Exceptions and exceptionalism : The United States Soccer Football Association in a global context, 1950–74
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Since the 2001 release of Andrei Markovits and Steven Hellerman’s Offside, the dominant narrative about football in the United States has been one of exceptionalism – a term used to denote uniqueness, but also one wrapped up in notions of superiority. A finde-siècle desire for exclusively “native” sports, so the theory holds, prompted Americans to turn a collective cold shoulder to the kicking game in favor of their own national pastimes. In the years thereafter, the American footballing experience diverged still further, as evidenced in the cachet the women’s game achieved at the turn of the millennium and the sport’s transformation from working-class pastime to bourgeois pursuit. Lost in these points of disjuncture, however, are important junctures. This dissertation endeavors to bring these junctures – the exceptions to exceptionalism – to the fore by focusing on the understudied United States Soccer Football Association. Using a rich array of archival materials, it connects America’s “soccer men” to the broader international football system and argues for a moderation of the paradigm of exceptionalism. It begins by focusing on the overlap of people, focusing on the social and developmental links members of the USSFA established with their colleagues abroad. It then transitions to the overlap of ideas – first with regard to the intrusion of business interests into sport, then with regard to adapting football to fit the patterns of an increasingly competitive sport and leisure marketplace. In sum, this work teases out the complexities in a historiography that has typically been written with a view to difference.