The United States has long had a complicated relationship with the game of soccer. Never considered a soccer stronghold, in 1989, FIFA named the United States as the host of the 1994 World Cup, which led to an explosion of popularity resulting in the creation of the Major League Soccer Association (MLS), and all lexicons surrounding the term "soccer mom." There is no doubt the 2014 World Cup has led to another spike in popularity, with Americans tuning into the UEFA league for the first time in years. With the qualifying phase of the tournament already underway and wrapping up on August 27th, now is the perfect time to review the upcoming season and mark down which teams you?d like to see while on your upcoming European vacation.
Chelsea Football Club -- London, England
After losing to Club AtlÚtico de Madrid in the Semi-Finals of last year's Champions League, Chelsea FC finds themselves the fourth overall ranked team in the league and have positioned themselves as the team to beat in the 2014/2015 cup. On July 1st Chelsea signed Diego Costa, the Brazilian-born forward who scored 8 goals in 9 games last tournament for Chelsea's bully, AtlÚtico de Madrid. Having acquired AtlÚtico's top striker and already sitting near the top of the rankings, Chelsea is likely the only London club that will seriously contend for the cup this year. If you find yourself in the London area, mosey on down to the historic Stamford Bridge Stadium in Fulham, grab some pie and bovril beef tea and you'll be sure to catch an unforgettable game.
Juventus Football Club -- Turin, Italy
Juventus is the first professional and most successful club in Italian history, and over time, has become a symbol of the nation's pride, culture, and italianita (Italianness). Based in Turin, Juventus is always a threat in the UEFA league, having won the 2014 Italian Series A Championship with a record 102 points - Juventus' 30th official league championship. Based in Turin, Juventus' new stadium was completed in 2009 and hosted the 2014 UEFA Europa League Final. The new stadium is a marvel in its own right, having been designed over the course of five years to meet strict criteria dictated by the Kyoto protocol. Traveling to Turin is an underappreciated stop on any Italian road trip, if you're hoping to see world-class soccer and eat some delicious local chocolate, you wouldn't find a better place in all of Italy.
Galatasaray Spor KulŘbŘ -- Istanbul, Turkey
In the early 2000's, Galatasaray was once one of the most feared clubs in all of the UEFA Cup, not losing a single game in the 1999-2000 season and according to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, was the #1 ranked club in the world in August of 2000, the only Turkish club to ever be ranked #1 at any point. Recently, Galatasaray has struggled, and in fact only advanced to the group stage of 2014/2015 UEFA because their arch rival and winner of the Turkish Super League, Fenerbahše, was banned due to match fixing back in 2011, Galatasaray was in 2nd place in the Super League and advanced instead. Galatasaray is certainly an underdog in the 2014/2015 season as the 36th ranked team in the league, but the Lions (as they are known) play hard every match, and if you are lucky enough to catch a game in their home stadium in Istanbul, it's bound to be a truly unforgettable experience. The Turkish soccer experience is truly unlike anywhere else, you may find yourself hugging complete strangers and joining them for a victory parade after the game!
These are just three examples of teams that are sure to excite during the 2014/2015 UEFA Champions League, there will be 32 teams total once qualifiers have concluded. Perhaps a soccer-inspired road trip is exactly what you're looking for this fall, but if not, surely you can find at least one team to support, while enjoying all the worldly benefits their home city has to offer.