Why 49ers fans seeking English soccer team should support Leeds United

American sports fans are spoiled with choice when deciding which, if any, overseas soccer clubs they want to support.

Some, of course, get their fandom the old-fashioned way, passed down from friends and/or family But those who don’t yet still want to follow the beautiful game have scores of options, considering the litany of high-end leagues and teams in Europe alone.

Chances are you, dear reader, are a 49ers fan. The NFL season is still months away, and the majority of live sporting events airing right now come from European soccer leagues. If you’re Faithful and looking for a club to tide you over until American sports return or beyond, there’s one choice which stands above the rest.

Leeds United, the 49ers-backed club playing in England’s second division, resumes its season against Cardiff City on Sunday.

The 49ers purchased a 10-percent stake in Leeds United in 2018, coinciding with the West Yorkshire Club’s most successful period in over a decade. The Peacocks finished third in the Championship last season, missing out on promotion to the Premier League after losing to Derby County — managed then by current Chelsea boss Frank Lampard — in the promotion play-offs.

That won’t be the case this season. The top two spots in the Championship secure automatic promotion and Leeds can move 10 points clear of third place — and into sole possession of first — with a win Sunday. As a result, supporting Leeds means supporting a team likely to play in the Premier League next year, and one who won’t get you accused of bandwagoning but also has plenty of history.

The 49ers’ stake is one reason for Faithful to support United, but the club’s parallels with the 49ers are even better. Leeds, much like the Niners, are aiming to reclaim past glory. 

The club won or finished as runners-up in either the First Division or the FA Cup in all but two seasons between the 1964-65 and ’73-74 campaigns, last winning the top flight in 1991-92 during the last season before the Premier League’s inception. Leeds United’s longest-tenured and most successful manager is Don Reive, a giant of the English game known for compiling detailed scouting reports on opponents.

If that doesn’t immediately invoke the 49ers and their Bill Walsh-led heyday, then what does?

Of course, the current iteration of Leeds United has a lot in common with their modern counterparts across the pond, especially on the sideline. Marcelo Bielsa, the club’s manager, is known for his innovative tactics. The Argentine has admirers and mentees at the highest level of the sport, with Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone and former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino regarding Bielsa as a huge influence upon their careers. Just as Kyle Shanahan’s system has turned the 49ers into a formidable offensive force, Bielsa’s tactics have made Leeds United ready for the Premier League. Under Bielsa, Leeds have won more matches (49) than under the three managers who preceded him … combined (44).

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The Premier League is all but over, with Liverpool’s magic number down to six points with nine more matches to play as of this writing. Why not get a head start on next season when looking for a European soccer team to follow, and pick a club with ties to the 49ers?

As a bonus, Leeds United’s first game of the restarted season airs Sunday morning at 4 a.m. PT. If you can handle that, you can handle anything rooting for them will throw at you.

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Why 49ers fans seeking English soccer team should support Leeds United originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area