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Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's Forgotten Game

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David Wangerin's humorous and thorough book tells the story of American soccer's long struggle from the brief promise of the 1920's, through the euphoric highs and extravagant follies of the North American Soccer League, to today's hard-won acceptance. David Wangerin's humorous and thorough book tells the story of American soccer's long struggle from the brief promise of the 1920's, through the euphoric highs and extravagant follies of the North American Soccer League, to today's hard-won acceptance.


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David Wangerin's humorous and thorough book tells the story of American soccer's long struggle from the brief promise of the 1920's, through the euphoric highs and extravagant follies of the North American Soccer League, to today's hard-won acceptance. David Wangerin's humorous and thorough book tells the story of American soccer's long struggle from the brief promise of the 1920's, through the euphoric highs and extravagant follies of the North American Soccer League, to today's hard-won acceptance.

30 review for Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's Forgotten Game

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    as i have become soccer obsessed lately, almost anything related to the game interests me. this was well-researched, well-written, and informative. it was perhaps not as revelatory and exciting as How Soccer Explains the World, but it did make me nostalgic for the old NASL. Go Dips!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jon-Erik

    The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game in the 2000 Olympics to Chile. Some of the players on that team, like Landon Donovan and Tim Howard would go on to be greats for the senior team and play at the highest levels in Europe. Yet according to Wangerin, the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympics by losing to Guatemala. In a book loaded with historical facts, it's easy to forgive a single mistake. But this fact is deeply ensconced in an argument about the ineffectiveness of one of MLS's youth The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game in the 2000 Olympics to Chile. Some of the players on that team, like Landon Donovan and Tim Howard would go on to be greats for the senior team and play at the highest levels in Europe. Yet according to Wangerin, the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympics by losing to Guatemala. In a book loaded with historical facts, it's easy to forgive a single mistake. But this fact is deeply ensconced in an argument about the ineffectiveness of one of MLS's youth development programs. Reading about Mexico's gold medal recently, you get the sense that this raised expectations for the Mexican senior team and Cameroon's 2000 gold medal itself sparked much talk of a rising African game. So, one way to look at it is, ok a simple only minimally relevant mistake. Another is: uh oh. What else is wrong? What else was missed? What always confounds me about people writing about soccer in the US, be they more on the skeptical side like Wangerin, or more on the messianic future positive side like others, is that they always seem to belabor comparisons to baseball, football, and basketball. Dangling right in front of their face is hockey, a sport that is quite regional, has experienced its growing pains, has the only thing even remotely like the international connection soccer has in American sports, and yet has, by many metrics, thrived within its niche. Today, MLS has better attendance than the NHL (which also always seems to be talking about a great TV deal that never materializes) if lower total dollars in ticket sales. There are hints of this at the very end of the book where someone is quoted as saying that sports can be like Starbucks and microbrews. Great early 90s business sense, that! But there is a kernel of truth. Individuality isn't high on the list of things that cause people to like sports, to my mind. The communal sharing is. But, to be fair, there is a market for which community. I don't know how to make the US a World Cup winning team or how to make MLS the best soccer league in the world. I'm not sure that I care. I enjoy soccer because it's a game I play and I appreciate the act in itself without my mind being entirely absorbed by the score, and I appreciate low scores because it makes goals precious, rare, and therefore all the more exciting—a simple rebuttal to the libels of low scoring I almost never hear, nor the simple analogy to the nail-biting pitchers' duels that everyone loves in playoff baseball. I enjoy soccer because of the international fellowship, because there are so many moving parts and so much complexity, and so many different ways to appreciate the skill involved, whether it's the more pagan thrill of the goal scorer, the more intellectual merit of passing, or even the tough business of building a team as a manager. This complexity and unity is unmatched in anything else. It is the closing thing to be 11 dimensional chess. Therefore, I don't care if the US wins the world cup or if MLS is the best league. I just expect that they keep improving, aren't corrupt or incompetent, and continue to develop the sport in the US. On all of those scores American soccer is successful.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tom Lynch

