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Soccer vs. Football: Why Are They Called that Way?

Football is the most popular sport in the world, but in the U.S. that term is used to refer to another, quite different game, that is to the one that they call soccer. This distinction has sparked many debates, as linguists and sports professionals discuss the true origin of this word and why is it used to name the same sport instead of the more popular one.


A little history

The origin of both terms goes back to England, where “football” was used for the first time in 1486. Later the sport broke off into two different lines: Rugby Football or rugger, and Association Football or soccer. In those days, there were a lot of similarities between them.

Rugby gained popularity in the U.S., and in 1869, the first American Football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton University. The game was evolving, and its rules and method were changing, already becoming the one that is played and known nowadays.

Meanwhile, soccer and football were being used In England to make a distinction among social classes. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the upper class was playing soccer and the lower class football, which made the sport popular in all the British Empire. Soccer was the term most widely used to name the game. At the same time, in America, both terms were well known, as a way to separate American Football from its British counterpart.

The use of the term soccer started its decline in England around the year 1980. There are several stories that explain what happened, but they have not been confirmed. That same year, soccer practice started to disappear in America, while football was gaining more popularity. Today, football is the term used to refer in a general way to the different variations of the game around the world: American football, rugby football, association football, Gaelic football, and Australian Rules Football, among others.


Similarities and differences between Soccer and American Football


American Football



It is a game of intense physical aggression; its players are strong and powerful. The objective is scoring points passing the ball beyond the opponent touchline, which is called a touchdown.

It is a game of intense physical agility, especially running; its players are preferably slim and fast. The objective is to put the ball in the opponent’s goal. The team with more goals win.


100 yards long by 53 yards wide.

100 to 130 yards long and 50 to 100 yards wide.


Four quarters of fifteen minutes each, with a twelve-minute halftime after the second quarter. The game clock can be stopped between plays.

Ninety minutes divided into two halves of forty-five minutes each with a fifteen-minute halftime in between. The referee can add time at the end of each half for time wasted during the game.


11 inches from tip to tip, and the circumference at the center about 22 inches. The weight is about 14 to 15 oz.

It weighs between 14-16 ounces with a circumference of 27-28 inches.


Eleven players divided into: the offense, the defense, and the special units. The playmaker: quarterback.

Eleven players that play as a single unit. The playmaker: central midfielder.


  • Team jersey
  • Pants
  • Helmet
  • Shoulder/chest pad/protector
  • Upper leg padding
  • Mouthguard
  • Shoes
  • Gloves
  • Jersey/T-Shirt
  • Shorts
  • Socks and shin guards
  • Cleats or boots
  • Gloves for goalkeepers

Player substitutions


3 per game

League or Federation

National Football League

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA

Major tournament

NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl

FIFA World Cup

Current Champion

Philadelphia Eagles



While there are many ways to call these sports, the popularity that both have around the world is undeniable. Many fans practice them, and children dream of being one their the biggest players.

Differences between soccer and football
There are considerable differences between these game forms: the ball used, the equipment, the rules, and many others.

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