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Favorite MLS road trips

CenturyLink Field is shown before an MLS match between the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Seattle.
CenturyLink Field is shown before an MLS match between the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Seattle.

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

I’m a fortunate reporter.

With the exception of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I’ve visited every MLS city in my travels covering Atlanta United for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. With the exception of Inter Miami and its home of Lockhart (not in this list) and Allianz Stadium in Minnesota, I’ve experienced games in every current venue.

Because no one can go anywhere as we bunker through COVID-19, I’ll take you down my memory lane.

Borrowing from Matt Doyle, I’m going to give you my favorites by tiers. My criteria is a combination of city experiences and venue. There is no points system, we are going only mostly by my recollections:

MUST GO EVERY TIME 

SEATTLE. This trip is the perfect marriage between an outstanding city, stadium and game experience. If you plan ahead, try to stay near Pike Place Market. Doing so puts you almost equidistant from the stadium as you are the Space Needle. Both are within walking distance.

My wife, stepson (huge Seahawks fan) and I went last year, and it was a very tiring blast.

If you are a foodie, this is a fantastic city with cosmopolitan eateries. We had Chinese, Japanese, German and American. Each meal was as good as the previous.

If you are into music, this is a fantastic city because, duh…

If you are into culture, this is a fantastic city with plenty of museums and other side-trips. You could spend a day alone in the Museum of Pop Culture.

The view from the Space Needle.
The view from the Space Needle.

PORTLAND. Interesting city with a bouncing game-day experience. Portland's Providence Park is probably my favorite soccer stadium because of its history, its uniqueness and the experiences you have. I've not yet been lucky enough to attend a game in England, but going to Providence Park is what I imagine it to be like.

Like Seattle, Portland is a city in which you just feel comfortable no matter where you are.

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Fantastic food. I’m more of a Blue Star doughnut guy than a Voodoo guy.

Amazing beer from a plethora of micro-breweries. You can even buy beer at the airport and take it home with you.

Mostly enjoyable climate.

And if you are a reader, Powell’s is a Bucket List item.

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NASHVILLE. This is going to become my favorite road trip. Hopefully, Nashville will be put into the Eastern Conference so that Atlanta United will go at least once year.

Ranking Nashville in this tier is solely because of the quality of the city, and not the stadium, because the team is playing on borrowed ground right now.

The city, which I’ve visited a few times going back to my days at the Red and Black at UGA, is a hoot.

Amazing food.

The Chef and I.
The Chef and I.

Amazing museums. Amazing history.

And if you love live music, well…

TRY TO GO A FEW TIMES 

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LAFC. I've split the Los Angeles teams, mostly because of the location and quality of their stadiums. LAFC's is near the city. The L.A. Galaxy's is not.

LAFC has an amazing, beautiful stadium with a supporters’ atmosphere that you have to experience. It’s loud. It’s rhythmic. It’s constant.

The food at the stadium is very good.

I’ve not spent a whole lot of time in Los Angeles the city, so I can’t provide too many ideas. I can say the time I have spent there has been fun.

MONTREAL. Montreal didn't make the MUST GO tier because I simply don't like the stadium's working conditions for reporters. Everything else I love.

My wife and I went two years ago and walked and ate our way around the city.

Beautiful cathedrals.

Outstanding, cosmopolitan food.

Old Montreal has become a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s still worth a daily walk through. Get neither poutine nor crepes in Old Montreal. If you want poutine, go to Poutineville and then thank Mike Conti.

It’s an expensive flight. We flew into Burlington, another fun, little city in the summer, and made the drive.

Notre Dame in Montreal.
Notre Dame in Montreal.

TORONTO. So. ... I'll be honest, this one is this high on the list because of what everyone else has told me about it. I've still yet to take a trip to Toronto that wasn't an in-and-out. It makes me sad. But everything that I wrote about Seattle I've heard applies to Toronto.

PHILADELPHIA. The only knock on this trip is the stadium is a bit outside the city. But it's a nice stadium with a lovely view of the river.

Independence Hall.
Independence Hall.

The city ... I love. Absolutely love. Throw out the soccer, and I could go over and over.

Museums for days. Food for days. Walking for days.

