Below is a link to a research paper I wrote last year that I’ve uploaded to my Academia page. It concerns research into the growth of gridiron football (NFL-style), baseball, and basketball in the US and why association football (a.k.a. soccer) failed to grasp the country’s imagination as the other three.
Most importantly, “the game in America badly lacked willful leadership…Plenty of athletic departments and administrators may have thought soccer was vaguely a good thing, yet none seemed to possess the eagerness and ambition to lift it to greater prominence” (Wangerin “Distant” 32).
The main issue facing the leagues across the nation was the lack of a governmental body to enforce a set of rules agreed upon by all. Leagues played according to their own sets of rules, which put them at odds with each other and the fanbases they catered to. A league in St. Louis, for example, “played halves of 30 minutes instead of 45” (Wangerin, “Soccer” 29).
The AFA, founded, ironically enough, by a group of British expatriates made the first to attempt to unify the country’s leagues in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, any and all attempts at unification became power struggles between British and American leaders of the sport who “engaged in petty rivalries and internecine organizational struggles that only helped to preserve their narrow fiefdoms and the status quo at the expense of creating an institutional structure that might have been able to disseminate the sport to the vast majority of the American public” (Markovits “Offside” 53).