    A very interesting book which charts the often hidden history of football in the United States. It is informative, entertaining and surprising. The history of football in the United States is actually lengthy, and one that predates a lot of the traditional footballing powers. Indeed, the United States was one of the first countries outside of Britain to adopt the sport. David Wangerin shows how the development of football games and codes prior to standardised rules were pretty much the same in t A very interesting book which charts the often hidden history of football in the United States. It is informative, entertaining and surprising. The history of football in the United States is actually lengthy, and one that predates a lot of the traditional footballing powers. Indeed, the United States was one of the first countries outside of Britain to adopt the sport. David Wangerin shows how the development of football games and codes prior to standardised rules were pretty much the same in the US as in Britain - spawned on the playing fields of the prestigious schools and universities. Indeed, as America's Ivy League institutions drifted towards standardised rules and inter-collegiate games, the majority favoured rules following or based upon Association Football. Wangerin demonstates that but for a few twists of fate, Association Football may have become the dominant code in the US. It didn't, but as the book details, the Sport continued to thrive, despite being overshadowed by the big traditional American sports. It is a tale of ambitions not realised, shambolic organisation and frustration, but more than anything else, it is tale of survival, and of hope that the US may now be taking the sport seriously. I have no connection with America, but I have for many years now watched with interest from afar, America's football development into a country that everyone takes seriously, with players that are respected worldwide. Therefore, I found this a fascinating and entertaining read, and one that dispels a lot of myths.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    In 1900, every dirt lot behind a factory and every green space not staked out by cops had a soccer ball being kicked around by emigrant young men, while gridiron football was an ivy league college fad--so how is it that a century later, football captured the blue collar ethos of "America's game" while soccer is effeminate and foreign? Wangerin attempts to explain it through messed-up leagues, bad timing and a slow American media, but doesn't want to go right out and say that soccer leagues have In 1900, every dirt lot behind a factory and every green space not staked out by cops had a soccer ball being kicked around by emigrant young men, while gridiron football was an ivy league college fad--so how is it that a century later, football captured the blue collar ethos of "America's game" while soccer is effeminate and foreign? Wangerin attempts to explain it through messed-up leagues, bad timing and a slow American media, but doesn't want to go right out and say that soccer leagues have never gotten the handout to build stadiums that other sports have, or that Americans are put off by the dominance of the sport by and enthusiastic fandoms and expertise of non-white people (and after Title IX, women)--ethnic groups in the US would rather watch good teams covered by experts on Univision than half-assed commentary broken up by commercials about soccer players recruited from white suburban high schools. However, I am and have been waiting for that one big lawsuit to break high school football forever over head injuries, so soccer may yet triumph.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I loved this book, even though there were a lot of thing I already knew. I loved learning more about the history of soccer in the US back in the 20's and 30's. It's an excellent history of soccer in the US from the beginning to just a few years ago. It was printed in England, so there are some occasional Brit spellings, plus some occasional references to it being a 'scorching 45 degrees' for the '94 World Cup. It's also a wonderful reminder of just how unlikely and amazing it is that we even hav I loved this book, even though there were a lot of thing I already knew. I loved learning more about the history of soccer in the US back in the 20's and 30's. It's an excellent history of soccer in the US from the beginning to just a few years ago. It was printed in England, so there are some occasional Brit spellings, plus some occasional references to it being a 'scorching 45 degrees' for the '94 World Cup. It's also a wonderful reminder of just how unlikely and amazing it is that we even have a functioning MLS, let alone the USL. I'd highly recommend it for anyone that's interested in soccer in the US.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Josh Mlot

    This is a must read for fans of soccer in this country (the United States) who haven’t already studied up on their history. Even for me, and I consider myself knowledgeable (though far from an expert), it was fascinating and entertaining. Even with all the information that gets thrown at you, Wangerin never takes himself or the book too seriously, which makes it a fun read that doesn’t get bogged down in trying to just teach you a bunch of stuff. Yet you still learn a ton. Recommended to anyone i This is a must read for fans of soccer in this country (the United States) who haven’t already studied up on their history. Even for me, and I consider myself knowledgeable (though far from an expert), it was fascinating and entertaining. Even with all the information that gets thrown at you, Wangerin never takes himself or the book too seriously, which makes it a fun read that doesn’t get bogged down in trying to just teach you a bunch of stuff. Yet you still learn a ton. Recommended to anyone in the U.S. who has an interest in soccer in their own country.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I feel the author really had a lot of information to present, and I did learn some interesting things along the way, but I feel the largest weakness was a lack of organization of material within each of the chapters. In discussing a particular period of history, for example, he would get off on a tangent and would run that thought through 30 years past the period or event being discussed before returning to the topic. When he did this, it rarely was a reflection of the past event on a future eve I feel the author really had a lot of information to present, and I did learn some interesting things along the way, but I feel the largest weakness was a lack of organization of material within each of the chapters. In discussing a particular period of history, for example, he would get off on a tangent and would run that thought through 30 years past the period or event being discussed before returning to the topic. When he did this, it rarely was a reflection of the past event on a future event; merely a stream-of-consciousness.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beau

