Goal! | Building a Collection of Soccer Titles

Although soccer’s popularity among the American public does not come close to matching its popularity in the rest of the world, the United States still has a good-sized group of soccer fans. The FIFA World Cup 2022 is scheduled to take place in Qatar from November 21 to December 18 and in anticipation, many libraries should consider building a small collection or updating the collection they currently have. 

Although soccer’s popularity among the American public does not come close to matching its popularity in the rest of the world, the United States still has a good-sized group of soccer fans. The FIFA Men’s World Cup ™ 2022 is scheduled to take place in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, making it the first time the competition has not taken place in the summer due to the intense heat in Qatar. Because interest in soccer typically peaks before and during the playing of the World Cup, many libraries should consider building a small soccer collection or updating the collection they currently have. A well-rounded offering should include classics of the field, reference works, books on playing and coaching, titles addressing the evolution of soccer as a global game, and biographies that offer insight from its athletes and fans. Starred titles () are recommended for all library collections.


Bensinger, Ken. Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal. S. & S. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501133909. $28.

In 2011, a seemingly insignificant IRS tax investigation uncovered a link to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), international soccer’s governing body. A massive series of briberies and kickback schemes involving officials worldwide were discovered. The authors have craftily assembled a comprehensive account of the scandal. Necessary reading for all fans.

Biermann, Christoph. Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution. Blink. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9781788702058. $24.95.

Wealthier teams are now using data analysis and metrics to put their strategies together. Biermann (Matchplan) talks to scientists, coaches, managers, scouts, and even psychologists to examine this seemingly permanent trend in the game. Of great interest for any who are interested in the game’s future.

Doyle, John. The World Is a Ball: The Joy, Madness, and Meaning of Soccer. Rodale Books. 2010. 352p. ISBN 9780385664981. $19.95.

In 2002, Canadian author Doyle (A Great Feast of Light) trekked throughout much of the world in an attempt to discover the reasons for soccer’s popularity. The result is a delightful, although sometimes confusing, account of his adventures over an eight-year period. Enlightening and entertaining.

FIFA World Football Museum. The Official History of the FIFA World Cup™. Welbeck. 2nd Edition. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781802790887. $39.95.

This book describes itself as “the only history of soccer officially licensed by FIFA.” There have been 21 World Cup tournaments since the inaugural one in 1930, and each is reported in detail. This work’s foremost feature is the photography. A required addition to any soccer collection.

Foer, Franklin. How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. Harper Perennial. 2010. 288p. ISBN 9780061978050. $15.99.

Foer’s (World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech) vision of the connection between soccer and politics on a worldwide scale may not resonate with some Americans, but it certainly will with many citizens of other countries. Much detail is provided here that ties the game of soccer to the basic institutions of politics, economics, and race in society.

Goldblatt, David. The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer. Riverhead. 2008. 1,008p. ISBN 9781594482960. $30.

This is one of the essentials in any soccer collection. Goldblatt’s (The Soccer Book) well-researched, comprehensive history looks at the game of soccer and its impact on the evolution of the social cultures of countries and areas around the world.

Kuper, Simon and Stefan Szymanski. Soccernomics: Why European Men and American Women Win and Billionaire Owners Are Destined To Lose. Bold Type. 2022. p. ISBN 9781645030171. $18.99.

Today, entertainment is often driven by profit. It is no surprise, then, that there is a close relationship between economics and soccer. Kuper (Football Against the Enemy) and Szymanski (sport management, Univ. of Michigan) offer an entertaining yet thought-provoking description of this relationship. The latest update, listed here and forthcoming in October, is the 2022 World Cup edition.

U.S. Soccer Federation. 100 Years of Soccer in America: The Official Book of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Rizzoli. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780847840922. $45.

This publication describes itself as “the official, definitive, and unique celebration of a century of achievement in U.S. soccer.” In addition to statistics and historical information, it contains illustrations, original national team portraits, jerseys, game programs, and ticket stubs.

Wilson, Jonathan. Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics. Bold Type. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9781568589190. $18.99.

Wilson (Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football) takes a thorough look at the tactics used in playing soccer and how they are different from coach to coach, team to team, and country to country. Worthwhile for coaches, players, and especially fans, many of whom will spend massive amounts of time devouring it. First published in 2008.


