It may be the most famous and popular sport in the world. Despite its staggering popularity across the globe, soccer – or football to literally everyone except Americans – has never really managed a foothold in the United States. At least not until recently. Perhaps it was the signing of charismatic soccer superstar David Beckham to the L.A. Galaxy Club in 2007. Maybe it was the overall success of U.S. clubs like Galaxy and the D.C. United. Or it may have been the U.S. Women’s Team’s Olympic dominance. Regardless, the popularity of soccer Stateside is on a definite upswing. The books below should help new fans gain a better understanding of the sport and provide current fans with a new way to look at the game they love.
How We Won the Mexico '86 World Cup
Diego Armando Maradona and Daniel Arcucci
This highly anticipated chronicle of one of the most controversial games in World Cup history, the ’86 World Cup Final between Argentina and The United Kingdom, is a must for any soccer fan. This firsthand account from one of soccer’s most talented and polarizing players, Diego Armando Maradona, recounts the events leading up to Argentina’s victory and the trials the team faced. Maradona scored two of the most famous, or infamous depending on your perspective, goals in soccer history – the “Goal of the Century” and the notorious “Hand of God” goal. Coming a mere four years after Argentina’s surrender to the United Kingdom in the Falklands War, the match was a microcosm of the intense rivalry and bitterness between Argentina and the UK.
This searing and poignant memoir chronicles the life of Robbie Rogers who, shortly after coming out in 2013, became the first openly gay male to play for a major professional sports team in North America. With Coming Out to Play, Rogers and co-author Eric Marcus relate Rogers’s tumultuous path from struggling and fearful closeted teenager to a trailblazing gay athlete and role model.
Decoding the Oddball Phrases, Colorful Gestures, and Unwritten Rules of SoccerAcross the Pond
Soccer is a quickly rising sport in the U.S. Already the most popular sport around the world, it’s finally gaining more traction among American stalwarts like baseball and American football. Given its relatively recent ascent in popularity, this useful tome from soccer writer Adam Hurrey translates the sport’s more esoteric rules and idioms with just the right balance of wit, insight, and information. It’s well worth a look for any budding soccer aficionado.
Another must-read for the nascent soccer fan, How to Watch Soccer is a masterclass in understanding how to watch one of the world’s most beloved sports. As a renowned former player, manager, and current broadcaster, Ruud Gullit understands how to watch the game better than most and, with How to Watch Soccer, he breaks down the intricacies of every aspect of the game providing key insights on how to understand the strategies and flow that define the sport.
Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong
Chris Anderson and David Sally
Much like any other sport, soccer is at base a numbers and stats game. Soccer stat guru and former goalkeeper Chris Anderson upends the conventional wisdom and digs deep into the seedy mathematical underbelly of the sport. Falling somewhere between Moneyball and Freakonomics, The Numbers Game is an insightful and entertaining look at the game of soccer that questions every aspect of the sport while acknowledging the beauty in its inherent chaos.
The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty Kick
The impetus for some of soccer’s most thrilling and heartbreaking moments, the penalty is an all-or-nothing, indelible part of the game. Based on a simple theory, but incredibly tense and complex in practice, the penalty kick can be a game-changing moment. Drawing from an in-depth statistical analysis and firsthand accounts from legendary coaches and players, journalist Ben Lyttleton takes a deep dive into the attitudes, tactics, and psychology that make up the thin line between success and failure a mere twelve yards from goal.
Soccer is hands down the world’s most popular sport. The obsessive devotion of its most ardent fans is the stuff of legend. But what exactly is it that makes soccer so compelling to so many? In this new book, due to arrive at book purveyors on October 31, philosophy professor Simon Critchley turns his remarkably astute eye to understanding what drives the world’s obsession with soccer and what it can tell us about the various cultures where the sport flourishes.
Abby Wambach is one of soccer’s most talented and inspiring players. She was the heart and soul of U.S. Women’s team during their historic 2015 World Cup Championship. She’s the highest goal scorer – regardless of gender – in the history of soccer. She’s also a vocal advocate for women’s rights and a role model for millions. This memoir, due out on September 9, chronicles Wambach’s journey from a young girl playing on the boys’ team in Rochester, New York, to one of the most recognizable soccer players in the world.
A must-read for any soccer fan, new or old, Inverting the Pyramid is an insightful look into the history of the tactics that make up the game. With Inverting the Pyramid Jonathan Wilson traces the way strategies and tactics have evolved across generations of great soccer teams – from the rise of the combination game in the 1860s to the Dutch “Total Football” theory and the tactical brilliance of modern day Barcelona and everything in between.
Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
With Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski turn to statistical analysis to break down the broad trends on where the sport is and where it is heading. Equal parts empirical analysis and witty commentary, Soccernomics examines the game on a macro-level taking a look at the sport’s perennial winners and losers, why teams consistently perform the way they do, and the unexpected countries destined to spawn soccer’s next big heavyweights.
Soccer’s most ardent fans will argue it is much more than a game; it is a way of life. Franklin Foer takes that idiom one step further and presents the sport as the perfect window into the complex cross-currents of world affairs. In this remarkably insightful read, Foer examines global affairs, international economy, the clash of cultures, and virtually everything in between through the lens of the world’s most popular sport.
An unquestioned classic, Nick Hornby’s hysterical and bestselling memoir remains the definitive chronicle of the obsessive nature of soccer’s most devoted fans. Hornby’s book covers his own lifelong obsession with the sport and oft-comical, sometimes heartbreaking tribulations that fandom at its most extreme level entails.