The thriving metropolis of Chicago was the land of opportunity for a wide variety of ethnic groups. As individuals from nations where soccer reigned began arriving in the area, they instituted teams and leagues that supported “their” game. Ultimately the sport grew, and with the passage of time, eventually developed a following among native-born sons and daughters of these immigrants (including the development of high school teams throughout the city and leagues affiliated with the parks movement).
The sport was also an attraction for athletes who worked at various corporations; a mechanism whereby employers often tried to increase the loyalty of their workers. Additionally, there were players and associations that challenged employer dominance by creating teams that favored unions and even radical political affiliations (such as the communists).
Gabe Logan’s new book The Early Years of Chicago Soccer, 1887-1939(Lexington Books, 2019) shows why the sport was significant to a substantial percentage of the population of Chicago, and how it was utilized to build associations of various kinds: be they ethnic, union, or political.Jorge Iber is a professor of history at Texas Tech University.