats. Higher television ratings and social media conversation will bring increased attention to the league, which will in turn benefit your team financially (a better television deal) and on the field (better players will be exposed to the idea of playing in America).
However, this “one for all, all for one” mentality is in direct contrast with the tribalism constantly being pushed by the league – especially when new rivalries are seemingly being doctored up weekly. Truly supporting your club is supposed to generate the requisite feelings of loyalty and hostility as you wear the colors or sing a song or beg people to join you at matches. It’s a chase for authenticity, and as clichéd as this argument is, I doubt that Everton fans will be rooting for Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semifinals against Roma.
MLS constantly releases promos about supporting your city and identifying with your club. The league hypes tribalism for marketing purposes, but then attempts to subtly shame you into dropping it when necessary all for the sake of “growing the game”. A person is not a better soccer fan than you because he or she is supporting what he or she believes to be an altruistic cause. This isn’t the 1990s. Soccer and MLS aren’t going anywhere. We don’t have to view ourselves as Johnny Appleseeds spreading the game around the country and evangelizing the league with every click of an article, social media post, or rooting interest.
My feelings on the other teams in MLS go at two speeds: dislike and indifference. Toronto FC is not in the upper echelon of teams that I dislike. I could find reasons if I desperately needed to – the Red Patch Boys’ failed Teddy Bears’ Picnic in 2009, jealousy over the club’s high yet smart spending, Kurt Larson’s entire oeuvre – but their club generates a shrug from me at most.
At the very best, I don’t care whether Toronto FC wins it. What I do want is the Red Bulls to win the Champions League. I want them to be the first MLS team to win the modern version of the continental championship. Toronto defeating Chivas means the Red Bulls will not be the first MLS team to win CCL: I won’t root for another team to achieve what I want for my team. It’s that simple. I root for my club.
Should you listen to me and root against Toronto or be indifferent to their success? Of course you shouldn’t. Do whatever you want. Make your own choices. Live your own life. If you want to support Toronto in the CCL final, go right ahead. I’m sure you have your reasons. Some people dislike Mexican teams. Some just want to see a break in the CONCACAF hegemony.
But I’m not and you should feel comfortable doing the same. Don’t let people or entities shame you into collectivism. This is sports, one of the rare times it’s socially and morally acceptable to be outwardly aggressive and spitefully selfish.