The original NASL was surely a different take on the beautiful game. It was a great league, one that featured Pelé, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Eusebio, Chinaglia, Best, to name just a few. It set the standard for future leagues here even though it was wild, unpredictable, and relatively short-lived. Simply put, all American leagues, both old and new, are compared to the original NASL. And that is a tough comparison.
The NASL sure was entertaining. The league had a bit of everything: creative marketing, cheerleaders, and huge crowds on one side and folding/relocating franchises, cheesy gimmicks, and crowds you could count on the other.
No team was bigger than the league’s flagship franchise, the New York Cosmos, but this book is about more than just one team. And that makes this title so much better. It gives the reader a much bigger and better picture of what was going on across the league. You have to understand the big picture to know why the league succeeded and then eventually collapsed. The void left behind took years, even decades to repair. It proves that soccer has been a tricky business to say the least.
The funny thing is that there’s a little bit of the original NASL in all of us. Sometimes it’s the hope that MLS (or the current NASL) will make a splash heard around the world, bringing a Ronaldo, Messi, or Rooney to the States. Throwing the salary cap and conservative spending out the window sure would feel good, but reckless spending is one of the reasons why the original NASL isn’t around in 2015. Sometimes it’s a fascination with “Americanizing” the game in some way, giving our own spin on the sport. People are always talking about developing an American style of play and this seems to be one of the reasons why.
However, some of the brands (and a whole lot of cool memories) did last until today. It’s all about legacy when you talk about the NASL and what a legacy was left behind.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith is the definitive history on the original NASL. Nothing out there rivals the detail and variety provided by this book. It is easily one of the best soccer titles of 2015, if not the best. Plenderleith, one of the best top journalists anywhere, is a magician with words and history, making the entertaining NASL even more exciting. That is quite a task indeed.
You can’t go wrong with this one. This is an absolute must for any soccer fan, regardless of where your allegiances lie. It has the honor of being one of our favorite soccer books of all-time. It’s that good!
So the next time you turn out for the Cosmos taking on the Strikers or the Timbers battling the Sounders, you should remember that there was a bigger and better version not so many years ago.
Yet the hope is that reading this book will give you a better understanding and appreciation of our game today, taking note of the great history behind it.