Each issue of XI will cover one theme of the sport from a North American perspective. The world wide web already provides ample general coverage of soccer from a news-perspective, so we thought a quarterly print publication would provide an original resource by dissecting a single topic in a depth unmatched elsewhere: to get underneath the fingernails of North America’s soccer cultures.
That theme, then, had better be one capable of generating thought-provoking long-form writing, of being captured by photograph or illustration, or reflected in a fascinating way in any of the eleven ways the issue will explore it.
When we decided this would be the format of XI some months ago, our weekly Skype meetings quickly threw up numerous possible topics. XI will be distinguished from illustrious peers such as The Blizzard by its North American focus, so that ruled out something like a Euro 2012 issue, for example. Instead, we discussed what topics we could explore that show how North American soccer has been shaped in unique ways.
We very quickly came to the unanimous conclusion that immigration was a fascinating way to cut into both the origins of the sport here, how it stands at present, and the myriad of possibilities for growth soccer has, particularly in the United States. Soccer, of course, is a game exported around the world from Great Britain; and since its arrival on these shores, its connections abroad have both strengthened and weakened the game in different ways at different times.
It is a long time (12 years) since this topic was explored provocatively by Andrei S. Markovits and Steven L. Hellerman in Offside: Soccer & American Exceptionalism. Since then, we have seen dramatic changes to soccer in the U.S. and Canada since with the growth of MLS and the following for international soccer exploding, along with increasingly complex relations between Mexico and its northern neighbor from youth soccer to mega television deals. Only last year, the New York Daily News headlined a Gold Cup-related news piece “Mexican national soccer team the new ‘America’s Team’ after attracting huge crowds for Gold Cup”. What do developments like this mean? It is high time a serious treatment was given to the topic once again, using a variety of perspectives to probe the past, present and future of soccer as a “foreign” game. That will be the theme for issue One of XI.
What else will be covered in issues #2, #3, #4 and beyond? It could be supporter culture – a topic close to my heart – told from inside and out, as the traditional travails of supporter groups have become success stories, yet face new challenges from issues such as commercialization as MLS grows. Then there is women’s soccer; an integral part of the soccer landscape, but one only given due attention once every three or four years when the big tournaments role around. What are the real stories of women’s soccer’s survival and prospects moving forward? XI might also dig deep into the business of soccer, or the way the game is governed in the U.S.; how does money, power and organizational entrenchment enhance or inhibit the sport on this continent?
These are only a handful of possibilities under discussion by the XI editorial team. We dearly welcome suggestions below, via email (email@example.com) or even through a simple tweet to @xiquarterly. Finally, your support is welcome over at Kickstarter to allow XI to begin this journey.