What is Soccer?
Soccer is a sport played with a ball on a grass field, with 11 players on each side playing during the game. The players move the ball around the field by kicking it and points are awarded for getting the ball into the opponent’s goal. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Soccer is more widely known around the world as football. It is sometimes called association football to distinguish it from gridiron football (American football).
When Was Soccer Invented?
Games involving kicking a ball into a goal have been around for centuries. However, soccer as we know it today was not developed until the 19th century.
Who Invented Soccer?
Soccer’s invention is not attributed to one specific person. It originated in England in medieval times as mob football, but was later modified in 19th-century British schools. The new rules developed around this time created modern soccer as we know it today.
The History of Soccer
Games that involved kicking a ball into a goal have been played in many parts of the world for centuries.
Sports similar to soccer have been associated with ancient Chinese, Greek, and Roman civilizations. The team sport aspect is closely associated with early soccer-like games played in Mesoamerica where it was an important part of Aztec, Maya, and Veracruz cultures.
Though these games resemble modern soccer in several ways, they are not connected to the development of the sport as it is played today. Modern soccer originated in England when it was adapted from a medieval sport. Known then as mob football, the game involved teams trying to get an inflated pig’s bladder from one end of town to the other. The ball (and opposing players) could be punched and kicked, leading to a very chaotic and brutal game.
Mob football continued to be played for several centuries. Beginning in the 19th century, however, English schools began modifying the rules of the game to make it more civilized. New guidelines called the Cambridge Rules were adopted by the football teams at Eton, Shrewsbury, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester in an effort to make the rules more consistent.
The formation of the Football Association (FA) in 1863 signaled the beginning of soccer as it is played today. The FA made a few significant changes from the Cambridge Rules, which still allowed players to pick up and run with the ball and to trip and hold onto opponents. When these rules were eliminated, modern soccer was born.
Soccer Around the World
Many schools and soccer clubs aligned their games to follow the new FA rules. On December 19, 1863, the first soccer match was played at Mortlake, London. The game ended in a 0-0 draw between Barnes Football Club and Richmond Football Club. Soccer’s oldest annual competition, the FA Cup, was first held in 1872.
In 1888, the English Football League (EFL) was formed. The 12 best professional clubs were invited to join. The league expanded in the following years, eventually forming four divisions of play. As of 1992, the top level of the EFL system includes 20 teams and is called the Premier League. Today, the EFL includes 72 clubs in total.
The FA’s rules spread to other countries, many which had already been playing some form of soccer, including the United States and Canada. International football continued to grow rapidly, and in 1900, men’s soccer was included in the summer Olympics.
In order to better facilitate international competition, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was formed on May 21, 1904. The following soccer associations were the original members of FIFA:
- France: Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA)
- Belgium: Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports (UBSSA)
- Switzerland: Association Suisse de Football (ASF)
- Denmark: Dansk Boldspil Union (DBU)
- Netherlands: Nederlandsche Voetbal Bond (NVB)
- Sweden: Svenska Bollspells Förbundet (SBF)
- Spain: Madrid Football Club
Soccer was temporarily dropped from the Olympics in 1932. As a result, FIFA organized an alternative international tournament, and the inaugural World Cup was held in 1930. Uruguay beat Argentina in the final 4-2 that year. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was introduced in 1991, with the USA beating Norway in the final 2-1.
The Origin of the Name “Soccer”
When the FA established their universal rules, some teams left the association. They went on to form the Rugby Football Union that kept in some of the rules that the FA had eliminated from the game, such as running with the ball in hand.
The Football Association’s game began to be known as “association football.” British players would often shorten this to “assoc.” An -er ending was often used for nicknames by the British, so this term eventually became “assoccer” and then, finally, “soccer.” This new name also helped players to differentiate the game from rugby football, which was often called “rugger.”
During the 20th century, football became the more common term for the game in most parts of the world. However, soccer continued to be used in countries where another type of football had already become quite popular, including Australia and the United States.
The Basic Rules & Gameplay of Soccer
What Is the Objective of Soccer?
The objective of the game of soccer is to score points by getting the ball into the opponent’s goal. Players are permitted to deliberately touch the ball with any part of their body except the hands and arms, with the exception of the goalkeeper. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
What Are the Basic Rules of Soccer?
- Team size – Each team has 11 players on the field at a time. Substitutions are permitted only when there is a stoppage in play. Professional leagues typically limit each team to three substitutions.
- Game periods – Soccer is played in two halves lasting 45 minutes each for a total of 90 minutes.
- Stoppage time: The clock doesn’t stop once it has been started. Instead, the referee will decide how much stoppage time to add to the end of the half, if necessary.
- Overtime: If the score is still tied at the end of the two halves, the game may be counted as a tie. In knock-out rounds of competition, however, the game goes into overtime with two additional 15-minute halves which are played in their entirety (not sudden death).
- Shootouts: If the game is still tied after overtime, the game goes into a shootout. Each team completes five shots from the penalty spot, and no player may shoot more than once. If the score is still tied, the shootout goes into sudden death.
