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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

'You're the worst:' The Union winless streak goes global

It's been that kind of year for Jim Curtin,
Ilsinho and the Union. (AP)
You may have heard once or twice, in this space and others, a slight bit about the struggles of the Philadelphia Union in recent weeks. You may be aware that the Union haven’t won a competitive game since last August. You may know that it’s been 15 MLS regular season games plus a playoff contest. I don’t know what you read, so I can’t be sure.

Suffice it to say that the purview of the Union beatwriter in recent weeks has been plumbing the depths of the club’s struggles to provide context that goes beyond qualitative generalities like bad luck and low confidence.

So I got to wondering … We know how the Union’s barren streak stacks up with the worst in MLS history. But since it got some global attention this week, is the Union’s winless streak the worst ongoing run in the world?

On that front, Union fans, I have good news. That Union are not the worst soccer team in the world! (prayer hands emoji) But they’re probably closer than you’d like.

Around the world in 80 leagues

How to figure out the worst team in the world? Well, clearly that’s a subjective, nonsensical measure. So I spent the afternoon combing through the soccer web looking for the longest winless streaks in top divisions across the globe. The analysis looked at the top flights in 74 countries (including MLS) for teams with the most enduring winless streaks. That group includes five continents plus Australia (though for soccer purposes, that’s Asia) and includes the top 30 or so leagues in Europe based on UEFA coefficients. (Sorry to the Moldovan Union fans.)

And the winner in losing is … Say hello to Young Lions of Singapore, which is winless in 19 consecutive games. In the 2017 season, the club based in Kallang has lost all seven games. They concluded the 2016 season with 12 winless games to cap a 2-19-3 record. The Young Lions are 0-16-3 in the string with 15 straight losses. The last win was May 12, 2016, almost a year ago.

But … there’s a catch. The Young Lions are a developmental team, essentially the Singapore Under-23 squad. So full-fledged professional, they aren’t exactly. Which brings us to …

Having a Bal-tic
Vaprus Parnu kind of sounds like a Harry Potter spell. But in the Estonian Meistriliiga, it’s also a doormat. Vaprus Parnu, the Bears as they’re known, have gone 18 leagues games without a win. They are oh-fer in nine to start this season and ended 2016 winless in nine. What beautiful symmetry.

Here’s some more for Union fans: Their last win? Aug. 27, 2016, a two-goal win over Paide LM. Sounds familiar.

The trip to Estonia shines light on a level of incompetence even the Union can’t match: Last year, Rakvere went winless in all 36 matches, toting an 0-33-3 record and an unsightly goal differential of minus-98. I can only assume after a season like that, they’ve been relegated from existence.

The Union appear to be tied with another club for the third-longest active winless streak in the world. That would be Mumbai FC of the Indian I-League (as opposed to the Indian SuperLeague; the former gets spots in AFC Champions League). Mumbai, another disappointing team in a major metropolis whose fans have gotten international media attention and whose larger populace has its hearts set on another sport, has gone 16 games without a win. The Mumbaikars, whose crest looks like something you’d use in a movie to avoid copyright infringement of actual club insignias, won the first two games of the season and hasn’t won any of the last 16, going 0-9-7. The last win for Mumbai came Jan. 15 against delightfully named Churchill Brothers S.C.

Losing, losing and more losing

Since I waded through more Firefox tabs than I’d care to admit, I might as well share the rest of the data I raked in. Among major (read: Don Garber says he’s coming for you) European leagues, only two boast a 10-plus-game winless streak, with both teams having been relegated. Sunderland is winless in 10 games in the English Premier League to which it bids adieu, going 0-8-2 since beating Crystal Palace Feb. 4, while Granada is 0-9-1 following three points against Alaves in La Liga March 1.

Croatian club Inter Zapresic is the next best at being worst with its 15-game winless streak dating to Nov. 19. The Ceramists have been chipped up with eight losses in those 15 games, yet somehow remain just eighth in a 10-team league.

Fourteen is a big number. Iceland’s awesomely named Vikingur Olafsvik is 0-10-4 on a carryover from last fall’s Urvalsdeild. AZAL Baku in Azerbaijan is 0-12-2, the capital club’s last win Dec. 17. In the Western Hemisphere, Venezuelan club Portuguesa FC is winless in 14 games to start the Primera Division campaign after winning the season finale last year, while Paraguay’s Sportivo Trinidense has feted promotion to the Primera Division by starting 0-7-7.

It’s unlucky 13 for Lion Blesse de Fotouni of Cameroon (dating to last September) and Qatari club Al Wakrah, but they’re well in the Union’s rearview mirror by now.

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May 5, 2017 at 9:06 AM 

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