At 15 years and counting, Major League Soccer is still a young league compared to others around the world.
However, that short period literally contains enough history to fill a nearly 300-page book. That's what's inside Long-Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer by Beau Dure.
Chronicling the rise of MLS from its post-USA 1994 beginnings to its current position on the American sports landscape, assembling the history of MLS was no easy task. To pull it off, Dure needed a lot of time and a lot of interviews.
Having covered MLS since 1999 and as a former editor for USA Today, the interviews – with such prominent figures as Don Garber, Mark Abbott, Doug Logan and Sunil Gulati – weren’t hard to come by. Finding the time, though, was another matter.
“I took leave from my job for 11 weeks so I could take a few things that I had jotted down and really flesh it out into a book,” Dure told MLSsoccer.com. “I took a bit of a leap of faith with it.”
Timing was also a factor. Initially, Long-Range Goals was targeted for a 2006 release, but that proved a very difficult mark to hit.
“I originally wanted to do a book around the time of MLS’ 10th anniversary, so I’m a little bit late,” Dure lamented with a laugh. “It took some time for it all to come together. For a while, I went back and forth, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not.”
Dure didn’t waffle long, though, and set about writing in earnest in early 2008.
“It was something that I just really wanted to do," he said. "It’s like the early mountaineers [who] always said they wanted to climb Mt. Everest because it was there. I wanted to write this history because it was there and nobody had done it yet."
That’s what he did, and the results are thoroughly entertaining.
The book is filled with revealing stories from the early days ranging from the humorous – Mark Semioli recounting answering the phone of his famous roommate, actor/Galaxy midfielder Andrew Shue, only to hear the voice of Shue’s sister, 1990s sex symbol Elisabeth, on the other end – to the downright strange, such as future league president Abbott’s negotiation and acquisition of a Ferrari for LA keeper/forward Jorge Campos.
Thus, it’s the book’s look at some of the early inner-workings of MLS that helped compel Dure to tell the league’s tale.
“I think that people have a lot of misconceptions about this league and they don’t quite understand why decisions were made a certain way,” said Dure. “I felt it was very important to go back and look at some of those decisions and explain them even though you may still disagree with them.”
And while many have, in fact, disagreed with some of the early decrees of MLS and its first commissioner, Logan, Dure is quick to point out that hindsight is 20/20.
“I’ve seen a couple of reviews that said that the book shows how Doug Logan really messed things up in the first couple of years,” said Dure. “I don’t see it that way. I had a very good conversation with him and put in his take on some of the decisions he had to make."
“I think some of them are easy to judge in hindsight and some of them were very difficult if you had to be him from the [league’s] starting point," he added. "You know a lot of people overlook how difficult it was to start up a soccer league. People forget [that] in 1996 there was a lot of cynicism about this.”
Long-Range Goals takes the reader on a trip back to a time when MLS was but an idea and a mission, something Dure intentionally set out to do.
“I really wanted to go back and try to put the reader in the windowless office with [former Deputy Commissioner] Ivan Gazidis not having a computer or a phone and trying to get a soccer league started,” he says. “To get from that point to where the league is now is really remarkable.”
This remarkable journey makes for an extraordinary read. Not since Grant Wahl’s best-selling The Beckham Experiment have fans seen such an inside view of the league’s machinations and the personalities behind them. For Dure, the journey hasn’t been about one moment or one person, but a series of momentum-gaining events.
“It’s been a long process,” he said. “A lot of people look for one particular moment and they say, ‘Oh, they’ve signed Freddy Adu,’ or ‘They’ve signed David Beckham’ or ‘They’ve opened up this stadium,’ and think this is it. There is no one moment."
“Hopefully the book gives people a sense that there were big and small turning points; not one, but many.”