Why Do Americans Call Football Soccer?

Is it possible for one game to have so many names? Is soccer any different than the football the rest of the world knows? If not, why do Americans call football soccer?

Football is an ancient game which, as most people know, originated in England. But did you know that term soccer did too? If you are confused about why England called football soccer at first and why Americans now do so too, then continue reading. 

Whether it’s to know one more random fact, have something to be proud of as a Brit, or to simply know the truth, this article will provide you with all the information you need! We will answer the ever-asked question,Why is football called soccer?” while also guiding you through the roots of football and its development through the years. 

Short History of Football

Football, or Soccer as Americans call it, is one of the oldest sports in history. Its origins date back to 206 BC, or a variation of a game called Tsu’chü, which quite literally meant “kicking the ball.” Initially, soldiers played it as part of their supplementary training or as a physical endurance test. So, did China invent the soccer we know today? In short, no. However, Tsu’chü was the first game to implement the rule that forbids players from touching the ball with their hands.

Another interesting fact about this variation of football is that there was only one goal in the middle of the field, which the two opposing teams shared. After that, the goals consisted of a net attached to two bamboo poles elevated less than a meter in the air. This version contrasts with the modern goals we know, which are much larger and sit on the ground.

On the other hand, in England, football was initially known as a brutal game. It was called Folkball, and rival squads would play with the aim of placing the ball in a designated area, which was usually the captains’ houses. As a result, Folkball would often cause massive commotion through the towns that held the games, especially since there weren’t any set rules. Also, the players were so brutal that their well-being wasn’t considered, and the distance for scoring a point was so long that the matches often ended up with low scores. All these issues led to its eventual ban in the 14th century. 

So, where did football originate? The football we know today was thought out as an organized game in 1863 in England. After that, the desire for breeding uniformed leagues emerged, and the first Football Association (FA) Cup was played in 1872. By 1888, 128 teams were participating in this event.

The game became so popular that there were 12 official FA leagues worldwide, and seven of its members formed the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) in 1904 in France. By the first World Cup in 1930, the association had 40 members. Soon after, football became one of the most beloved sports in the world. 

The origin of soccer is still a new topic of discussion, and so is its name! While some people prefer to use the modern version of “kicking the ball,” which is football, others favour soccer. Are you interested in knowing how the name changed as the sport grew? Then stay tuned! 

So, Where Does the Word Soccer Come From?

Believe it or not, the origin of the word soccer is clear as day, and it surprisingly comes from England. The word soccer is a British invention that they stopped using about 30 years ago. How did this happen? Back in the early 1800s, many British universities adopted the game of football but started playing unique versions with their own modified rules. The games were categorized under different names to standardize variations of the sport across the country, so people knew what they were playing.

The etymology of soccer starts with a variant of football which was known as association football. At first glance, it’s puzzling because it seems that soccer and associated football have nothing in common. But after explaining how the term soccer was created, it’s much easier to understand. 

Back then, there was another variant of football called rugby football, and due to the ever-lasting trend of abbreviating words, rugby’s name was changed. The Brits loved this trend and thus, created many variations of football names. During that time, they were adding the suffix -er to almost everything. 

So, where did the word soccer come from? Or a better question is, who wants a name as long as association football? The Brits simply took the soc and added -er. Thus, the name of association football quickly changed to soccer. The same happened with rugby football which was then called rugger

These terms are over 200 years old but as languages continuously change, so do their words. As the sport spread across the globe, Americans invented their variant of the game, which they called football, until the 1900s. The most interesting thing is that Brits used the word soccer for a considerable part of the 20th century. In fact, soccer and football were used interchangeably in Britain for a long time.

After all this, “kicking the ball with foot” was just the more straightforward term. However, since it was kicked for over 3000 years, settling for one name became a problem, and soccer was not as clear as the actual football etymology. Who is right, and who is wrong? It doesn’t matter since the ones who invented the term and the sport didn’t even end up using it, and the others started borrowing the term for a variation that was known as football. When we talk about language, the discussion between American English versus British English will remain the world’s most argued debate, even more so than the football versus soccer dispute.

What Is the Origin of American Football?

American football history went through many different variations over the years. However, historians believe that the emergence of American football was ultimately tied to the creation of rugby. In the early developments of football, older American universities, like Harvard and Yale, developed a tradition of playing a version of football that was a cross between rugby and mob football. 

These games hardly had any clear rules, were chaotic, and were unorganized. Initially, a mass of students would compete on two opposing sides to possess the ball and win points with it. This sport resembled soccer but was much more violent. Eventually, some places ended up banning the game due to excessive violence. By now, we can see that association football and rugby are similar due to their matching levels of chaos and roughness.