I’ve taken my son and stepson once, and my wife and stepdaughter another time. My stepdaughter said she loved the history and the cheesesteaks.

CHICAGO. The move to Soldier Field moves this up on the list because it's actually in the city. In its previous home of Bridgeview you could barely see the skyline from the press box, that's how far away it is.

Chicago…amazing.

Get lunch at Cindy’s.

Grab a drink at the London House.

Get a pie at Gino’s.

Walk Michigan Avenue.

The view from Cindy's
The view from Cindy's

WORTH IT ONCE 

VANCOUVER. A beautiful city with a not-so-good soccer stadium and atmosphere. Otherwise, it would be in one of the above tiers.

I’ve been twice. Most recently was two years ago when the weather was amazing. Walked all over the city, including to Gastown, which is an historical part of the city and from where cruise ships depart.

It’s a green city with amazing scenery and parks.

One of the best Indian meals I’ve ever had was in Vancouver.

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ORLANDO. What to say about Orlando? It's a very nice stadium. It features great views of the pitch from any seat and is within walking distance of downtown. There is a restaurant and bar scene close by.

The game atmosphere is lively, but isn’t one I would take my family to experience. And no, that’s not soccer culture.

You can make a long weekend out of a game and then golf or theme parks.

NYCFC. This is this high on the list only because of the borough. Playing in Yankee Stadium is awful. Watching and covering a game there is awful. I don't blame the team. The food in the pressbox is amazing, though.

D.C. UNITED. Because of all of the things to do in the city, this trip could be one tier higher.

Audi Field is a nice stadium with good sight lines.

It’s in an up-and-coming part of the city with a few bars and restaurants nearby.

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MINNESOTA. The two times I've been it's been less than 30 degrees. Not ideal.

But I was fortunate to visit the area in the summer a few years ago and had a blast.

I can’t wait to visit the new stadium, which I’ve heard is wonderful with an amazing game-day atmosphere.

I would rather see and hear this:

NEW ENGLAND. Boston matches Philadelphia for me in terms of fun places to visit.

My wife, another stepson and I went last year for a long weekend. We stayed at an AirBnb near Harvard.

While Boston is fun, Foxborough, which is where the Revs play, is not.

Far, far away and very little around it.

There are restaurants and bars popping up around the stadium, but the strip-mall look feels more like Florida than New England.

But, again, so much to do in the city, including a tour of Fenway Park.

Fenway Park
Fenway Park

REAL SALT LAKE. Best views from any stadium, hands down.

I’ll be honest, the first time I went I had suffered a sprained ankle the night before I flew to Utah. So, hobbling my butt around the city was a painful experience.

Visiting the Mormon Tabernacle was interesting if you enjoy cathedrals and architecture, which I do.

The view from Rio Tinto Stadium.
The view from Rio Tinto Stadium.

NEED TO VISIT AGAIN 

CINCINNATI. Once the team gets its own stadium downtown, and I get a chance to roam around the city, this will likely move up a tier.

COLORADO. Stadium is in the middle of nowhere … and it's showing its age.

COLUMBUS. Like Cincinnati, once it moves into its new stadium this will likely move up a tier. As it stands, it's not that much fun of a trip unless you visit Thurman's.

A burger at Thurman's
A burger at Thurman's

DALLAS. Again, stadium in the middle of nowhere. My only visit was during the summer. Felt like we were in a blast furnace.

HOUSTON. In a switch, this team's stadium is downtown. But the game atmosphere is dishwater dull.

Great barbecue, though.

SPORTING KC. Wonderful stadium, but a good ways from the city in strip-mall land.

L.A. GALAXY. Old stadium far from the city.

NEW YORK RED BULLS. Very nice, but typically half-empty stadium in New Jersey. It's in an area that you can see potential, but not results. Getting to there from Manhattan isn't fun. The pressbox view is the best in MLS, hands down.

Now, that's a bar!
Now, that's a bar!

SAN JOSE. Wonderful stadium with a bar that spans the length of the end line. The only issue is the stadium is very near the end of a runway, outside of downtown. When you are on East Coast time, it's no fun to wake up at 3 a.m. with nothing to do in a very quiet downtown San Jose.

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