COMMENTARY | The National Football League considering either moving a current team to or setting up a new franchise in London, England is hardly breaking news. It's a rumor that picks up every time the league sends teams overseas for regular season contests. Jane McManus of ESPN had a go at the issue on June 12, but it was that piece that changed my mind on the matter. I'd be just fine with the NFL sending an existing team over to London;
as long as we get a English Premier League side in return.
I'm not talking about us receiving some small club that would compete in Major League Soccer. If London gets a real functioning NFL franchise, the United States deserves to be the home of one of England's top-flight clubs. Choosing the EPL team that will become our country's home is no simple task for a variety of reasons, but I believe that I have sufficiently and realistically narrowed down our options to a select few.
The hottest rumors about the NFL setting up shop across the pond have largely involved the Jacksonville Jaguars. For the purpose of this piece, I'm going to assume that the Jags are chosen by the NFL to be London's team. Jacksonville finished last season with a 2-14 record, so trying to trade them for the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea, while funny to me for several reasons, is absurd.
In fact, I went and eliminated all teams participating in European competitions - United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City - from this conversation. That's somewhat of a shame, as I think Swans as America's Team could be a lot of fun. Michael Laudrup is a fantastic manager, and Michu would be a delight to watch live and in-person. I also went and removed Liverpool and Everton as possible targets. Last but not least, I didn't consider any of the teams that were recently promoted. After all, it's not as if the Jags would go down to NFL2 if they were to finish dead last in the standings. American fans also shouldn't have to worry about their shiny new soccer toy being relegated after a single season.
That entire process left the following clubs as possibilities:
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Sunderland
Seeing how quickly the Paolo Di Canio honeymoon ended after about a month has me not trusting Sunderland's ability to survive in the Premier League one bit. Di Canio will, to be fair, have his pick of players, to a point, starting this summer. It's possible that he will right that ship when he has a full season in charge. Still, I need to see it happen before I turn into a believer.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Newcastle United
"Danger" alerts came to mind the second I thought of Newcastle. Rumors are that the bulk of their best attacking players may be looking to leave this summer, and Alan Pardew will probably be managing for his job starting next August. There's too much instability here for my liking.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Southampton
Southampton earned several noteworthy wins once Mauricio Pochettino took over as manager in January, but his side still finished only five points above the drop zone. I'm not yet won over. There's also the fact that there isn't really anything overly flashy about this club that would call out to an American audience.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Stoke City
I don't care if Tony Pulis has left the club. There isn't a single part of me that wants to watch Stoke play on TV let alone at a stadium that's located in the US. They'll have to add more than American footballers Brek Shea and Geoff Cameron to the squad for that to change.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Norwich City
Norwich are a roller coaster ride that would be impossible to ignore. When they're not beating top-tier sides such as Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City, they're losing 5-0 to Liverpool. Their biggest setback is their nickname: "The Canaries." Forget it. They'd be dead before official moving into their new American home.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: West Bromwich Albion
There's a lot to like about West Brom. Steve Clarke is a good coach who got the most out of his players last season, and they could potentially be next year's Swansea depending on what moves they make this summer. The problem with selecting them for this experiment is that the club is largely anonymous to casual American sports fans. I don't know that I've ever seen a single West Brom shirt at one of the several football pubs in NYC I visit during the European seasons.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: West Ham United
West Ham were the first team to make my shortlist. They're a bit known in the US, Sam Allardyce was a real Manager of the Year contender this past spring after leading newly promoted West Ham to a tenth place finish, and word is that they're looking to spend this summer in order to overtake Swansea and West Brom in the league table. Andy Carroll burying goals in the States? Sign me up.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Fulham
Fulham are probably the safest choice of the entire lot. They're a stable Premier League side that isn't going anywhere, Martin Jol did well to avoid complete disaster after his two top players left the club last summer, and Fulham have a decent following in the States thanks to Clint Dempsey, who is now with Spurs. Put this idea in the "it makes a lot of sense, but I'm not jumping up and down out of excitement over it" pile.
Premier League club to trade for a NFL team: Aston Villa
Paul Lambert gambled with youth and it paid off, as his side remained in the Premier League and they should, in theory, be even better next year; assuming that Christian Benteke stays at the club for one more year. Villa could, in a dream scenario that sees them move to the US, replace a departing Benteke with Jozy Altidore, but the United States Men's National Team front man honestly deserves better. Don't forget that the club's chairman is Randy Lerner, an American who owned the Cleveland Browns for a decade until he sold the team last summer. Do we really want a guy who was running a NFL franchise that played in a single playoff game in one decade as the chairman of our country's Premier League side?
You may be wondering what David Beckham has to do with any of this. Beckham has been heavily linked with owning a MLS franchise that could potentially be located in the Miami area since he called time on his playing career in May. We might as well take that extra step and hand the sport's most recognizable face minority ownership in a team that plays in the world's most-watched and most-followed league.
Besides, a European side that calls Florida home makes sense. The EPL season begins in August and ends in May, while the MLS campaign goes right through the dead of summer. The southeast region of this country deserves a club, one that can actually be watched at an outdoor arena without having to worry about losing 20 pounds via sweat every other weekend from June through August.
So it's settled. We, the American football fans, offer the Jaguars to England for either Villa, Fulham, or West Ham. I suppose we'll also accept West Brom, but you'll have to sweeten that deal.
How do you think Sir Alex would feel about retiring in the Florida sun?
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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