It’s heading into prime time for soccer fans in the region, with the N.Y. Red Bulls battling for a playoff position and the English Premier League, followed by many fans here, now in full swing across the Atlantic.
Next year, the Yankees and Manchester City backed New York Football Club (NYFC) will debut, and time will tell whether New York can support multiple soccer teams the way it does for the other four major sports.
The fledgling NYFC will one day hope to find its way into a future edition of Club Soccer 101: The Essential Guide to the Stars, Stats, and Stories of 101 of the Greatest Teams in the World, a book by Brit turned New Jerseyan Luke Dempsey, debuting this week. As the name suggests, it’s a collection of great club teams in the history of “the beautiful game.”
Dempsey’s book is a collection of essays on what he deems the best 101 clubs, with a variety of factors coming into play in order to break down the thousands to choose from internationally.
“If you do step back and take into account that football is the truly most international sport, there are teams all over the world,” explained Dempsey. “There is a great disparity between, say, a Premier League in England and the Pohang Steelers in South Korea. Unlike in golf, there is no handicap system. It’s 11 on 11 and may the best win. What I tried to do was look at within their own culture and own leagues, who had the most interesting stories and histories; how successful have they been? The second thing, when there was some parity, how did they do against international competition?”
Across these many teams, Dempsey has found a place for MLS and other clubs besides those from the major European and South American leagues.
He also has mixed feelings on what the addition of NYFC means to the soccer scene in the U.S.
“Part of it is great that the N.Y. Metro area will have two teams,” he notes. “But they are years behind the Red Bulls and their strong fan base. The concern is where they will play and how they will play. They can’t play soccer games in Yankee Stadium. It’s not the right shape, they have to cover the infield with fake grass. And after a few games what will the right fielder say about how the field will be cut up? To my mind, it’s more the Manchester City connection, they are behind it as well. They and the Yankees will put plenty of money behind it. Hopefully [playing there] is a temporary thing.”
In any case, the book is a solid read for soccer fans who want to learn a little bit more about the sport globally, and a few of the stories that have colored the sport over the years.