A photographic tour of Major League Soccer

Every now and again, I get asked which MLS team I root for.

When I travel to other cities, I get asked if I’m a Union fan. Around here, people who know I grew up in Washington ask if I still have ties to D.C. United. Still others ask if I’m partial to Portland or Montréal or other teams because I write about them so much

My answer to those questions, and others like them, is the same: I honestly don’t have a rooting interest in any specific team.

I know that may surprise some of you, but it shouldn’t. It’s not my job to root, and you shouldn’t expect me to.

The interest I do have is in the sport of soccer and its growth in America. In that way, I end up being naturally drawn to teams with great atmospheres in their stadiums. In America and around the world, the passion of soccer fans is what makes the sport stand out from all the others.

Yes, you often get a better spectacle in Cascadia than Columbus. But it can happen anywhere in the U.S., and it does happen in more places than some might think.

And as I’ve said before many times: just because one supporters’ club is smaller than another, that doesn’t mean that those who put in the effort to make their group grow are any less passionate than others.

I bring this up as a way of introducing a photo gallery I’ve put together to set the stage for the new MLS season.

You might recall that last year, I put together a gallery of the league’s top strikers, and in 2012 I put together a gallery of the league’s top playmakers. For this season's kickoff post, I wanted to go in a different direction.

As I’ve traveled around MLS in recent years, I’ve been lucky to see many of the league's best venues and atmospheres in person. When I’m stuck at my desk, I dig through the photo wires to find the best images for Philly.com’s soccer page.

I thought it would be fun to put together some of the best photos I’ve come across of the stadiums and fans that form the backbone of the North American soccer community community. Some are shots I’ve taken, and others come from some of the best sports photographers across the continent.

To get the best perspective, click "Show Thumbnails," then pick the photo you want to focus on.

No matter which team you root for, here's to a fun 2014 season.