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Soccerwarz book review: Conflicts holding back US soccer


Soccer is an outlier in the landscape of American sports in that the major debates shaping the sport are about the leagues themselves. In the other sports leagues, the debates are about the rules of the game or how players are perceived, but only among American soccer fans are the major debates about the competence of the divisions. Clear fault lines are developing between MLS zealots, NASL defenders and those who disregard all American leagues in favor of a foreign league or two. While this may be an over-simplification, for an outsider who happens to casually check Twitter or Reddit, this description seems rather realistic.

How is it that this is the state of play? World Soccer Talk Senior Writer and podcast co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer pulls back the curtain to reveal the battle inside US Soccer between MLS and the new NASL, and how that is holding back the development of soccer in this country. Unlike other writers, Krishnaiyer has actual sources and experiences in both leagues, having worked for NASL during its reestablishment as a rival to MLS, so his narrative has a more authentic feel than another account where the author may be fed talking points to fill their lack of knowledge.

Soccerwarz is short, about 33 digital pages, and thus reads more like a long magazine article than a traditional book. Yet I cannot imagine how much longer it could be simply because Krishnaiyer’s style is direct. His book outlines the development of the new NASL and how it began as the vision of one man and his company to expand soccer in the US. Along the way, the league became part of a vendetta against the seemingly corporate marriage between MLS and the US Soccer Federation, and now has established itself as a competitor for players, money, and attention. However, as the author clearly establishes, NASL has built its challenge on a shaky foundation that may actually be creating its own undoing.

Unlike his first book on Manchester City, this book tends more towards factual accounts than personal feelings of major events. That said, he does sprinkle opinions on American soccer into the story and comes across as even-handed, probably due to the fact that his contacts are spread throughout American soccer. The book ends with criticisms of both leagues’ business practices.

This book is not for a soccer novice. Someone just learning the game or even American professional soccer would be lost amidst the names that are more familiar to people who have followed the development of MLS over the past two decades. For those of us who have more knowledge of each league’s business practices, some of the information is new and interesting, but overall is nothing shocking. Where this book fits best in the growing collection of American soccer books is a historical record of an important moment in the development of professional soccer in the US. Ten years from now, when MLS has grown or collapsed, this book will be a snapshot in time when the league’s fate was ultimately determined. That sentence may not seem a ringing endorsement, but when you consider how little behind-the-scenes writing there is from the original NASL, you realize how valuable this little book is for our knowledge of how our favorite leagues actually operate.

Soccerwarz: Inside America’s soccer feud between MLS, NASL and USL is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes and other fine online booksellers.

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