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Why Does America Call Football Soccer?

Why Does America Call Football Soccer?

Many people exist in the world who don’t just watch soccer—they live soccer. Most of them are not Americans though and they feel like calling it soccer is a disrespect to the game. Perhaps, because soccer sounds like the American English word sucker.

During the World Cup, the United States and British national soccer teams aren’t always rivals. But in the real world, a rivalry has persisted between both countries for decades over what to call the globally enjoyed sports.

Americans believe in calling it soccer even when more than 80% of the world rather call it football. England who reinvented the game still calls it football to this day. 

Americans think differently about the game which we guess is why it is not very popular there like in other parts of the world.

Why Is Football Called Soccer In The USA?

American football is oftentimes mocked by soccer lovers outside America for being a bad copy of the original football. The word football by standard definition should mean steering a ball or a round soft object using the foot which is seldomly done in American football.

It seems like soccer lovers all over the world are angry at America for disrespecting their favorite sport even after changing its original name. As if that wasn’t enough damage, they replaced it with a sport that had little to do with the foot.

Let’s hope other non-American-football-fans around the world might bury the hatchet and extend a hand of friendship after getting to know the reasons why Americans call the game soccer.

Why does America call football soccer?

Before listing out some known reasons why Americans call football ‘soccer’, let’s take a little trip through time. Our trip will be based on a publication by Stefan Szymanski (a University of Michigan professor) which explained the true origin of both words football and soccer.

Stefan debunked the popular belief that the name “soccer” was invented by America. He claimed it was a British word until America imported it and made it theirs.

Stefan explained that as early as the Middle Ages, rough traces of soccer—a ball and foot game, was present in England. In October 1863, a dozen club leaders converged in Freemasons’ Tavern in London to decide rules for the game which was gaining traction. The meeting saw the birth of the Football Association.

US soccer: Will Americans ever care about football? - BBC News

In 1871, some other set of clubs had a meeting in London to form a version of the game which permits more use of the hands than legs.

This brought about a lot of controversy to the sport and led to the creation of Rugby Football from Association Football (named after Football Association).

This further led to the shortening of their original names. Rugby football became ‘rugger’ while Association football became ‘soccer’.

In the first era of the twentieth century, the colloquialism “soccer” found a home in the United States because Americans needed something to differentiate American football from Football itself, and calling the game soccer was the perfect option.

Highlights! England v Samoa, match day 1 of the World Rugby U20s

Britain in the first era of the twentieth century recognized the term Soccer although it wasn’t extensively used until after the Second World War. However, Britain started rejecting the term in the early 1980s as soccer started gaining attention in the United States.

Now coming back to the present, let’s take a brief look at some known reasons why America calls football soccer. 

1. America is not number one in football

An average American is continually obsessed with being the best at everything they do which is good.

Throughout the history of America, the nation has always pursued success in everything. It is the number one superpower in the world which didn’t occur by chance.

American culture always wants to be in charge of everything important. Soccer gained world prominence and America didn’t have a say in its leadership or grand operation. 

This led to a gradual decline in followership of the sport in the region over the years.

Sports are the most popular in US

The three most significant sports in the United States are Basketball, Baseball, and American Football which Americans have emerged the best. Americans wouldn’t want another sport to share the same name with one of their favorite sports so they had to stop calling it Football.

Soccer is a global sport with fantastic teams and players scattered all over the world. America has seen from the onset that soccer can’t be domesticated so it rather chose to shift attention and resources to other sports that can be ruled over. 

Perhaps, at the end of the day, everybody wants to be the best at things that matter.

2. Obsession with extremely big things

America is a country where people prefer extremely big things. People drive big cars, live in very big houses, eat very large portions of food, and generally, people are bigger in America. This behavior also reflects in their attitude towards sports.

basketball is a sport with a lot of points being scored

Taking a look at the three sports Americans love the most, they record very large scores. Take basketball, for example, the average score per team in the NBA is at least 97 points a game. The average runs in a game of baseball by a team during a game is about 9 points.

The American culture rates soccer low probably because the average goals scored per game hardly exceed five.

American football is also a sport with a lot of points being scored

In fact, during the USA 1994 World Cup, FIFA had to redesign the soccer ball to make it lighter so that scoring would become easier. 

This was done to increase the scoring rate of the tournament so that the American audience will not lose interest which will lead to a decline in revenue for the organization.

It is in human nature to give trivial names to a thing they are not obsessed about. This is another apparent reason why America calls the game soccer.

But soccer is a sport where only a few points are scored

3. Player’s height and weight

Another thing that turns Americans off about soccer is the weight and height of players. 

In a sport like Basketball, the average height and weight of players are 6.6 feet (2m) and 220 pounds. While the average height and weight of players in American football are 6.3 feet (1.92m) and 250 pounds.

The prototype players in all sports loved by Americans are big people compared to soccer players.

The average height of soccer players is 5.9 feet (1.79m) and 136 to 169 pounds. Soccer doesn’t require special physical features in order to compete effectively.

In fact, in soccer, the less weighty a player is, the more competitive advantage they have. 

Can NFL players play 'proper football'? - BBC Sport

Firstly, they can easily wriggle away from their opponent. Also, soccer is a fast-paced game and higher weight often impedes pace.

The tallest player in a soccer field is usually the goalkeeper whose average height is 6.2 feet (1.89m).  

At the 2018 World Cup, the tallest goalkeeper was Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois with a height of 6.5 feet (1.99m) far less than an average basketball player.

This is perhaps another reason why Americans call the game soccer because its players are not big enough to be called footballers.