As time passed, football evolved, and stricter rules were developed. These included limiting the number of players allowed on the field, changing the way the points were scored (through kicking the ball), inventing the touchdown, and so forth. 

By learning these facts about American football history, we can see why there was a hard time acknowledging the game, as it was still illegal regardless of the invention of their new rules. However, this did change in 1905 when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed and helped organize games around the country and established more formal rules, such as the concept of halftime.

Through this article, we can see that the origin of American football is not clear-cut and has varied through the years. However, we can conclude that the key influences were the Greco-Roman games, which left their mark in Europe. Even though Americans had a hard time shaping what became American football while trying to make it different from their European counterparts, it eventually led to successful professional teams and their version of football being named soccer.

After the rapid expansion of the sport in the early 20th century, countries around the globe named their versions of football. Today many different words represent the same thing; some are called Rugby Football, Australian Football, Futebol, Sepak Bola, etc.

Why Do Americans Call Football Soccer?

It’s not that Americans named football soccer; they most probably adopted the football etymology from the Brits who called it soccer first. Then, when the Brits gave up the term and started using it in reference to America’s version of the sport, the word gained popularity in America. Accordingly, the usage of soccer began to decline in British publications and became a synonym for association football. After this, soccer started to be a distinguisher for football in America, as the term American football was too long.

However, Brits never gave up the term soccer and the idea behind it. To this day, some fans insist that the term soccer shouldn’t be used as a distinguisher of American football since it is not. And although the rest of the world listened, America didn’t.

In Other Languages

Now, only an American can ask what soccer is called around the world because almost the rest of the world decided to call the game football. Isn’t the reason obvious? You are kicking a ball with your foot.

Many countries followed the same simple rule: translate foot and ball in their languages. Although the outcome doesn’t always match the meaning, what’s important is that whenever someone says football, everyone knows what it is. Many countries took the word football in its original form, and only a few stubborn ones call it by its old name. Here are some variations of the term football in different languages

  • Fodbold (Danish)
  • Fußball (German)
  • Calcio (Italian)
  • Futbol (Turkish)
  • Bóng đá (Vietnamese)
  • Pediludium (Latin)
  • Jalkapallo (Finnish)

Final Thoughts

The game’s rules have changed through the years, but no one can change the origin of the word soccer. It was and will remain a coinage of the soc, in association football, and the suffix -er

Nowadays, the British-born game has travelled to every country in the world. It has won many hearts, and even after all these years, it is still one of the most enjoyed pastimes everywhere you go. 

Regardless of why Americans call football soccer, the simple act of kicking the ball with your foot is famous worldwide, and the term football has settled down for sure. One thing that will remain undoubtedly true is that no one can change the name again for many generations to come. It is the simplest and yet one of the most beloved words around the globe!



Which country first played football?

What we would call football today was first played in England in the 12th century. Back then, games that resembled football were played on meadows or roads in England. However, the ball was also punched with your fists, not just your feet. Although, this type of football was much more violent and rougher than today’s modern game we know and love. 

Where did soccer originate?

The first game involving a team and a ball took place in old Mesoamerican cultures over 3000 years ago. Initially, it was played with a ball made of rock and called Tchatali by the Aztecs. Back then, similarly to modern times, people played different variations. 

The most notable difference was that previously, football was even played as a ritual. During this ritual, the ball would symbolize the sun, and at the end, the losing team’s captain was sacrificed to the gods. The uniqueness of Mesoamerican football is that their game included a bouncing ball made of rubber, which was not as accessible to other early cultures.

What countries call football soccer?

Surprisingly, not only Americans call the game football soccer. Many other countries also call it soccer, or some variations of the word. These countries include:

American Samoa, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Singapore,  South Africa, US Virgin Islands, and of course, the USA. 

Who came up with the word soccer?

The Brits coined the term soccer in the late 1800s as an abbreviation of association football, or the sport we now know as football/soccer. British footballer Charles Wrefrord-Brown was the first to use the word soccer and was credited for creating the slang abbreviation of association, soc, to which the famous Oxford suffix -er was added.

Why is soccer called the beautiful game?

Soccer has been dubbed the beautiful game because it requires a team effort, which teaches you to encourage and have faith in the rest of the players and people in general. Additionally, every player in the team is crucial. If 10 out of the 11 players are having a good game and one player is struggling, the whole team has to rally around that player. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to find common ground and leave differences behind. There was actually a temporary Christmas truce between the opposing sides during the First World War to play soccer. 

What is American football called in England?

Because Americans borrowed the British term football and used it to distinguish their own games, what’s called soccer in America is called American Football in England. As long as there is something to differentiate their game, American is more than enough.

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