Among 2023’s most surprising storylines was that of Wrexham, the lower-tier Welsh club whose fortunes under celebrity American ownership have been chronicled in the series “Welcome to Wrexham.” Though the show was initially released in 2022, its popularity grew exponentially in this subsequent year. The result? An heretofore unseen number of real-life marketing and tour opportunities for the lower-division club that might never have existed before.
One can read the rise of Wrexham as one of the more extreme examples of the impact of a football documentary. Executed well, these works don’t just offer behind-the-scenes looks at teams and players or reveal stories we hadn’t seen before – they give you an entirely new avenue of connection to the game we all know and love.
So with that in mind, here are 11 suggestions from our global football staff on good things to watch, emphasizing new(ish) works or those that resonate especially well at the tail end of 2023.
Bear in mind that these are recommendations, not a best-of list. By all means, drop your favorites in the comments.
Super League: The War for Football
How to watch: Apple TV
In our post-“The Last Dance” society, there are a few hallmarks that have become essential to a good sports documentary — and this four-part Apple TV docuseries checks every box. Transposing very relatable drama onto the unrelatable greats of sport? Check – You see Juventus chair Andrea Agnelli navigating behind longtime friend and UEFA head honcho Aleksander Čeferin’s back. Memorable talking head segments from the main people involved? Yep – Along with those two, Florentino Pérez and Nasser Al-Khelaifi make star turns as rich football owners-turned-supporting actors. A meticulously curated soundtrack? Indeed – Few documentaries can match one specific Talking Heads cue at a crucial moment.
History is told by the victors, and this documentary certainly skews toward the anti-Super League camp headed by Čeferin and the romantic idealists around soccer. As the sport continues to launch new competitions and further fracture the schedule of events, it’s important context about one of the most insane stretches the club side of the sport has seen in recent memory. It’s also relevant to current events in the U.S. and in Europe, as MLS tries to leave behind the century-old Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and talk of a Super League was revived somewhat after a European court decision. – Jeff Rueter
Is the Super League back? What a landmark European court ruling does and doesn’t mean
Hayes’ management style comes through in this documentary (Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
One Team, One Dream: This is Chelsea
How to watch: DAZN via YouTube
I don’t want you to feel like I’m assigning you homework over the Christmas break, but USWNT fans who might not know the incoming head coach Emma Hayes should queue up DAZN’s six-part docu-series on Hayes’s leadership at Chelsea, focused specifically on 2019 to 2021. While it may not be precisely up-to-date, it’s a fascinating look behind the curtain with a ton of insight into how Hayes leads her club team.
Knowing what we know now about how successful Sam Kerr has been with Chelsea, it’s also somewhat hilarious to revisit her signing and entrance into the team. But far more revealing is how a club team adapts to a superstar signing and the tensions it can create amongst the original roster. (One charming moment: Hayes asking Kerr in her first team meeting if she’s willing to dog-sit for everyone else on the team.)