How to become a soccer genius in time for World Cup

world-cup-stadiums_14005550351Soccer – or “football,” as it’s more commonly known around the globe – is the most popular sport in the world, but the U.S. isn’t quite in step with this trend. In America, we tend to focus on the big four – football, baseball, basketball and hockey – and soccer isn’t even much of an afterthought. However, every four years that changes and millions of Americans become bandwagon fans, chanting “U.S.A.!” over beers and wings at bars nationwide. And buckle up because those days are nigh – the World Cup kicks off this weekend with a match between Brazil and Croatia.

As much as you might get into the spirit of the games, chances are that you know absolutely nothing about the sport. Rather than try to impress a cute girl at the bar with limited knowledge that doesn’t extend beyond the fact you can’t touch the ball with your hands, we have all the books you need to brush up on the rules you haven’t retained since you played youth soccer in the third grade. Below are a few suggestions for a crash course on Soccer 101 that will enable you to be the king of bar trivia about World Cup 2014 and school your friends on the ins and outs of the game.

Soccer for Dummies – This is an obvious guide for anyone who doesn’t know anything about the rules of the sport and needs an easy-to-understand format that will help him or her digest the rules of the game quickly.

Brazil’s Dance With the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy – If you want to seem like the smartest guy in the room when the topic of this year’s World Cup in Brazil comes up, then this is the book for you. It discusses the behind the scenes political and social maneuvering that brought two major worldwide sports events to Brazil within years of each other, and discusses the backlash experiences in the country as a result.

Soccernomics – Even though soccer has failed to catch on as a dominant sport in the U.S., it dominates worldwide. This international bestseller was named one of the “best books of the year” by several organizations and was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “the most intelligent book ever written about soccer.”

Soccer IQ: Things That Smart Players Do – Described as a “soccer book for players,” this book was written by a former collegiate soccer coach and named a “Top 5 Book of the Year” by NSCAA Soccer Journal. This book gives readers an insiders look to the game that a more casual observer won’t get, but is presented in a humorous, easy-to-read format.

The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer – This book doesn’t provide readers with a “how-to,” but it does cover the history of soccer, from its beginnings as a folk ritual to its rise to global sports domination. It also covers the careers of some of the game’s biggest superstars, like Pele, and discovers the cultural importance of the sport in different parts of the world.

Randi Whitcomb