Why is a soccer field called a pitch? A pitch simply refers to the playing field. It actually came from playing soccer on cricket fields, which they play on a “pitch”.
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. And, for baseball fans, you probably have heard ‘pitch’ in the sport but not in soccer.
Key Takeaways From This Article:
- A soccer field is often referred to as a ‘soccer pitch’ in the U.K.
- The word ‘pitch’ came from the sport of cricket which they called “pitch the stumps”.
- Soccer pitches come in different sizes, playing surfaces, and purposes.
If you are curious as to why soccer fields are called pitch, this article will provide you with a thorough explanation!
What is a Pitch in Soccer?
When you hear someone refer to a soccer field as a pitch, they are simply using a different term for the same thing. A pitch is the official term for a soccer field, used primarily in the United Kingdom and other countries that have a strong soccer culture.
In the U.S., the ‘soccer pitch’ is usually referred to as the ‘soccer field’.
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”.
Soccer Field vs. Pitch
Unlike other sports, soccer has specific requirements for the playing surface. The pitch must be rectangular and made of natural or artificial grass. The length of the pitch must be between 100-130 yards, and the width must be between 50-100 yards.
Some people refer to a soccer field to any area where soccer is played, regardless of the surface or size. For example, a soccer field can be indoors, on concrete, or even on the beach. It can be any shape or size, and there are no specific requirements for the playing surface.
When it comes to professional soccer in England, the term “pitch” is always used instead of “field.” This is because professional soccer games must be played on a specific playing surface that meets certain requirements. The use of the term “pitch” emphasizes the importance of the playing surface in the game of soccer.
In summary, while the terms “soccer field” and “pitch” are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two. A soccer field can refer to any area where soccer is played, while a pitch refers specifically to the playing surface of a professional soccer game.
Official Dimensions of a 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.
Pitch Markings and Their Significance
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 professionally scheduled match.
In the case of youth soccer, many of the fields are now turf and markings are somewhat permanent and can last many years.
The center circle is located at the center of the pitch and has a radius of 10 yards. This circle is where the kickoff takes place at the beginning of the game, after halftime, and after a goal is scored. The opposing team must remain outside the center circle until the ball is in play.
The penalty area is a rectangular box located at each end of the pitch. It has two parts: the penalty box and the goal area. The penalty box measures 44 yards wide and 18 yards long and is where the goalkeeper can handle the ball.
If a foul occurs in the penalty box, the opposing team is awarded a penalty kick.
The corner arc is a quarter-circle with a radius of 1 yard located at each corner of the pitch. This arc marks the area where corner kicks are taken. The ball must be placed inside the arc before the kick is taken.
Touchlines and Goal Lines
The touchlines run along the length of the pitch, while the goal lines run along the width. The ball is considered out of play when it crosses these lines. If the entire ball crosses the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar, a goal is awarded.
The halfway line divides the pitch into two halves and is located at the center of the pitch. At the beginning of the game, the ball must be kicked forward from the center circle and must cross the halfway line before it can be touched by another player.
Types of Soccer Pitches & Fields
Soccer pitches come in different sizes and shapes. Here are some common types of soccer pitches:
A full-size pitch is the largest soccer pitch and measures 100-130 yards in length and 50-100 yards in width. It is used for professional and international matches.
A 5-a-side pitch is a smaller version of a full-size pitch and is used for small-sided games. It measures 40-50 yards in length and 30-40 yards in width. It is commonly used for recreational games and indoor soccer.
A 7-a-side pitch is slightly larger than a 5-a-side pitch and measures 60-70 yards in length and 40-50 yards in width. It is used for small-sided games and is popular for youth soccer.
A futsal pitch is a hard court surface that is smaller than a standard soccer pitch. It measures 25-42 meters in length and 16-25 meters in width. Futsal is a fast-paced indoor soccer game that is played with a smaller, heavier ball.
Beach Soccer Pitch
Beach soccer is played on the sand in a casual or regulated setting. The dimensions of a beach soccer pitch are not regulated, but it is typically smaller than a full-size pitch.
Is a Soccer Pitch Grass?
In some professional leagues, the field needs to be natural grass. It also 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, some 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.
Maintenance and Quality of a Soccer Pitch
Maintaining a soccer pitch is crucial to ensure that it remains safe and playable for the players. Here are some things to keep in mind to maintain the quality of your soccer pitch:
Mowing the grass is essential to ensure that the pitch is even and free from any obstacles. It is recommended to mow the grass at least once a week during the growing season. The ideal length of the grass is about one inch, as it provides a good playing surface for the players.
Watering the grass is important to keep it healthy and prevent it from drying out. The frequency of watering depends on the weather and the type of soil. It is recommended to water the pitch early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid evaporation.
In England, each professional field that we toured had been watered and the artificial light beaming down on it.
Fertilizing the grass helps to promote healthy growth and keep it looking green. It is recommended to fertilize the pitch at least three times a year, preferably in the spring, summer, and autumn.
Aerating the pitch involves creating small holes in the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deep into the ground. This helps to promote healthy root growth and prevent the soil from becoming compacted. It is recommended to aerate the pitch at least once a year, preferably in the autumn.
Line marking is essential to ensure that the pitch is properly marked for the players. It is recommended to use high-quality paint that is durable and weather-resistant. The lines should be straight and clearly visible to avoid any confusion during the game.
We were lucky to tour some professional pitches in England. After visiting the stadiums of Man U, Wolves, and Liverpool, it’s clear that these teams invest a lot of time, effort, and money into their football pitches.
Impact of the Pitch on the Game
The pitch is an essential component of soccer, and it has a considerable impact on the game. Here are some ways in which the pitch affects the game:
1. Size and Dimensions
The size and dimensions of the pitch can significantly impact the flow and style of play. A larger pitch can lead to more running and passing, while a smaller pitch can encourage a more direct, physical style of play.
The dimensions of the pitch also impact the number of players that can be on the field, which can affect team strategy and formations.
The surface of the pitch can also impact the game. A well-maintained grass pitch can provide a smooth and consistent playing surface, while a dry or bumpy pitch can make it difficult for players to control the ball.
Artificial turf pitches provide a consistent surface but can be harder on the players’ joints and lead to different playing styles.
The weather can also impact the game on the pitch. Rain can make the surface slippery and impact the ball’s movement, while wind can affect the trajectory of the ball.
Extreme heat or cold can also impact player performance and endurance.
Soccer Pitches in America
Many club soccer fields and professional stadiums in North America are artificial turf. At this point, many high-level soccer players are used to the fast pace of the ball on these surface areas.
The playing style is different when you compare natural grass versus turf fields. The game tends to be faster which suits well for attacking players.
I get why many fields are turf. It’s low maintenance and you don’t need the overhead of a landscaper and materials.
But, it also doesn’t have the same give as grass fields. For example, my son has a wicked turf burn. It continues to open up as he scrapes it against the turf. And, I’ve also seen other players who get their cleat stuck on the turf and twist their leg the wrong way which lead to serious injuries. I really don’t think these things would happen on a grass field.
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 anyway!
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Frequently Asked Questions
The term pitch refers to the playing field of soccer matches. It came from playing soccer on cricket fields, which they play on a “pitch”.
Most soccer fans around the globe have continued to use the term ‘pitch’. Soccer fans in the U.S. typically call it ‘field’.
The dimensions of a soccer pitch are determined by the Laws of the Game set by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). The length of a soccer pitch must be between 100-130 yards, and the width must be between 50-100 yards.