- Kick-Offs: Each half starts with a kick-off. The ball must be kicked forward over the halfway line by the team kicking off, and the player kicking off may only touch the ball once before another player touches it.
- All players must stay on their team’s half of the field until the ball is kicked, and the team that is not kicking off may not enter the center circle.
- One team gets the kick-off at the start of the first half (decided by a coin flip), and the other team gets the kick-off at the start of the second half.
- Kick-offs also take place after each goal, with the team that was just scored on taking the kick.
- Scoring – Players score one point if they get the ball into the opponent’s goal. The ball must completely cross the goal line at the front of the goal in order to count as a point.
- Out of bounds: When the ball goes out of bounds, it is played in one of three ways:
- Throw-in: When a player is responsible for playing the ball out of bounds over the touchlines, the opposing team throws the ball back onto the field. They must have both hands on the ball, both feet on the ground, and throw the ball from over their head.
- Goal kick: The goalie takes a kick from anywhere within the 6-yard box when the offensive team plays it out of bounds over the goal line.
- Corner kick: The offensive team kicks the ball from the corner area when the defensive team plays it out of bounds over the goal line.
- Offside – A player is offside if they move past the last of the opposing team’s players (not including the goalkeeper) before the ball is kicked. The offside rule does not apply on throw-ins, corner kicks, or goal kicks.
- Fouls – When a player violates the rules of the game, they receive a penalty from the referee. Some common fouls in soccer include:
- Kicking, tripping, holding, tackling, or otherwise illegally contacting an opponent
- Handling the ball deliberately
- Playing in a dangerous manner
- Obstruction (impeding the progress of an opponent)
- Unsporting behavior
- Violent conduct
- Penalties – There a few types of penalties that referees may call for depending on what type of foul occurred:
- Free kick: The opposing team takes a free kick from the spot where the foul occurred. A free kick is either a direct kick (can be shot directly into the goal) or an indirect kick (must touch another player before entering the goal) depending on what foul occurred.
- Penalty kick: The opposing team gets a free kick from the penalty spot if a foul takes place inside a team’s penalty area.
- Yellow card: A player who commits certain serious offenses gets a yellow card as a caution or warning.
- Red card: A player who commits a very serious offense or who receives a second yellow card in the same match gets a red card, which sends them off the field for the rest of the game.
- Officiating – A team of officials presides over the game. Most soccer games have three officials:
- 1 referee: The referee stays on the field during the game and moves with the play. They keep track of time and call penalties.
- 2 line judges: A line judge is placed along each touch line. They move up and down the field with the play to call offsides and determine out-of-bounds calls.
The Roster of a Soccer Team
Each team has 11 players on the field at a time in the following positions:
- Forwards: Also called strikers, these players attack the opponent’s goal and try to score. They typically have the best ball-handling skills.
- Midfielders: These players are involved in both offensive and defensive plays. They help connect the defenders and forwards and are skilled at passing.
- Defenders: These players help to protect the team’s goal by stopping the other team’s offensive players. They cut off passes, block shots, and send the ball up the field to their teammates.
- Goalkeeper: Also known as the goalie or the keeper, this player tries to block the ball from entering the goal. They are the only player on the team permitted to use their hands. When the bass is deliberately passed back to the goalie, however, they many only touch the ball with their feet.
Soccer formations vary widely and are expressed in terms of numbers, starting with the number of defenders, then midfielders, then forwards. Some examples of common soccer formations include:
- 4-4-2: 4 defenders, 4 midfielders, 2 forwards
- 4-3-3: 4 defenders, 3 midfielders, 3 forwards
- 3-4-3: 3 defenders, 4 midfielders, 3 forwards
- 3-5-2: 3 defenders, 5 midfielders, 2 forwards
The Basic Equipment in Soccer
The essential equipment for soccer includes:
- Ball: A standard soccer ball is 27-28 inches in circumference and weighs 14-16 ounces.
- Shin guards: These are hard protective guards worn over the shins to prevent injury.
- Soccer cleats: These cleats are lightweight and do not feature a toe spike.
- Uniform: The standard uniform includes a short-sleeved jersey, shorts, and tall socks.
Soccer is played on a rectangular grass or turf field with two shorter goal lines and two long touch lines. The dimensions of the field are flexible, with the goal lines measuring anywhere from 50 to 100 yards and touch lines measuring 100 to 130 yards.
The field is separated by a halfway line, which extends across the center from the touchlines. At the middle of the halfway line is the kickoff location, which is surrounded by a center circle with a 10-yard radius. A small rounded arc with a radius of 1 yard is featured in each corner of the field for corner kicks.
And each end of the field, there is a goal measuring 8 yards across and 8 feet high. The goal box measures 6 yards from each goal post and 6 yards onto the field. The penalty area is marked by another box measuring 18 yards from each goal post and 18 yards onto the field. The penalty spot is located 12 yards from the center of the goal. An arc with a radius of 10 yards from the penalty spot is drawn on the outside of the 18-yard box.