Soccer is easily the most popular sport in the world but Americans are not trapped in that euphoria just yet. That is why the rest of the world calls it ‘football’ while Americans call it ‘soccer’.
Association football and American football have glaring differences but share some sublime similarities. One of the most glaring similarities between soccer and American football is their large rectangular field and goalposts.
The comparison between association football and American football goes a long way—and continues today. In fact, the comparison is often so stiff that some fans have asked if it was possible to play soccer on a football field.
Those who argue in favor of playing soccer on a football field usually back their argument with street soccer. Street soccer is an informal form of soccer that is usually played in just any available space. Interestingly, big stars like Cristiano Ronaldo played street soccer at some point in his life.
So, if soccer can be played on the street, what stops using a football field to enjoy the game? What does the law say about the size of a soccer field? Since the names of both sports are often used interchangeably by non-Americans, why can’t their fields be used interchangeably too?
Whether soccer can be played on a football field or not, we will provide all the answers as well as do a close comparison of both sports.
Can soccer be played on a football field?
Professionally, the answer to this question without mincing words is no. You cannot play soccer on a football field and the reason is simply because of FIFA regulations. However, when playing soccer for entertainment, a football field is more than welcome.
The Law of the Game stipulates that a soccer field must have a definite dimension—a minimum of 90 m (100 yds) and a maximum of 120 m (130 yds) in length and a minimum of 45 m (50 yds) or a maximum of 90 m (100 yds) in width.
On the other hand, the standard size of an American football field is 120 yds in length and 53 and one-third yds in width. The actual playing length is 100 yds and the last 10 yds on both ends are called the end zones.
Another similarity that the soccer field shares with a football field is the nature of its surface. Both sports can be played on natural or synthetic turf.
While FIFA favors the use of natural turf in soccer, NFL fields are more likely to have artificial turf than natural turf. In soccer, artificial turf is used only when competition rules permit it.
In the 1800s, the dimensions of soccer fields could go as high as 100 yds by 200 yds. There were no defined boundaries like we have today. The only visible boundary demarcation was the corner flags.
However, that changed in 1882 when halfway lines and boundary lines were introduced. Five years later, the center circle became a standard too.
While the size of American football falls within the bracket recommended by FIFA, there are other factors that make it unsuitable for use in soccer. We are going to discuss some of those features in detail below.
1. Surface markings
One of the most glaring differences between soccer and American football can be found when you look at their markings. If you ever get confused about the purpose of a field, looking at the markings should be able to resolve this confusion.
Besides the border boundary measurement, there are various other markings in a soccer and football field. Below are the different markings on a football field and a soccer field.
Football field markings
- 2 end zones of 10 yds each
- 5 yds lines
- 1 yd long scrimmage line
- 1 yd hash marks
- Numerals in multiples of 10
Soccer field markings
- 2 penalty areas measuring 18 yds
- 2 goal areas within the penalty area measuring 6 yds
- 2 penalty marks 12 yds from the midpoint of the goalposts
- 4 corner arcs measuring 1 yd
- Halfway line
- A center circle
- A center spot
2. Goalposts dimensions
The goalposts in both soccer and football also have their similarities and differences. The two main similarities here are that the goalposts both consist of vertical and horizontal bars. They are also located at the center of the goal line.
Just like having a similar dimension is not enough, simply having a goalpost is not enough either. Below are the differences between a soccer and football field.
Soccer field goals
The vertical bars of a soccer field or goalposts are 8 yds (7.32 m apart (measuring from the inside of the bars). The goalposts are joined together by a horizontal bar (crossbar) at the top.
Also, the distance from the lower edge of the crossbar to the ground is 2.44 m. The width and depth of the goalposts and the crossbar must be identical and cannot exceed 12 cm (5 ins).
Soccer goalposts and crossbars must be white and can have a net attached to them and secured to the ground outside the field. When it comes to goals, these are some of the most striking differences between a soccer and football field.
Football field goals
The uprights or vertical bars of a football goal are 5.6 m apart and 10.7 m long. Obviously, this is a little bit narrower than soccer goals—but that is not all the difference that exists between them.
The crossbar is located 3 m above the ground rather than joining the uprights at the top like in soccer. This allows the uprights to extend by 7.7 m above the crossbar.
Also, the goals in a football do not have nets and are yellow in color rather than white as seen in soccer. Just like the goalposts are different in both sports, so are the scoring techniques.
To score in soccer a player will have to get the ball through the space between the vertical bars and below the crossbar. In football, points are scored by aiming the ball between the vertical bars but above the crossbar.
In summary, the difference between the soccer and football field can be found in these key areas;
- The goalposts
- Field markings
- The flexibility of length and width dimensions
Some high schools and colleges across the United States have fields that are specially designed to accommodate both soccer and football. This is possible because the football field is smaller in dimension which allows the designers to fit it into a soccer field.
This design allows the high schools and colleges to conserve space as well as maximize the meager funding available to them.
Is a soccer field and football field the same size?
Inasmuch as the dimensions of a soccer and football field are close, a soccer field is clearly wider. While the FIFA recommended width of a soccer field is 70 yds minimum and 80 yds maximum for international fields, football maintains a uniform width of 53 and one-third yds.
Therefore, while soccer has a playing area of about 9,000 sq. yds, play in football is usually restricted to 5,400 sq. yds—but this is when comparing international standards.
Nevertheless, when you hear someone saying that a football field is bigger than a soccer field, don’t laugh at them thinking they are wrong because they might just end up getting the last laugh. Considering the fact that a soccer field can have variable sizes, they may be right.
Soccer can be played on a field measuring 100 yds in length and 50 yds in width according to the least acceptable FIFA regulation. This leaves you with a playing area of 5,000 sq. yds.
What this means is that a football field is technically bigger than the smallest acceptable soccer field. Therefore, when comparing the two different fields, it is always important to clearly define your criteria for comparison.
Can futsal be played on a football field?
The international standard futsal court will measure 40 m by 20 m which is identical to the size of the handball field. However, the length can vary from 25 by 16 m (minimum) and 42 m by 25 m (maximum).
Futsal is played mostly indoors on a hard court surface. While there is no harm in playing futsal outdoors on a football field, the artificial grass surface of the football field will slow down the pace of the game.
Nevertheless, the miniature nature of the game allows it to fit comfortably on a football field. All you will need are movable posts and temporary markings and you are good to go.
Can you play beach soccer on a football field?
The field dimension of beach soccer (35 to 37 m in length and 26 to 28 m in width) makes it possible to fit beach soccer into a football field.
However, beach soccer is quite unique and different from all other forms of soccer which can make it possible to play this type of soccer anywhere other than the designated field for it.
Basically, it is played on sand and the sand must cover the pitch to a minimum depth of 40 cm. Getting that much sand on a football field will definitely ruin the artificial grass.
If you somehow manage to pull this off, there is nothing stopping you from playing beach soccer on a football field because the rest of the accessories needed for the game can be easily fitted on the pitch.
Can you play indoor soccer on a football field?
The shape of an indoor soccer field can vary from oblong to rectangular. It is usually played on an artificial turf measuring 61 m by 26 m (which is also the standard size of a hockey rink in North America).
Considering the fact that the field size can fit into a football field and that many collegiate intramural leagues play the game on a basketball court with a hardwood surface, you can also decide to take the game onto a football field that has a similar surface to the original field.
Obviously, besides beach soccer, it is possible to play all other soccer variations on a football field. In this case, the major modification that you will have to do will be carving out the markings of the corresponding soccer you want to play using temporary markers.
Also, you will need to introduce movable goalposts that are of the size of the soccer variation that you want to play.
However, when playing the games for fun, you may not have a need for all that stress. A field, a ball, and a team to play with are just enough.
Since Americans regard soccer differently from the rest of the world, a lot of soccer fans have often wondered if an MLS field is smaller than FIFA recommended size. Well, the simple answer is they are not smaller.
The size of most MLS fields is 110 yds by 70 yds, which falls within the FIFA recommended size. Ideally, the dimension of soccer fields around the world is closely related (mostly 115 yds by 75 yds or 115 yds by 74 yds) so that players will not need major adjustments regardless of the field they are playing.
Considering the fact that soccer players are always moving from one club or country to another, this is an ingenious idea or most soccer players will be largely ineffective in their first few weeks or months of moving to a new club or country.
Coming back to our big question, you can enjoy soccer on any field or space as long as you are playing for fun. However, whenever the game turns competitive, you must abide by the Laws of the Game.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!