Why is a Soccer Field Called a Pitch?

Why is a Soccer Field Called a Pitch?

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Have you ever wondered why a soccer field is called a “pitch”? It actually came from playing soccer on cricket fields, which they play on a “pitch”. We’ll explain the origin and how it developed over the decades to come.

You might be a new spectator to the sport of soccer or a long-time fan already but you have always accepted the naming convention at face value.

If you are curious as to why soccer fields are called pitch, this article will provide you with a thorough explanation.

Where Did the Term Come From?

Probably the most interesting thing about the history of the term is that “pitch” was not originally conceptualized for use in the game of soccer but for an entirely different sport known as cricket.

Soccer, or football as it is called in its home country of England, was not at all popular back when people started playing it in the 1800s. As such, there were no exclusive playing fields for the sport.

They would usually play on cricket pitches, which were more popular back then. The name just stuck even when soccer went on to skyrocket in popularity.

Why was the cricket playing field regarded as a “pitch”? In cricket terms, the pitch is a small patch of dirt or clay where the stumps are placed in the ground. The term “pitch” came about when cricket players coined “pitch the stumps”. This meant preparing the playing area for a game of cricket.

Pitching, in this context, is the same as when you pitch a tent. This means you drive stakes into the ground.

Eventually, as language typically does, “pitching the stumps” became shorter and a soccer field simply became a “pitch”.

Standard Measurements of an Official Soccer Pitch

According to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which is the governing body in charge of the rules of international soccer, a standard football pitch should be rectangular in shape. It also needs to have clear, continuous lines demarcating it.

As for the dimensions, the pitch should be 50-100 yards wide and 100-130 yards long. Other soccer leagues and entities have their minimum field dimensions host teams must adhere to.

The goals placed on both sides of the pitch should be 8 yards wide (measured from inside the posts) and should be 8 feet high from the surface of the pitch to the lower edge of the crossbar of the frame. The pipes used for constructing the frame should be no more than 5 inches wide.

Also, in accordance with international professional soccer rules, the pitch should have an area dedicated for use by players who need to warm up. They are often the ones who will be substituted into the game. This area should be behind the goal, specifically one not occupied by referees.

Soccer Pitch Markings

The entire perimeter of the pitch should be precisely measured and painted white lines around the perimeter and inner markings. These demarcation lines should be colored brightly for maximum visibility.

Typically, the pitch markings are repainted at least a couple of hours before a professional scheduled match.

In the case of youth soccer, many of the fields are now turf and markings are somewhat permanent and can last years. 

Aside from the perimeter lines, there should also be a halfway line that parts the field into two equal sections. The middle of the centerline needs to have a 9-inch diameter center mark, and around it should be the center circle, which is 10 yards wide.

Obviously, the penalty areas should be in front of both goals, and they need to extend exactly 18 yards from the outside edges of the goal posts. In addition, the penalty area must be 12 yards from the middle of the goal area, and with a diameter of 8 inches. From this point, a semi-circle with a radius of 10 yards is drawn, thereby marking the area where no other player aside from the penalty kicker is allowed.

Is a Soccer Pitch Grass?

In some professional leagues, the field should be natural grass. It needs to be perfectly flat and in playable condition.

If the weather turns rainy or stormy in the middle of the game and the field gets all muddy, the game will resume.

However, most leagues these days know how incredibly difficult it is to maintain natural grass for a huge football pitch, so they allowed the use of artificial turf.

This kind of playing surface is more uniform, low-maintenance, and looks and feels the same as natural grass.

Some stadiums also use a hybrid system, one that combines both natural and artificial turf.


You are now another step further into your journey to becoming a full-fledged superfan of soccer (or football as the purists call it).

Knowing about the technical side of the sport can also be quite fun, in a sporty, nerdy kind of way. Or, at least for us anyways!

For more tips, advice and rule-fact checks, visit more soccer articles or subscribe to our newsletter!

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      Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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