 4. Not ideal for business or marketing

Another reason why football is referred to as soccer in America is that America is a highly capitalist economy. In America, corporations want to earn as much money as they possibly can.

Large TV networks in the United States earn most of their revenue from adverts placed when broadcasting sporting events.

This is why they prioritize ad-friendly sports like Basketball, American Football, and Baseball over soccer.

These sports take many breaks during gameplay which provides ample time for advertising while soccer has only half-time except on occasions of extra time.

Nike Basketball 2017-2018 NBA Commercial

Since American TV networks don’t show much association football, it is safe to say the only football Americans relate with is American Football and no other sport is worthy enough to be called football.  

5. Opportunity cost

When it comes to soccer and football, it appears Americans are simply applying the economic principle of opportunity cost. This simply means “the loss of potential gains from supplementary alternatives when an alternative is chosen”. 

In simple terms, Americans value money more than time.

They love maximizing the little leisure time they get and using two hours to watch a soccer game that would probably end in a tie doesn’t seem like a wise choice.

They would rather watch American Football where a game lasts for about 60 minutes split into two halves of 30 minutes and four quarters of 15 minutes and records an average game score of 48.4 points.

A game like that is what Americans prefer to give the name football instead of another sport that wastes their time and gets them angry in the end.

6. Excessive faking of injuries

soccer players usually have a fake injury

Americans are known for taking things too seriously—they like comedy but hate jokers. The tackles and roughness in American football are quite opposite to that of soccer. American Football players don’t feign injury like soccer players.

Soccer players like simulating fouls or injuries by rolling helplessly on the floor, lying motionless, and sometimes even resolve to shout.

The perfect example of faking injury was seen at the recently concluded Euros 2020. Italy’s Ciro Immobile was faking injury until a goal was scored and he jumped up to celebrate with his team.

Euro 2020 Best Actor - IMMOBILE, ITALY !!!

It is not surprising that soccer players have garnered a bad reputation—particularly among American fans. Americans see these things as immature actions which shouldn’t exist in an international sport.

In a culture that likes everything aggressive in a contact sport, calling soccer ‘football’ will be very difficult because it is nothing like American Football which has won the hearts of Americans.

Other question   

Is America the only country to call football soccer?

You must now be conversant with the fact that football is called soccer in America. However, do you know that apart from the US, some other parts of the world refer to football as soccer?

Let’s walk you through a list of countries/regions that refer to football as soccer:


Canada shares boundaries with the United States. Perchance, that’s how the name soccer managed to rub off on them. In Canada, Gridiron football is known as football while the original football is called soccer.

the original football is called soccer in Canada


The most followed sport in Australia is the “Australian Rules Football” or “Australian Football” in short. An estimate of 1.5 million Austrians and 25,000 clubs participate in this sport.

This is why they call it football there and call Association Football soccer. Its national team is called Socceroos (a portmanteau of soccer and kangaroo).

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Rugby remains the most popular sport. The word football has been used interchangeably with rugby for a very long time, even though Association Football known there as soccer is gradually gaining recognition.


Similar to Australian Football, Ireland also boasts of an indigenous football game known as Gaelic. Over 2,500 clubs participate in this game and many Irish people love it. This is why they call Gaelic ‘football’ and Association Football ‘soccer’.

Irish also use 'soccer'


The authorized organizing body for soccer in Japan is the “Japan Football Association”. Japan has many football clubs but that didn’t stop Association football from being referred to as soccer in Japan.

South Africa

Rugby or American Football was brought to South Africa in the late 19th century when it was under British Colony. It was only played by whites there until 1991 when the South African Soccer Association was established.

Rugby or football as it is popularly called played a crucial role in the history of South Africa. After the fall of apartheid, the Rugby Football Board oversaw the organization of matches between black and white South Africans. This helped to weaken the racial divide in the country.

It is not surprising that American Football is the most popular sport in the southern African nation followed by cricket and soccer. Perchance, the choice of calling it soccer there is to create a good demarcation from their favorite sport.

This African country call original football is 'soccer'

South Part of Philippines

Colonialism also influenced what people call association football in the diverse provinces of the Philippines. Being a former colony of the United States, people from southern parts of the country call association football soccer.

Papua New Guinea

The two most popular sports in Papua New Guinea are Australian Football and Rugby. Association football which is far less popular is called soccer.

What is soccer called in the USA?

While the British call the game football, Americans call it soccer. So, when you hear soccer in America, they are making reference to the round leather game involving eleven players on both sides.

The word soccer is often assumed to be Americanized. Although similar ball games to soccer have been around for centuries, the soccer we know today has evolved through centuries under different names.

American association football players adopted soccer as a suitable name for the sport because, before soccer started gaining awareness in the USA, American Football had already captured the hearts of Americans.

Did England call football soccer?

Surprisingly, the term “soccer” was invented in England in the late 1800s as another name for Association Football. It was picked as a way of differentiating association football from other popular variants of football. For that same reason, it became the preferred term for association football in America.

'Football' vs 'Soccer' – WHY the war of words?

For many years in England, people interchangeably used “football” and “soccer”. Football was more prominent than soccer until after World War II. As the sport picked up fame in the States in the early 1980s, British fans stopped calling it soccer to distinguish themselves from Americans.


There are other countries where football is called soccer although the USA remains the most prominent user of the term to date. From what we learned, the term was either inherited from colonial masters or used as a replacement for a more prominent football variant in a country.

It’s not only Americans that have special names for football. In Indonesia it is called “Sepak Bola”, Italians call it “Calcio”, while some Balkan countries refer to it as “Nogomet”.

Regardless of what different countries call it. Soccer is arguably the sport with the largest number of fans across the globe.