    The definitive history of American soccer -- not shirking away from controversies and not suggesting simple solutions to complex problems. I've written a soccer history book myself, but I'd be the first to tell you that this is THE book U.S. soccer fans must read. (Then be nice and read mine.) It's a shame David was only able to write two books before his untimely passing. We should be glad he was able to produce this masterwork. The definitive history of American soccer -- not shirking away from controversies and not suggesting simple solutions to complex problems. I've written a soccer history book myself, but I'd be the first to tell you that this is THE book U.S. soccer fans must read. (Then be nice and read mine.) It's a shame David was only able to write two books before his untimely passing. We should be glad he was able to produce this masterwork.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Seldom do we get treated to a history (I hope this was accurate!) of American soccer. I appreciate how this work also delves into the origins of modern sports in the US and how much universities were involved. For those who love this game, I think this book offers the chance for us New Worlders to sculpt the game in our image much as we have with other sports; the way forward is with a clear view of the game's history and mindful of it's future. Seldom do we get treated to a history (I hope this was accurate!) of American soccer. I appreciate how this work also delves into the origins of modern sports in the US and how much universities were involved. For those who love this game, I think this book offers the chance for us New Worlders to sculpt the game in our image much as we have with other sports; the way forward is with a clear view of the game's history and mindful of it's future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    A bit dry, but man, what good history and information. As a soccer fan, I appreciated the echoes of MLS's past in the previous leagues, in its failures and successes. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it? And those who learn their lessons well (oh hey, Seattle, icu!) will reap their rewards no doubt! Onwards :D A bit dry, but man, what good history and information. As a soccer fan, I appreciated the echoes of MLS's past in the previous leagues, in its failures and successes. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it? And those who learn their lessons well (oh hey, Seattle, icu!) will reap their rewards no doubt! Onwards :D

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    An excellent history of soccer in America, including the early years that are typically forgotten or ignored by today's soccer fans. Reading the more recent chapters reminded me of several key moments in U.S. soccer history that I either watched or attended. An excellent history of soccer in America, including the early years that are typically forgotten or ignored by today's soccer fans. Reading the more recent chapters reminded me of several key moments in U.S. soccer history that I either watched or attended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tobias

    A good overview of a century of soccer played in the US. And if you're a fan of the absolutely bonkers names given to some NASL-era teams (the Columbus Xoggz, anyone?), you'll find plenty to savor here. A good overview of a century of soccer played in the US. And if you're a fan of the absolutely bonkers names given to some NASL-era teams (the Columbus Xoggz, anyone?), you'll find plenty to savor here.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Read this due to my continuing obsession with soccer. It was really fascinating to read about the US leagues in the early 20th century that actually were pretty decent/popular! I had no idea there was much of anything resembling soccer leagues in the US before the NASL.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Henryk

    Outstanding book. Engaging and considered analysis of the United States' bumpy soccer history. The historical antecedents of today's MLS is well laid out and the cautious optimism of the conclusion is slowly being realized. Outstanding book. Engaging and considered analysis of the United States' bumpy soccer history. The historical antecedents of today's MLS is well laid out and the cautious optimism of the conclusion is slowly being realized.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jim Reineking

    So thorough and enlightening ... So much soccer history in America that nobody -- except the author -- really knew went down.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    WELL done here. Great history of footy in the US. Well researched, well written and super detailed. Also amazingly depressing!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    A look back at soccer's surprising and bizarre history in the US. 4 of 5 stars. A look back at soccer's surprising and bizarre history in the US. 4 of 5 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lyons

    Pretty solid history of American soccer, going back all the way to the late 1800s and the origins of the sport.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I thought it was wonderful, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who isn't a die hard soccer fan. I thought it was wonderful, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who isn't a die hard soccer fan.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John

    An excellent review of soccer in the Unites States. Really a must read for fans interested in the history of the game in the US.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Isaac Kerson

    In desperate need of an central, organizing thesis to hold the book together and compel the reader.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Doug Williams

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Dickson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Gaffney

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

  29. 5 out of 5

    D

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lee

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