A keen anecdotal introduction to North American-style soccer--the game called football in the 140-odd countries where it ranks as the national sport. The bulk of the text describes the part (or the role) played by goalkeepers, forwards, mid-fielders, and defensemen as well as coaches, owners, and on-field officials. But Eskenazi, a veteran New York Times sportswriter, uses this conventional structure to record the brief history of the North American Soccer League--which promoted an essentially alien product (i.e., one without home-grown talent) to big-time status in little more than a decade. Stateside fans, he notes, traditionally have favored explosive contests like football, ""with its promise of instant gratification via the touchdown pass,"" and baseball, ""with the threat--or hope--of the home run."" What then explains the box-office appeal of a transplanted sport played in the wrong season (summer, versus the fall in Europe) with--save PelÃ‰--unknown imported stars? Continuous and unprogrammed (controversial) action on the field, plus, Eskenazi hypothesizes, rule changes that encourage scoring. Or, Eskenazi suggests, it just may be the fact that well-heeled multinational corporations with marketing muscle are backing the U.S./Canada soccer play. He also has interesting things to say on how styles of play seem to fit cultures. South Americans, he was told, do play at a more leisurely pace than, say, the Dutch--who are credited with the creation of so-called total soccer. For fans with even a passing interest in the new game in town, a first-rate briefing.