Difference between Soccer and Football

Simon Wright

Okay, let’s start with defining what we mean by the terms soccer’ and football’. Soccer is fairly straightforward as it is the sport of Association Football. Soccer is known, however, throughout most of the world simply as football. For the purposes of this article, however, we will use the term soccer to differentiate it from its American cousin, American Football.

In fact, if we’re to use family terminology to describe the relationship between soccer and American football, then grandfather/grandchild would be more appropriate. The sport that was to become soccer was born’ in 1848, which is when the first formal set of rules were drawn up. A breakaway group then created a separate sport (where handling the ball was allowed) and this would become known as rugby. In turn, rugby would cross the Atlantic and spawn the creation of the sport of Gridiron or American football.

The most obvious difference that a sports fan will discern between soccer and American football is that soccer is played mainly by kicking the ball and it is only the goalkeeper who can handle the ball. American football, in contrast, is played by throwing the ball. Here, though, is a list of the main differences (and similarities) between the two sports:

Soccer balls are round. American football uses an oval-shaped ball; Soccer is played by kicking the ball whereas American football involves throwing the ball; a goal is scored in soccer by putting the ball into a net that is made up of two posts and a crossbar; a touch down is scored in American football by touching the ball down over a touch-line. Both soccer and American football have eleven players per side.

Soccer is played over 90 minutes and is split into two halves; American football is played over just 60 minutes that are split into four quarters. Time outs are allowed in American football but not in soccer

Soccer matches can end in a draw/tie. However, in some cup competitions, 30 minutes of extra time are played to try to determine a winner and a penalty shoot-out may result if teams still can’t be separated.

American football matches are decided by 15 minutes overtime if they are tied after normal time.

American footballers wear extensive body armour. Soccer players don’t although they must wear shin pads. Pre-planned moves are more prevalent in American football than in soccer.

Soccer matches are usually played on grass pitches although occasionally they are played on artificial pitches. In contrast, American football matches tend to be played on artificial pitches.

There is also a big difference in terms of international popularity and distribution. Soccer is the dominant team sport across South America, Africa, Europe, and large tracts of Asia. American football is dominant in North America. One of the reasons why soccer is more popular in world terms is that it is played competitively at international level. There is a World Cup which takes place every four years and that has played a huge role in spreading the soccer gospel. American Football has its World Series but it’s a misnomer as it just involves North American club teams.

Another reason why soccer is so prevalent across the globe is that you don’t need much equipment to play it. As long as you have a ball, then you can use jumpers for goalposts and play. American football is more physical and therefore protective equipment is required which makes it less suited for young children and less accessible to people in poorer countries.

Soccer is principally a sport that is dominated at professional level by men. However, female professional leagues have started to appear. As far as I’m aware, American football has not obtained the same level of participation from women.

Hopefully this article has demonstrated that the sports of soccer and American football are worlds apart. Indeed, American football is much more akin to the sports of Rugby Union or Rugby League, which is not surprising since it was from that branch of football’ that American football evolved from.

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