Blank, Dan. Soccer IQ: Things That Smart Players Do, Vol.1. CreateSpace. 2012. 133p. ISBN 9781469982472. $9.99.

This has aptly been labeled soccer’s first definitive textbook. Blank (Everything Your Coach Never Told You Because You’re a Girl) covers all aspects of the game, including how to properly kick a ball. Blank’s coaching experience in major college soccer and his witty, easily understandable writing style makes this a treasure.

Blank, Dan. Soccer iQ - Vol. 2: More of What Smart Players Do. Soccer Poet. 2014. 122p. ISBN 9780989697712. $9.99.

A follow-up to Vol. 1, this focuses more on correcting common mistakes of beginning college players. Like Vol. 1, it is divided into small sections of two to three pages; each illustrates a specific game situation. Incredibly useful as a set, this should be required reading for all college players.

Gullit, Ruud. How To Watch Soccer. Penguin. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780143130741. $18.

International sports broadcaster Gullit, a 1990 World Cup participant and the captain of several championship teams, has assembled a nifty book that will help newcomers understand and enjoy the sport. His experience and insight will inform and enlighten players of every level.

Joseph, Dylan. Soccer Coaching: A Step by-Step Guide on How To Lead Your Players, Manage Parents, and Select the Best Formation. Understand. 2019. 117p. ISBN 9781949511154. $9.97.

This coaching guide, part of the larger “Understand Soccer” series, stands out because it addresses many real-life situations that coaches experience when coaching youths, including dealing with parents and finding the most effective training methods. Written by an experienced soccer trainer, this book will appeal to beginning coaches, providing an excellent starting point.

The Soccer Book: The Teams, the Rules, the Leagues, the Tactics. DK. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780744020540. $19.99.

Now updated in a new revised edition, this all-encompassing visual guide to soccer describes the sport’s history, techniques, rules, and skills necessary to play. It also provides up-to-date biographical information about the sport’s superstars.


Balague, Guillem. Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2019. 464p. ISBN 9781474611565. $17.99.

The popular author and sportswriter Balague (Maradona. The Boy. The Rebel. The God) takes a journalistic and often critical approach to describing Cristiano Ronaldo’s life. Some have said he hasn’t made the most of his natural talent, but his team successes with Real Madrid and Manchester United are disproving that.

Caioli, Luca. Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend. Icon. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781906850616. $21.

In writing this work, Caioli (Neymar) sought information from nearly everyone associated with Lionel Messi, including Messi himself. Although much has been written about Messi, this is easily the most comprehensive and colorful telling of his background, upbringing, development, and rise to superstardom. Young fans will especially delight in this writing. 

Hornby, Nick. Fever Pitch. Riverhead. 1998. 272p. ISBN 9781573226882. $17.

Later made into a popular movie, this hilarious, unforgettable memoir of a nonprofessional soccer player must be included among the best soccer literature. Hornby (Funny Girl) is a well-known English writer, who provides beautiful detail in his obsession with the Arsenal Football Club.

Keane, Roy and Roddy Doyle. The Second Half. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781780228822. $17.99.

Keane, perhaps the best Irish midfielder of all time, was labeled as brash, overly competitive, and self-absorbed. With the help of Man Booker Prize winner Doyle (Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha), he provides a brutally honest, well-written picture of his life in the Premier League and the personal struggles he overcame to gain ultimate peace.

Lloyd, Carli and Wayne Coffey. When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey To the Top of the Soccer World. Houghton Harcourt. 2016. 256p. ISBN 9780544814622. $26.

Lloyd is rightfully called a superstar U.S. soccer player. Before her playing days, however, she faced seemingly impossible difficulties, setbacks, and heartbreaks. Her memoir, told with the help of Coffey (The Closer), is an inspiring, modern, and powerful example of how hard work, dedication, and patience can help everyone successfully deal with the challenges in their lives. 

Pelé and Brian Winter. Why Soccer Matters: A Look at More Than Sixty Years of International Soccer. Celebra. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780451468758. $18.

Pelé is universally acknowledged as the game’s greatest player, ambassador, and humanitarian. This book is his personal belief statement that the game can be a unifying force for good in the world. His example speaks volumes, and hope in the world continues because of sports role models like him. Essential.

