Soccer Returns! The MLS, NASL, USL and NWSL Seasons Start Soon
March is here and with it comes higher temperatures (hopefully), early spring rains, and the start of soccer season here in the United States. With Major League Soccer (MLS) kicking off on March 6 here in New York and the NASL, USL, and NWSL all close behind, it's time for supporters and novices alike to brush up on their soccer knowledge.
Despite the popularity of the original North American Soccer League, soccer has often been viewed as a niche sport in the United States. I think I can safely say that this is no longer the case, as the last decade has seen tremendous growth in the popularity of the game. Here in New York we have a number of local teams. The Red Bulls and NYCFC in MLS, the Cosmos in the NASL, NYRB II in USL and Sky Blue FC in the NWSL. No matter which team you support, we have a book or movie that will pique your interest. We've also compiled a great list of American soccer podcasts and websites to help quench your soccer thirst.
- Club Soccer 101: the Essential Guide to the Stars, Stats, and Stories of 101 of the Greatest Teams in the World, by Luke Dempsey, is a nice read for novice and expert alike. It outlines the histories of 101 of the greatest teams in the world, from the obvious choices in Europe and South America to the growing soccer nations of Asia, Africa, and of course North America. Fans of the American/Canadian game won’t be disappointed with discussion of the Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders, and Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS fans looking for some of the more recent additions to the league, such as New York City FC and Orlando City SC, will be disappointed).
- In Soccer in a Football World: the Story of America's Forgotten Game, David Wangerin, provides the reader with a look into the history of the game in the United States, with all its requisite ups and downs.
- Rock 'n' Roll Soccer: the Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League, by Ian Plenderleith, delves into the trials and tribulations of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Also available as an e-book.
- For those looking for an historical discussion of soccer tactics using examples from teams from around the world, try Inverting the Pyramid: the History of Soccer Tactics, by Jonathan Wilson. Also available as an eBook.
- Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America, Joshua H. Nadel traces the history of fútbol in Latin America, including historical context, rather than simple statistics and player profiles.
- Soccer, by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce is a nice read for kids looking to learn the rules and history of the game, including famous players and the World Cup. Also available as an e-book.
- For another descriptive look at the fundamentals of the game for early readers try Soccer, by Allan Morey.
- The Everything Kids' Soccer Book: Rules, Techniques, and More About your Favorite Sport!, by Deborah W. Crisfield
- Great Americans in Sports, Mia Hamm, by Matt Christopher, is a great book for kids. The book discusses American soccer star Mia Hamm and is newly updated. Also available as an eBook.
- Hope Solo: My Story, by Hope Solo
- World Cup Soccer in Africa: Who Really Wins? is a poignant look into the political and economic repercussions of holding the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
- History of the MLS Cup is a little dated, but still an informative look at the history of the league as well as every champion from 1996 to 2007.
- Gamebreakers: the Stars of Major League Soccer. Again, it's a little dated, but still worth a look for fans of soccer in America, new and old. Includes game footage from former MLS players like Landon Donovan, Taylor Twellman, David Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel.
- The Two Escobars is an excellent documentary worth a look for those unfamiliar with its topic. In an event that many American national team fans will never forget, this documentary explores the tragic murder of Colombia National Team player Andres Escobar and its connection to drug-related crime in his home country. His murder came less than two weeks after his own goal in a game against the United States in the 1994 World Cup, a game in which Colombia ultimately lost 2-1. Available in English and Spanish.
- Another entry in the documentary column is 30 for 30 Soccer Stories by ESPN Films. A compilation of ESPN 30 for 30 stories related to soccer that include the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, Maradona '86, and Barbosa: the man who made Brazil cry.
- Once in a Lifetime: the Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos is a terrific documentary that follows the rise and fall of what was arguably America's greatest soccer club. Fans of the rebooted New York Cosmos as well as soccer fans in general will definitely enjoy this film, though something tells me that most of you have already seen it.
