Like many others, I probably turned to this book for some sort of explanation when David Beckham first signed for LA Galaxy. Proper football? In America? But surely they don't know how to play? Wrong. Football (no, not soccer - I'm British) is often about the underdog, and the sport itself has been (and still is) very much an underdog in a country where the Superbowl rules supreme. That makes Wangerin's history of the game's struggles all the more readable, from the giant-killing game of 1950 through the misplaced glitz of the NY Cosmos and beyond, to the team that still punches more than its weight today. There's a lot of political wrangling involved, and an awful amount of acronyms (AFA, APSL, MSL, ASL, ESL, NASL....) to keep track of, but Wangerin focuses on individuals as much as possible, and the sheer number of European players who have played in the US leagues is quite staggering. It's not just about Pele. Highly recommended.
Dave Wangerin's book gives a great deal of history of the development of the game of soccer in the United States. It is valuable for not only giving comprehensive accounts of many of the earlier professional and semi-pro leagues from the early part of the 20th century, but also carries this forward with a comprehensive overview of the North American Soccer League (including its heyday with Pele, Beckenbauer, etc.) right through to the development of Major League Soccer and the U. S. National teams' great success in the early 21st century. The book also explores many of the reasons soccer has struggled to gain a foothold in the United States with some valuable insights. He also covers the National Team experience in Olympic competition, and a number of the more obscure leagues which have come and gone over the past century. This is a valuable book which not only covers the major areas of US soccer history in a comprehensive manner, but fills in many gaps in the historical record.
Until I had read David's book, I had been totally unaware of the fact that the USA had a long history of non-padded mania football. All that I was aware of had been the sensational World Cup result that had knocked England out of the 1950 World Cup, the Americans winning 1-0.
I should not have been surprised by the existence of the earlier years, as I should have guessed the early European emigrants to the USA would have taken the idea of the beautiful game with them. David has done very well to provide us with a full background to the early pre-1950 days.
I was, of course, more aware of the various attempts to build the game in the States, which David also faithfully records in his book. The fact the game did not take off as was hoped was not the fault of the organisers or the players. I have always said that for football to become popular in the USA, it will require three or four generations of soccer playing kids.
A very good effort by David, in my view, and one for everyone who wants to see the beautiful game to prosper in the USA. It is a must-have book to buy!
For someone who grew up in Philadelphia in the 60's and 70's and became interested in football (soccer) because we couldn't get tickets to the NFL or NHL, this book was strangely biographical. From the heady days of my hometown Philadelphia Atoms taking the NASL crown through to the thrills and spills of going to USA 94 matches at Giants' Stadium and RFK Stadium, Soccer in Football World for me was a "been there, done that" experience.
The quality of the research and the passion of the author shows throughout. Though I do have to say that the premise appears to simply be that more Americans should like football (soccer) because everyone else in the world does. Huh? The reason why I chose to like football (soccer) back in the 70's was exactly the opposite.
So if millions of my fellow country-men and -women don't have time for football (soccer), I'm not gonna fault them for that. Perhaps Dave's next book can be to do a similar project on Canada - where football (soccer) doesn't have to compete with the NFL, NBA and MLB.
And I had to laugh at Dave's line near the end of the book saying "Too much of the country (the USA) continues to regard soccer as foreign, effeminate or just plain dull." Sound familiar to UK readers? That sentiment was echoed in thousands of stories in UK newspapers last year about the Premiership!
And besides, there are millions of people in the UK who don't give a hoot about football (soccer) as well.
I'm a fan of sports in America - and a fan of history. Wangerin's book does a superb job marrying these two elements. I was aware of precious little regarding the long and sputtering history of soccer in America. As a father of 3 boys fully engaged in the present American youth soccer boom, I now have historical context thanks to this book. The research done by the author is remarkable and the writing is clear, sharp, and occasionally witty. Very well done!