Edited by John Goddard and Peter Sloane
Chapter 21: Major league soccer in the USA
Referencing the sport of football will, for most Americans, conjure images of the National Football League (NFL) and collegiate football. Given that the NFL is the most popular sports league in the US, this is hardly surprising. Even in Canada, ‘football’ normally refers to gridiron or American football (and the Canadian Football League), although the rules of gridiron differ slightly in the US and Canada. It is only when you get further south into Mexico that futbol refers to the sport of association football. The word used in the US for association football is ‘soccer’. As highlighted by Kuper and Szymanski (2012, p. 78), the term ‘soccer’ has been used since the 1890s; furthermore, the term was first used by English school boys, originating as slang to differentiate ‘rugger’ (rugby) from ‘soccer’ (association football) (Moore, 2006). Notably, the national governing body of association football in the US was originally called the United States Football Association until 1945, when it became the United States Soccer Football Association. It was not until 1974 that the governing body took the name it now uses, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF, 2012). Although association football is generally accepted as the world’s most popular spectator sport, it is accorded second-tier status in the US, where even stock car racing gets larger crowds and better television coverage.
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