If you’re an American, you probably refer to the sport that involves kicking a ball into the back of the goal as ‘soccer’.
But, the same sport is called ‘football’ in almost every other place in the world. So, why do Americans call it soccer? The answer lies in the history of the sport and the evolution of language.
Soccer originated in England, where the sport we know as soccer today was referred to as association football. The word soccer is a slang abbreviation of association, which was used to distinguish the sport from rugby football, and other popular games of the time. The terms diverged into different parts of the world but the sport (soccer/football) is the same.
Let’s dig into it some more!
The Origin of Soccer
To understand why there’s a difference between calling ‘soccer’ and ‘football’, you need to go back to the origins of the sport.
Football vs. Soccer
Soccer has its roots in England in the mid-19th century. At the time, there were many different versions of the game being played in different parts of the country.
Some of these versions allowed players to use their hands, while others did not. The version that eventually became known as soccer was the one that did not allow players to use their hands, and was played primarily with the feet.
In the United States, however, a different version of the game was becoming popular. This version, which we now call American football (think New England Patriots), was based on rugby and allowed players to use their hands to throw, catch and run.
Over time, the two sports developed their own identities, with soccer becoming more popular in Europe and South America, and American football becoming the dominant sport in the United States.
The Evolution of Soccer
In the late 19th century, the rules of the game were standardized, and the sport began to take on its modern form. At this time, the sport was still called ‘football’ in most parts of the world.
However, in the United States, the sport was still known as ‘soccer.’ Over time, soccer stuck in the United States, while the rest of the world continued to call it football.
While the name may be different, the sport itself remains the same and continues to be one of the most popular and beloved sports in the world.
The Rise of American Football
As soccer gained popularity around the world, it faced a unique challenge in the United States.
American football began to gain popularity in the late 19th century, around the same time that soccer was taking off in Europe. The sport was seen as a more rugged and physical version of rugby, and it quickly became a staple of American college campuses.
The first professional football league, the National Football League (NFL), was established in 1920, and the sport continued to grow in popularity throughout the 20th century.
Today, American football has become a go-to sport during the fall and early winter seasons. Each season culminates with the two best teams playing in the Super Bowl, which is one of the most-watched events in the country.
The Emergence of American Soccer
While American football was taking off, soccer struggled to gain a significant foothold in the United States.
The sport was seen as foreign and unfamiliar, and it lacked the physicality and excitement of American football.
However, soccer began to gain traction in the 1960s and 70s, thanks in part to the success of the North American Soccer League (NASL). The NASL brought in international stars like Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer, and it helped to popularize the sport among American audiences.
Despite this success, soccer still faced challenges in the United States. The sport was often overshadowed by American football and other popular sports like basketball and baseball.
In addition, the lack of a strong domestic league and superstars made it difficult for American soccer to compete on the global stage.
However, in recent years, soccer has continued to grow in popularity in the United States. The establishment of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1993 helped to provide a stable domestic league, and the success of the United States men’s and women’s national teams has helped to raise the profile of the sport.
Today, soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, and it continues to carve out its unique identity in the American sports landscape.
We love to finally see it!
The Globalization of Soccer
Soccer, or football as it is known in most parts of the world, has become a global phenomenon. It is the most popular sport in the world, with an estimated 4 billion dedicated fans.
The sport has spread from its origins in England to every corner of the globe, and it has become an integral part of many cultures.
Despite the different names, the sport is played the same way around the world. The rules are the same, the field is the same size, and the objective is the same: to score more goals than the other team.
The Influence of American Culture
In the past few decades, soccer has become increasingly popular in the United States, with millions of Americans playing and watching the sport.
We’re seeing more fields filled with youth soccer players and more organizations starting and growing.
The rise of soccer in the United States can be attributed to a number of factors. One of the most significant factors is the influence of American culture. As American culture has become more globalized, so has soccer. American companies have invested in soccer teams around the world, and American players have become stars in Europe’s top leagues.
Furthermore, the recent successes of the United States Women’s and Men’s National Teams have helped to popularize the sport in the United States.
The women’s team has won four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, and its players have become household names such as Alex Morgan.
Led by Christian Pulisic, the U.S. men’s team had an unexpectedly strong showing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Most Britains Stopped Saying ‘Soccer’
Over time, the use of the word soccer declined in Britain, and people started calling it football instead.
This was mainly because the word soccer was associated with the US, which was seen as a cultural outsider by some Britains. As a result, many Britains stopped using the word soccer altogether, and it became less common in British English.
Countries that call it ‘Soccer’
- United States
- New Zealand (some regions)
- Canada (some regions)
- Australia (some regions)
- Ireland (some regions)
- South Africa (some regions)
- Philippines (south region)
Countries that call it ‘Football’
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Czech Republic
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
Pretty much everywhere else!
So, there you have it – the reason why Americans call it soccer instead of football!
It all comes down to the fact that soccer was the term used by the British upper classes in the 19th century to distinguish it from rugby football. Over time, this term became more widely used in Britain, but it was never as popular as football.
Meanwhile, in the United States, football had already become established as a popular sport, so when association football was introduced, it needed a new name. Soccer was the obvious choice, as it was already in use in Britain and was not associated with any other sport in the US.
While some people may argue that Americans should use the term football like the rest of the world, the reality is that soccer is now firmly entrenched in American culture. It has its own unique identity and traditions, and there is no reason why it should change just to conform to what other countries do.
We don’t want it to change for selfish reasons but I do like how we get to enjoy American football and soccer without any confusion.
Whether you call it soccer, football, or something else entirely, the most important thing is that we get an opportunity to play and watch the game we love!