2022 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
In Soccer in American Culture: The Beautiful Game’s Struggle for Status, G. Edward White seeks to answer two questions. The first is why the sport of soccer failed to take root in the United States when it spread from England around much of the rest of the world in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second is why the sport has had a significant renaissance in America since the last decade of the twentieth century, to the point where it is now the 4th largest participatory sport in the United States and is thriving, in both men’s and women’s versions, at the high school, college, and professional levels.
White considers the early history of “Association football” (soccer) in England, the persistent struggles by the sport to establish itself in America for much of the twentieth century, the role of public high schools and colleges in marginalizing the sport, the part played by FIFA, the international organization charged with developing soccer around the globe, in encumbering the development of the sport in the United States, and the unusual history of women’s soccer in America, which evolved in the twentieth century from a virtually nonexistent sport to a major factor in the emergence of men’s—as well as women's—soccer in the U.S. in the twentieth century.
Incorporating insights from sociology and economics, White explores the multiple factors that have resulted in the sport of soccer struggling to achieve major status in America and why it currently has nothing like the cultural impact of other popular American sports—baseball and American football— which can be seen by the comparative lack of attention paid to it in sports media, its low television ratings, and virtually nonexistent radio broadcast coverage.