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Amid Growing Soccer Wealth Gap, Is 92 Teams Too Many?

Rory Smith

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Bury is one of those places that is easily lost. It is — or it was, anyway — a small English town just a little north of Manchester, famous for its market and its mills. The bigger city’s relentless crawl has long since swallowed up Bury, though, claiming first its borders and increasingly its identity in a slow-motion land grab.

There is no discernible line anymore where Bury begins and Manchester finishes. It is on the city’s tram system. It does not have a separate ZIP code — it comes under Bolton’s — and, like Bolton, it is no longer a town in Lancashire, but a part of Greater Manchester. Officially, at least; that is not how the people who live there, the people who have always lived there, see it.

Soccer matters in the places like these, the places that can feel forgotten. Last summer, there were wildfires on the moorland not far from Bolton and Bury. They raged for days, but flickered only briefly in England’s broader consciousness. The point was made, more than once, that had they been burning a couple of hundred miles closer to London, they would…

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