The sport that most closely resembles college football is not the NFL. It’s European soccer.
There are no drafts or real salary caps, but there is recruitment. There is shady rule-breaking, communal fan bases and, for the most part, regional dividing lines. There are transfers over money and fears of a Super League.
And if you want to forecast the future of college football in these uncertain times, soccer might be the place to look. In 2019, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted that he’d read “The Club,” a book about the history of England’s Premier League. Reading the book, it’s not hard to see all the similarities, including frustration from the richest teams that they must abide by the same rules as smaller teams.
In the wake of Saturday’s Champions League final, won by Manchester City 1-0 over Inter Milan, The Athletic reached out to some of its most prominent European soccer writers about the state of that sport and the similarities one can see with college football. You’ll find many of the same dynamics and concerns, especially around the richest leagues.