Is It Soccer or is It Football?

An age-old argument exists between whether the sport involving kicking a ball into a net to score points is called soccer or football. Essentially, every country aside from the United States, Ireland, Canada, and Australia calls the game football. However, its the British who are at fault for this difference.

The sport’s official name, associated football, derives both nicknames in fact. Soccer can be derived from ‘associated’ and football is derived from the second term. Rugby (rugby rootball), too, was called rugger around 200 years ago, when soccer was colloquialized also (adding -er must have been a trend). Over time, the British had ditched the word ‘soccer’ for football because the word was too American by the 1980s.

Americans adopted the term soccer to distinguish from football. To understand why American football is called such, examine the game of rugby. Rugby spread as fast as the British Empire in the last few centuries, but the rules of the game were interpreted differently in various parts of the world. It was a Reconstruction-era game between Harvard and Yale which birthed American Football. The original founders decided to adopt the name ‘football’ from ‘rugby football’ since ‘soccer’ was not entirely widespread in the U.S. at the time. Also, at this time, the British still called the game ‘soccer’ too. Essentially, a form of modern-day rugby was adopted by the Americans in the 19th century, and instead of conforming to English tradition, the Americans grew this new flavor of rugby into a Sunday favorite in American autumns.

Both terms, soccer and football, are derived from association football.’ Additionally, it is the British who coined both terms. The logical term, football, caught up to the British in the 1980s, at a time when the United States could not feasibly change their name for soccer due to the rise of the American varient of rugby (football).  It is very unlikely that the U.S. will refer to soccer as football anytime soon, since American football does not have any other word it can be referred to as and rugby has uniform rules worldwide now. The only potential change left to see is the growth of soccer in the United States and possible growth of American football in other nations.


Thanks to Rules of Sports and Emily Thomas’ piece in the Huffington Post for helping with my research for this piece!

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