Soccer in American Culture

Watching the World Cup this Thanksgiving? To celebrate, this week's review examines the origins and growing popularity of soccer in the US.

Soccer in American Culture: The Beautiful Game’s Struggle for Status

White, G. Edward. Missouri, 2022
314p bibl index, 9780826222534 $45.00, 9780826274700 $40.00

Soccer in American Culture: The Beautiful Game's Struggle for Status book cover. Image of a person bumping a soccer ball off their chest while standing in front of an American flag.

In this timely contribution to the publisher’s “Sports and American Culture” series, White (Univ. of Virginia Law School) traces the development of US soccer, exploring its marginalization vis-à-vis so-called American indigenous sports—gridiron football, baseball, and basketball. Given the expansion, industrialization, and urbanization of the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, White critically questions the early neglect of soccer, deemed a “mere” ethnic sport played mostly by immigrants. Conversely, he also examines the growing success of the game since the 1970s as a participatory and spectator sport. The book’s nine chapters detail the English origins of the game, its ambivalent reception in US schools and colleges, the frustrating attempts to organize and unite the various associations, and the eventual formation of Major League Soccer in 1996. Given the secondary role of women in the early sport, the introduction of Title IX in 1972 helped bring about significant improvements in women’s soccer at all levels—grassroots, national, and international. Now, with increased television coverage and improved facilities, including soccer-specific stadiums, US soccer can claim to be part of the worldwide “beautiful game.” White’s 45 pages of notes include detailed bibliographical references, and black-and-white illustrations accompany the text. All readers will appreciate this essential resource for sports researchers.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
Reviewer: J. Walker, emeritus, Queen’s University at Kingston
Subject: Science & Technology – Sports & Recreation
Choice Issue: Dec 2022

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: