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Is it football or soccer? Name of the game explained

15:24 EAT 04/12/2022
Jack Grealish England USMNT 'It's Called Soccer' banner Christian Pulisic World Cup 2022
The 2022 World Cup saw American fans taunt their English counterparts over the name of the sport, but which is right?

Is it 'football' or 'soccer'?

For many years, there has been a geographical divide over which name is right. British fans almost ubiquitously agree that the correct term is 'football'. Whereas the majority of US fans would argue 'soccer' is its real name.

So what is it? GOAL takes a look at the origin of the linguistic divide and more.

Football or soccer - which is right?

Technically, the words football and soccer are both correct. They describe the same sport which was codified by the Football Association in 1863 and the words can be considered synonyms.

The word 'soccer' is actually a British export, which was used for many years before the globalisation of football.

However, despite this fact, many English fans completely reject the term 'soccer' and insist that the game should simply be called 'football', while the reverse is true for many American fans.

Indeed, the linguistic divergence was the subject of a light-hearted commercial for the 2022 World Cup featuring David Beckham and Peyton Maning, with USMNT fans singing "It's Called Soccer" at the tournament too.

What is the meaning of the word soccer?

Throughout the 1800s, the game that would eventually evolve to into modern-day 'football' had many different variations.

  • Around 1863, when the Football Association was first established, their official variant became 'association football'.
  • A similar version of the same sport, 'Rugby football', was shortened to 'rugby' around this time.
  • Meanwhile, 'Association football' was shortened to 'soccer' to further distinguish itself as a stand-alone sport.
  • The term also comes from a slang abbreviation of the word 'association', which was adapted to: 'assoc,' 'assoccer' and then 'soccer'

When did the word 'soccer' die out in the UK?

'Soccer' was used regularly by fans in the United Kingdom for large chunk of the 20th century. It was a phrase that was used interchangeably alongside 'football' and there was no great debate over which one was 'correct'.

By the 1980s, the use of the word 'soccer' had declined massively in publications and wider culture.

Which other nations say 'soccer'?

The word 'soccer' is common in the U.S. and in the following countries:

  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • South Africa

Generally, the term is used where there is another more popular national sport which shares the name 'football'.