Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

Why Americans Call Football ‘Soccer’

Why do Americans Call Football Soccer

For an American fan of the game we know as Association Football, it is perfectly normal to refer to the game as ‘soccer’. However, for English football fans, hearing that word is something akin to sacrilege. In this article, we will explore the origins of the term ‘soccer’ and why Americans use it.

American Football, Rugger, and Soccer

One of the main reasons why football needed a new name when it crossed the Atlantic was the existence of other games known by the same name. While association football was actually played in America before the sport known as American Football, the latter became significantly more popular in the United States. As a result, the game took on the name ‘football’, necessitating a different name for the English variant. Ironically, despite British people disliking the use of the word ‘soccer’, it actually originated in the United Kingdom.

In England, two games were played with the name ‘football’ in their title. The game we now know as football developed from rugby football, with different associations playing similar but distinct rules. To avoid confusion, rugby football started being called ‘rugger’, and association football became ‘soccer’, derived from the word ‘association’.

Why Do Americans Use Soccer?

American Soccer Football Fans

Virtually every other country refers to football as ‘football’ in their respective languages. The use of ‘soccer’ is predominantly limited to countries that use Americanized English. So why does this discrepancy exist? The answer lies in popularity.

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As American Football gained popularity in the United States, calling it ‘American Football’ didn’t make sense since it was the country’s primary sport. Additionally, the term ‘gridiron’ was not as clear in describing the game. Therefore, ‘soccer’ became a suitable alternative.

Other Names for Football

It’s not just Americans who refer to the game as something other than ‘football’. The Italians call it ‘calcio’, derived from the word ‘calciare’, meaning ‘to kick’. In South Africa, the word ‘soccer’ is interchangeable with ‘sokker’. In Japan, they use both ‘sakkä’ and ‘futtobōru’, meaning soccer and football, respectively.

Interestingly, the British regularly used the term ‘soccer’ throughout the 20th century. It was interchangeable with ‘football’ between the 1960s and 1980s. However, its usage has declined since it became more prevalent in America, particularly during the peak of the North American Soccer League in the 1980s.

When Did Soccer Become an ‘Americanism’?

The more the term ‘soccer’ was used in the United States, the less the British were inclined to embrace it. Whether due to snobbery or arrogance, the British, particularly the English, no longer enjoy using the word. It has become almost distasteful in the UK, and those who use it often face mockery. However, it’s worth noting that the term was actually invented by the English. ‘Assoc’, a short-form of ‘association football’, eventually became ‘soccer’. So, if you face criticism from a UK native for using ‘soccer’, remember to enlighten them about its English origins.


Q: Why do Americans call football ‘soccer’?
A: Americans use the term ‘soccer’ to differentiate the game from American Football, which is their primary sport. The popularity of American Football led to the naming distinction.

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Q: Do other countries use the term ‘soccer’?
A: Some countries, such as Italy, South Africa, and Japan, have alternative names for football. The word ‘soccer’ is primarily used in countries that have adopted Americanized English.

Q: Is it true that the British dislike the term ‘soccer’?
A: Yes, many British people do not appreciate the term ‘soccer’ and prefer to use ‘football’ instead. The British invented the term ‘soccer’, but it has now become associated with American usage.


Although the term ‘soccer’ has become synonymous with American usage, it originated in the United Kingdom. The English variant of football needed a distinct name due to conflicts with American Football. While the term may not be popular in the UK, its use highlights the cultural and linguistic diversity associated with the world’s most popular sport. To learn more about football and other interesting topics, visit Movin993.