Reng, Ronald. A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke. Yellow Jersey. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780224091664. $13.72.

In 2009, Robert Enke was a star, poised to play on the German 2010 World Cup team. But he reportedly stepped in front of a passing train. He was 32. This work is a friend’s tribute and attempt to find meaning in Enke’s death. It powerfully illustrates that depression can affect everyone. A tragic yet enlightening tale.

Wahl, Grant. The Beckham Experiment: How the World’s Most Famous Athlete Tried To Conquer America. Crown Archetype. 2009. 304p. ISBN 9780307407870. $24.99.

In 2007, David Beckham, a soccer superstar in Europe, signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy as an attempt to increase the sport’s popularity in the United States. Wahl, a writer at Sports Illustrated, gives this intimate account. Readers will find insight into the world behind the game.


Bloomfield, Steve. Africa United: Soccer, Passion, Politics, and the First World Cup in Africa. Harper Perennial. 2010. 299p. ISBN 9780061984952. $14.99.

This was written in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup competition in South Africa. Bloomfield, a journalist, conducted research that took him to 13 countries in Africa. He talked to everyone he could, including rebel leaders. The result is a great history of Africa and soccer’s influence among its nations.

Frank, Søren. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Cultural Analysis of Manchester United. Bloomsbury Academic. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781408187425. $35.

Manchester United is one of the most recognizable, accomplished soccer clubs in the world, and it has a unique culture. Frank (comparative literature, Univ. of Southern Denmark; Migration and Literature) has written this thoughtful history that features the continued successful marketing of its brand. This book will illuminate the many good things in the culture of soccer in England.

Goldblatt, David. Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil Through Soccer. Bold Type. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781568584676. $16.99.

In anticipation of the 2014 World Cup, Goldblatt (The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Football) assembled this detailed chronicle of the effect of soccer on Brazil. It not only features stories of some of the miraculous players Brazil has produced but also of its harsh sociological realities, poverty, corrupt governmental institutions, and violence. Another recommendation, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil by Dave Zirin, is remarkably similar in scope.

Hesse, Uli. Tor!: The Story of German Football. Polaris. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781913538743. $17.54.

The history of German soccer can be confusing because many associations were disbanded or replaced by Nazi-sponsored organizations. However, Hesse (Building the Yellow Wall) has written an easy-to-follow timeline, 1900–2010. A good historical piece.

Lowe, Sid. Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World’s Greatest Sports Rivalry. Bold Type. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9781568584508. $20.99.

Since the early 1900s, the FC Barcelona and Real Madrid rivalry has been among the greatest and most fascinating in the world. This is an account of how soccer, politics, and war have all been woven together in Spanish history. Historian Lowe paints a clear picture of 100 years of Spanish soccer.

McGinniss, Joe. The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy. Crown. 2000. 416p. ISBN 9780767905992. $15.95.

McGinniss’s (The Selling of the President) story of the Castel di Sangro soccer team, named after the village of 5,500 residents in central Italy, is probably the best illustration of the culture and history of Italian soccer in existence. A rags-to-riches story, it has it all: sadness, humor, desolation, and outright silliness.

Robinson, Joshua and Jonathan Clegg. The Club: How the English Premier League Became the Richest, Most Disruptive Force in Sports. John Murray. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9781473699588. $17.

As journalists Robinson and Clegg note the English Premier League is now one of the most recognizable soccer leagues in the world. Its original purpose was to bring local English teams, some based in small towns, together for friendly competition. This is an interesting history of this evolution, told through many short, delightful sports stories. 

Winner, David. Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. Abrams. 2008. 304p. ISBN 9781590200551. $15.95.

Considered a classic by many, this brilliant, well-written book is not one to be missed. English journalist Winner describes the concept of Total Football, a tactical strategy in which any outfield player can take the role of any other teammate. The Dutch began using this formation prior to the World Cup in 1974, and it revolutionized the game. It led the Dutch national team to the World Cup finals in 1974, where they lost to archrival Germany, and they also made it to the semifinals in the 2010 World Cup. Readers will be entertained by Winner’s wry wit and treated to a soccer perspective that can change their thinking about the game forever.

Steve Dixon is the Librarian and Liaison for the College of Technology, Veterinary Science Department, Sports and Music at SUNY Delhi.

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