As you may or may not know, there is currently a movement in Spain for Catalan independence. The Catalonian country spans between Spain and France, and they have desired autonomy for some time. As this movement gains more momentum, the question of Barcelona FC’s league affiliations must be asked. With a geographic location within the Catalonian region, playing in the Spanish Liga BBVA would be difficult. It’s always a treat when politics and soccer meet — when was the last time they were separate?
We at The First Eleven thought it would be neat to put an American spin on the independence movement. We already took a look at some concepts for every state’s kits, so why not full squads? We all know Texas has been scheming on a way out for quite some time, but if every other state decided to follow in secession, who would have the best native soccer team? I wanna know. So I took to the finest source in the land, Wikipedia, and got to the bottom of this myself.
I kept the judging for the State cup to states that could field a full side. So before we get into the top ten state sides, let’s check out some honorable mentions from states that might not produce raw talent in such volumes:
Hawaii: Bobby Wood: the man produces for the U.S. Surely, you saw his recent performance against Mexico.
Washington: DeAndre Yedlin: plenty of Premier League action, Washington just barely missed the top ten.
Maryland: Kyle Beckerman: another USMNT player whose state just couldn’t support him.
10. North Carolina
To start off our countdown is a fairly unrecognizable North Carolina side. Just inching their way into the top ten, however our twelfth state still brings a decent amount of MLS talent as well as many up-and-coming USMNT players. Although they were just barely able to field a complete 11-man side and may have even dipped into some lower level American club leagues, you still have to respect the NC’s striving toward greatness. Check out Darrius Barnes and all his soccer ability. While you’re at it, look at Ike Opara’s aerial dominance and tell me they don’t have a competitive backfield at the very least. Let me reaffirm this selection once more with some Clint Irwin reactive save. I know you like it, now let’s move on.
One look at Pennsylvania and you immediately see a strong sense of roots. With three Philadelphia Union players (Wenger, McLaughlin, Pfeffer) and many others listed on Pennsylvania club teams, there is little need to worry about loyalty. Just have a look at what Andrew Wenger can do if you let him have the ball. Throw Dan Gargan in the back and you’re sure to see things happen. The man can produce from deep. However, they still could not produce a completely professional team, dipping into lower leagues to fill some spots on their First Eleven (nice one, Fisch). They may have been the second state in the Union, but they have a little more work cut out for them if they would like to be a respectable soccer authority.
I know what you’re thinking, how can you put together a competitive team without a goalkeeper? I’m really not sure how to answer that, but I think Colorado can still justify a number eight position on this list. Let’s have a look up front: oh, Tesho Akindele? That’s pretty tight. Who’s that right behind Akindele? Looks like Shane O’Neill to me. If you needed a reminder of how O’Neill started his MLS career, feel free to have a look here. In case that wasn’t enough offensive power, we also have Roger Espinosa running a wing, and I’d hate to see most states come up against the Honduran star for Sporting KC. And you never know when you’re gonna get a spark from the backfield. Good on ya, Colorado.
7. New York
New York has always been a strong believer in doing it big, have you seen their big buildings and financial infrastructure?? I think we can all agree that making it in NY is truly “making it”, but do they have the proper tools to be a threat on the pitch as well? Here’s a little taste of what Benny Feilhaber can do. He’s also been around the international block a little bit. Real Salt Lake’s Jordan Allen has wasted no time creating a name for himself as an MLS player of the week and U-20 US player. Let’s not forget Thomas McNamara’s stroke of genius from earlier this summer. The combination of fresh young faces with experienced vets combines for a pretty sweet team, earning New York the seventh spot on this list I made up.
As an Ohio native, I am fully aware of how much better my state is than yours. Does your state have a pennant flag? Doubt it. Is your state bird the cardinal? Probably cause you stole it from us, I’m not impressed. Let’s start in the back with some Linkin Park-fueled Brad Friedel highlights. Although he is now retired, let’s take a moment to respect the greatness of his goalkeeping abilities. Not to mention we have “defender” Justin Morrow producing as he pleases and Chris Rolfe up front. This team is dense with young talent that I sort of heard about while I was playing soccer growing up, so they mean more than your role models. Sorry, that’s just how it works. Also, the phenom you may know of as Erik Palmer-Brown is only 18 years old and doing unbelievable things to the scene.
Here we have the current U.S. goalkeeper holding us down. That may be a positive or negative thing if you look at the current state of the USMNT. But either way, he’s arguably the best the U.S. has to offer and I’ll certainly take that. Here are some of his finer moments as collected by a YouTube user. They’re usually trustworthy people. But it doesn’t stop with Guzan. We still have Jermaine Jones holding down the midfield. Who could forget this rocket against Portugal. But he’s not alone with LA Galaxy midfielder Baggio Husidić by his side. This is a phenomenal pair of midfield staples that help give Illinois the number five spot. Put Harry Shipp up front and he will perform Harry Shipp actions, that’s how it works.
Florida is another factory of soccer talent. It’s no surprise that they’re deep in this contest. Especially when you have USMNT forward Eddie Johnson spearheading your attack, there’s always a chance you’re in for something good. Add the youthful spark of Julian Green and I think you might very well be in business. But we’re not gonna slow down there because we still have Graham Zusi. Yet another USMNT addition to a strong Florida side, Zusi has that ability to come out of nowhere and show us what he can do. Throw in some respectable goalkeeping for Zac MacMath and a reliable back four, and you have yourself the number four state in the US.
3. New Jersey
What does it take to break the top three state teams on a list that some poser made up in his free time? I assume having the hookup when it comes to goalkeeping helps. New Jersey is indeed home to America’s most prized goalkeeper, and he makes quite the impact. No one person has ever owned a team, but Tim Howard knows how to help his homies out. On the other end of the field is another USMNT member, Jozy Altidore. Although he has struggled with injury and performance issues, Jozy can play effectively when the moment strikes and has proven himself on multiple soccer stages. That’s not all, I know you recognized Michael Bradley in the central midfielder position. He remains one of America’s top producers as he continues to bring so much to the soccer table. He scores in the clutch, makes marvelous chances, and generally pushes harder than most up and down the field. Having a Fiorentina powerhouse like Giuseppe Rossi never hurt anyone either (although he plays for Italy).
With almost 50 professional soccer players, it can’t be too much of a surprise that big ol’ Texas is our runner up for talents according to me. Let me refer once again to that heartbreaking tie against Portugal in the last World Cup. Clint Dempsey has firmly established himself as a soccer goal-scoring authority during his career with the United States. We all turn to him in our moments of weakness and it’s no surprise he’s on the #2 team. Add the sensational Brek Shea and an army of MLS talent literally two lineups deep and you have yourself a fantastic loser to California.
It’s not often you get so much attacking potential in one place. But what else would you expect from California? They have a nice pool of well over 100 professional soccer players to choose from, nobody should be all that surprised. Here are Gyasi Zardes and Chris Wondolowski’s respective first goals for the USMNT. These were only small blips on the two giants’ radars, but great representation of what they can do and why California is so potent. The LA Galaxy presence is as strong as the talent itself. Add in former MLS Rookie of the Year Maurice Edu and defensive trickster Heath Pearce, and I think the case has been made. Congrats, California.