Podcasts and Websites
Sad as it is for me to say, soccer here in the United States just doesn't get the media coverage that the other major sports receive. This lack of coverage has left a huge void and has made it difficult for supporters and soccer novices alike to follow their teams to the fullest. Thankfully, this void has been filled in recent years by a number of podcasts, blogs, and websites, many of which are fan-driven or at least began that way. I've compiled a short list of local and national podcasts and websites that cater to American and Canadian soccer fans. Let me know what I've missed in the comments below.
The Seeing Red! Podcast
A New York Red Bulls-focused podcast that has brought quality news and interviews for over five years. The hosts are adept at getting great interviews with RBNY players and management as well as knowledgeable New York soccer personalities. The duo, also discusses the teams USL affiliate, New York Red Bulls II. Definitely worth a listen. RIP full-Voltron.
Red Bull Rant
If one RBNY podcast wasn't enough, there's more where that came from with the Red Bull Rant. This podcast goes hand-in-hand with the Once a Metro blog on SB Nation. The hosts provide an an informative take on the team.
Cosmos Country Podcast
If the name hadn't already given it away, this podcast focuses on the NASL's New York Cosmos. The podcast does an excellent job of discussing everything Cosmos, including game breakdowns, hot stove and of course stadium news. The guys also have a way of consistently scoring great interviews with team personnel. There is also discussion of general NASL news as well as a nice roundup of the previous week's games. The podcast can be found on This is Cosmos Country, where you can also find Cosmos news and discussion.
Blue City Radio
This podcast covers the New York area's newest team, New York City Football Club. As with the team this blog is relatively new, but is a good listen for fans of the team looking for their NYCFC fix.
This podcast has the honor of being one of the few, if not the only daily soccer podcast in the United States. The show, which began as a true labor of love by its host in April of 2013, has added another two hours of programming on Sirius XM, though the internet-only podcast remains. The covers a range of soccer-related topics including US National team, MLS, NASL, USL, and the NWSL as well as notable European leagues.
This podcast has the distinction of being the only one on our list to be produced by the league itself, in this case Major League Soccer. Don't let that fool you into thinking that it is in some way bias or that it has an agenda, because in my opinion it does not. Sure, the hosts focus almost entirely on MLS, but there is also discussion about the US Men's National Team as well as other soccer-related topics. You don't ignore the MLB network because it's run by Major League Baseball, do you?
Much like the world of soccer podcasts, there are an incredible number of websites and blogs dedicated to the beautiful game in the United States and abroad. Take a look at the websites and blogs listed below for a few of sites. Feel free to add any that I may have missed in the comments section below.
Empire of Soccer
This website, which focuses on the New York Red Bulls, New York Cosmos, New York City Football Club, the NWSL's Sky Blue, world soccer, as well as both the U.S Men's and Women's National teams, has grown substantially in the last few years. The site has expanded coverage and added new writers, making it a terrific source for soccer news.
Major League Soccer
Yes, I know it's the league website, but their journalists do an excellent job of reporting on league news in a relatively unbiased manner. There is also a fantasy gaming aspect of the website that I will no doubt forget about halfway through the season.
NASL.com (North American Soccer League)
Once again, it's a league site, but it does have a collection of writers that provide insightful articles on the growing league.
This website does much of its reporting on the NASL, NPSL (National Premiere Soccer League), and NWSL (National Women's Soccer League). You will find news and opinion pieces, as well as an extensive list of fan podcasts.
r/MLS, r/NASLSoccer, and r/USLPRO
If you've been around the soccer scene in the last few years then Reddit needs no introduction. For those who may be new to it, I'll tell you this, it's not always for the faint of heart. I'm kidding of course, but it's a discussion board where things have been known to get a little heated between participants. When things are normal, great conversations and lively debate ensue, making the site a worthwhile stop on our tour.
There are those who do not care for ESPN's Euro-centric coverage of the beautiful game, and they may have a point. That being said, their writers do a fine job with international soccer reporting.
Now, I’m sure there are a ton of books, movies, podcasts and websites that I probably missed. If you know of one that I missed, let me know in the comments section below. Enjoy the season.