Over the next few weeks, the U.S. National Men’s Soccer Team will take on their next round of qualifiers aiming to confirm their spot at the World Cup, which gets underway in Qatar later this year. These fixtures for the squad are crucial as victory would mean that they will head to the Middle East to take on the best teams in the world for the first time in eight years.
The World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport, and the passion for soccer intensifies to stratospheric levels once it gets underway. The 1994 edition of the tournament, held right here in the United States, still stands as the one with the highest total attendance of 3.5 million. Since that tournament, soccer has become increasingly popular with fans, the MLS is regularly broadcasted across the networks, and its audience is growing. 2021 brought the highest viewing figures to date for the MLS, with an average of 276,000 watching the 31 regular-season games on ESPN up from 233,000 according to CNBC, and the Thanksgiving Day clash between the Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids attracted 1.8 million viewers on the Fox Network.
With the games now visible across the many networks, it demonstrates there are multiple options for getting your place in front of goal. But there’s more than live games when it comes to getting into the thick of the action. As soccer is the most popular sport globally, it’s been the subject of many fantastic documentaries and comedy series too, like Ted Lasso, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the best and how you can watch them.
Pele – Netflix
This documentary tells the story of arguably the best player ever to take to the pitch, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or as he’s better known, Pele. Right from the age of 15, when he made his debut playing for Santos in his home country of Brazil, through to retiring from the game over twenty years later, he was a superstar. His record speaks for itself; he scored over 600 goals in under 700 games for Santos and led the New York Cosmos to victory in the North American Soccer League in the mid-70s.
Pele not only starred for his clubs as his feats for his country have gone unmatched, but he’s also the only player ever to win the World Cup three times, cementing his legendary status.
Take Us Home: Leeds United – Amazon Prime
Leeds United are one of England’s well-supported football clubs that have seen something of a fall from grace in the last two decades. After winning the top division in England in 1992, the year before the inaugural season of the Premier League, their fortunes reversed, and they dropped two divisions. However, after a 16-year hiatus, they headed back to the promised land.
Although Leeds are not amongst the favorites for the Premier League title with Coral, they are once again slowly establishing themselves as a top-flight team. This two-season documentary shows just how Marcelo Bielsa and his players made that journey back to the Premier League and how they’ve put the foundations in to stay there for years to come.
Black and White Stripes – Paramount+
We go from one historic club to another, and in this award-winning documentary, we focus on Italian giants, Juventus, and the Agnelli family. The family is one of the most significant names associated with the club and Italian history. Gianni, the family’s patriarch, was the head of the Fiat Motor Company and was running the club almost single-handed in the early 1950s. His influence stuck with the club for decades; he was the brainchild behind them signing some of the best players in the world, including Michel Platini in the 80s.
As a result, they became the most successful club in Italy, with Gianni Agnelli family being the driving force, right up to his death in 2003. But right now, they’re not the dominant force in Serie A isn’t as they once were; but his legacy lives on through his nephew Andrea, who now is in charge at the Juventus Stadium.
I don’t think it is available anywhere at present, but ‘Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story’ is well worth a watch when it appears again (Likely BBC iPlayer)