Man United = Kentucky, Real Madrid = Duke and the Rest of the UCL, Sweet 16 doppelgängers


real madrid isco

There are two athletic competitions in this world that captivate us unlike any other: college basketball’s NCAA Tournament, known as “March Madness,” and the UEFA Champions League. In late winter and early spring, sports fans all across the globe are transfixed by both competitions.

We root for our specific teams first and foremost, and then debate if we should support our primary rivals in our respective leagues/conferences as they take on the rest of the nation/Europe. Let’s say you’re a North Carolina/Liverpool supporter- do you show solidarity for the other ACC/English Premier League teams in the competition? It’s a debate with no right or wrong answer, exactly like the 16 pairings that we’ve made below. So have at it in the comments section. 

uefa champions league

Unfortunately, many of the college hoops blue bloods crashed out of the tournament before the NCAA Tournament sweet 16, while almost all of Europe’s superpowers advanced to the Champions League round of 16. Thus, comprising our doppelgangers ended up being more challenging than expected.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve done the soccer/football/futbol synergies with college basketball, or with teams in other sports as well. Be sure to check out our 2014 World Cup round of 16 nations-college basketball program doppelgangers, as well as our 8 Copa America 2016 countries-Chicago pro sports franchises analogies.

duke basketball coach k

Duke Blue Devils = Real Madrid

The biggest brand name in both sports, featuring the most well known (and often polarizing) individual in each respective game. You don’t need to care about hoops to have a strong opinion on Coach Mike Krzyzewski, just like you can have no interest in soccer, but still feel strongly about Cristiano Ronaldo.

Both programs reside at the top of the monarchial structure in their respective games; so much so that their very names literally include references to royalty. We did our listings in descending order from strongest analogy to weakest, and none came more naturally than Duke/Real Madrid.

kentucky basketball

 Kentucky Wildcats = Manchester United 

We couldn’t help but pair up the winningest program in college basketball, who boast of eight national championships, with the European capital of trophies.  United have won a record 20 League titles, 12 FA Cups, 5 League Cups and a record 21 FA Community Shields. However, the last half decade of seasons has seen a substantial decline. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, as league champion in 2013, United have only won the following: one FA Cup, one Community Shield, one League Cup and one Europa League title.

Yes, those are trophies, but extremely minor ones, especially so when compared to the standards that United supporters hold.

It’s the same deal in Lexington. Since the Wildcats last national title in 2012 (almost the same year), they have two Final Fours and a national runner-up and three Elite 8s. That’s impressive almost anywhere else, but at UK that’s disappointing.

kansas basketball jayhawks

Kansas Jayhawks = Liverpool

These two blue bloods in their respective sports are a natural link-up. Both play an extremely exciting style, with the ability to beat anybody on the planet…unfortunately, both also have the ability to lose to just about anybody you can find at the same time. Lately, both of these bird mascot sides have fallen short of the big prize. It’s been awhile for both of these teams.

KU hasn’t won a national title since 2008, and Liverpool haven’t won the British top flight since 1989-90. However, both teams play in a venue that’s a cathedral to their sport, as each stadium has seen so much history.

Liverpool club has won 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups (that’s a record), and 15 FA Community Shields.

Kansas currently has the longest streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances of all-time (29), the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA winning seasons (35), the most winning seasons in Division I history (97), the most conference championships in Division I history (61), and the most consecutive regular season conference titles in Division I (14)


Michigan Wolverines = Juventus

Both excel at making deep tournament runs, and often find themselves in the final. However, both have real problems closing the deal once they get there. Juve won it all in ’84-’85 and ’95-’96, but also lost the title game seven times (’72-’73, ’82-’83, ’96-’97, ’97-’98, ’02-’03, ’14-’15, ’16-’17). Michigan claimed the 1989 national title, but finished runners-up in 1965, 1976, 1992, 1993 and 2013.

 Purdue Boilermakers = Manchester City

Both sides are and always will be overshadowed by bigger brands in their own respective region. City will always be second to United in Manchester while the Boilers won’t probably ever have the same size fanatical following as the Hoosiers in the state of Indiana.

That said, this is the best team both programs have produced in quite a long time. City is on pace to shatter every relevant Premier League standings record, and maintains a strong likelihood of winning a treble. In January, Purdue was considered the favorite by the bookies and the stat projectionists to win it all. We’ve also seen Purdue reach their highest levels in school history on KenPom and Sagarin this campaign.

vince-edwards purdue basketball

 Gonzaga Bulldogs = Paris Saint Germain

The younger more emerging power, who’s worked themselves up from nothing to near the top of the sport’s food chain. They pretty much dominate a weak league/conference (West Coast Conference/Ligue 1) and then often go deep in the big tournament. However, neither has won it all yet, and until they do, they will still have a bit of an underdog quality to them.

Yes, this despite PSG’s spending the GDP of a G7 country on players.


 Syracuse Orange = Barcelona

Barca really deserved a North Carolina or a Michigan State or someone like that, but hey, yesterday brought a ton of carnage in the NCAA Tournament. Still, the Catalan club’s five champions league triumphs is close to the Cuse’s six Final Fours. Also, we have a pairing of the two teams with the largest capacity home stadiums. You won’t find a bigger venue in college hoops than the Carrier Dome. The Camp Nou is also Europe’s highest capacity stadium.

West Virginia = Tottenham Hotspur 

Both have become more relevant this decade, reaching higher levels of achievement and being much more competitive with the big big boys, but neither has really won anything of note recently…yet.

Bayern Munich = Villanova

Again Bayern deserved a bigger super-power, but hey “dems the rules” and I don’t make them. On the other hand though, Bayern and Nova are a trendy pick by many to win the whole tournament, so they’re actually not as far off in terms of equal strength as one might think upon first glance.

 Loyola = Shaktar Donetsk

The average fan hasn’t heard of either of these teams, but if you do a deep dive on each program and their history, you’ll see a lot of very important achievements.


Clemson = Sevilla

Made it to the round of eight once, but that was a very long time ago.

Texas Tech = Besiktas

No one expected either team to advance this far, as both teams really don’t have a much of a history of making deep tournament runs.


Florida State = AS Roma, Nevada = FC Basel, Texas A&M = Chelsea, Kansas State = FC Porto 

It’s very mountainous in both Basel (Switzerland) and Nevada, also…..I don’t know man…this project ended up much more difficult than expected because so many top seeds and blue bloods crashed out. Florida State and Roma have the same exact colors. Chelsea really deserved so much better than the pairing they got, we admit, but hey the rules of this endeavor required round of 16 qualifiers in both sports only, so we’re sorry, but someone had to get shafted.

Likewise with Porto, they deserved a lot better than KSU.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

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