A perfectly fine book about an adequate soccer league.
Compared to other leagues in Europe, Central and South America, and other regions of the globe, Major League Soccer, which emerged after the United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup, is fairly mediocre, certainly not one of the top 10 leagues in the world. Yet it has also improved on a steady trajectory, has become a port of last call for elite players from European and other leagues looking for a soft cushion into retirement, and has been partially responsible for a demonstrable rise in both the consistent quality of the U.S. Men’s National Team and in American fan support for the sport. Veteran soccer journalist West tells the intertwined story of the rise of MLS and its fan base in this reasonably crisp narrative. The author really knows the history and landscape of American soccer, and he conveys it well. Though his goal is not to advocate for MLS, he believes it warrants increasing respect, even if it does not match the level of play of the world’s elite leagues. West seeks to place MLS within a larger context of the development of soccer as a legitimate element of the American sporting landscape. The author is especially strong at addressing the politics, economics, and fan culture that have emerged as MLS has gone from its tentative inaugural steps to a solid second-tier presence in American sports. But it is perhaps telling that some of the least compelling parts of the book involve the game on the pitch, and the assertion that West makes in the last words of the book—that MLS “seems positioned to remain intact and supported”—is underwhelming.
Fans of MLS will appreciate West’s perspective, and those who are not yet fans may be convinced by this brief, worthwhile history.