Fifty Years After the Foundation of the NASL, Soccer Writer Michael Lewis Looks Back

 In Additions to the Archive, History

I woke up this morning to find Michael Lewis’ article “How the birth and death of the NASL changed soccer in America forever” from The Guardian populating my Twitter feed.

Honestly, from the title I expected it to read like many remembrances of the old NASL and the glory days of soccer in the United States. It even sounded a bit like an earlier article written by Lewis, also in The Guardian “How Pelé lit up soccer in America and left a legacy fit for a king” last year.

Giving this article a closer read, it was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the NASL’s foundation. While it does read like a brief history of the league, it also adds to a new positive historical narrative surrounding the league’s role in building the game in the United States. Consider this quote by Clive Toye:

“What people too easily overlook was that the NASL’s mission was to build the game and then at the end of it, make some money for the owners,” he told the Guardian. “The NASL as a crusader was a magnificent success. As a business, it eventually failed as a single entity. But, what it left behind is a knowledge of the game that didn’t even exist in this country before and enthusiasm for the game which never existed before.”

Soccer supporters, commenters, and scholars have rightfully lamented and challenged the legacy of the NASL. The fall of the league hurt the development of the game in the US for a generation that was just embracing it. As time moves forward, and we are able to gain more distance from the history and better understand the overall inheritance, it is positive to see the legacy through a variety of lens and better understand the long-term effects of the league on the game in the United States.

History often equates to legitimacy and having Lewis’ perspectives in the soccer prolific Guardian can only continue to aid in an international understanding of the complicated landscape of soccer in the United States.

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