Assigned Reading: The Ultimate World Cup Reading List

While the hype for this Saturday’s USA v. England match may be at a rolling boil, relatively speaking, soccer isn’t exactly in America’s DNA. If you just want to know who’s who in the World Cup, you can always check out the group guides and team profiles over at ESPN, the Guardian, or Bolas and Bandeiras. But what if you want to know what to watch for and what all the excitement is about? Well, you might just have to dig a bit deeper. To that end, we’ve selected a half dozen soccer reads that are perfect companions for the June madness that is upon us.

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics – Jonathan Wilson

If you’re new to soccer, keep scrolling. This is the strong stuff. Inverting the Pyramid is an engrossing look at the evolution of soccer tactics, so it helps to have some familiarity with the basics. But for such a seemingly dry topic, this is an eminently readable book. Wilson charts how soccer evolved from being essentially a brawl in which 5 forwards were the norm and passing was considered unmanly, to the modern game where fielding just one striker is commonplace. Wilson writes “The Question” column over at the Guardian, which is a seedbed of insight that other commentators shamelessly parrot. If you’re curious how Inter Milan managed to hold off Messi and Barcelona or how the US handed Spain its first defeat in 35 games, then this is the book for you.