In many parts of the world, football and soccer are the same sport- the world-famous round-leather game featuring two teams of 11 players on each side.
However, the term “football” is a little bit more complicated than that.
The sport described above is more officially known as “Association Football”, while there exists other forms of football in countries like the United States, Ireland and Australia.
The United States’ version of football, called American Football, is the biggest sport in the country, and by virtue of America’s status as a global superpower in almost everything, their football is the second most popular version of the game after Association Football.
Not that the game is played, followed or understood in many other places outside the United States, but there is worldwide awareness of this sport called American Football.
And in order to create a separation between American Football and Association Football, the US have adopted the term “soccer” to describe the latter.
Their major American Football League is simply called the National Football League (NFL), with the soccer league called Major League Soccer.
American Football is pretty much part of the lifestyle of the average US sports fan, who interacts with the sport in a variety of ways, from stadium attendance to online betting. It is not only the most watched sport in the country; it is also the most wagered on sport. Hence, many US betting companies have sought to take advantage of this huge followership, particularly for the NFL, to promote their NFL betting promotions for American players.
As for soccer, the sport is always growing in the States, but it is nowhere near the level of American Football.
Contrary to popular modern beliefs, the term “soccer” actually originates from Britain, used as a slang for Association Football, but it soon spread across the world, and was picked up by the United States. Association Football is also more popularly called soccer in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
So what are the differences between American Football and Soccer (or Association Football as it is known in the majority of the rest of the world)?
Soccer is played on a rectangular surface with dimensions of 98 – 131 yards on the longer side; and 49 – 98 yards on the shorter side. Most standard pitches are usually between 112 – 115 yards long; and 70 to 75 yards wide.
The longer boundaries are called the touchlines, while the shorter ones are called the goallines.
The American Football rectangle measures 100 yards between the goal lines and 53.3 yards between the sidelines. Behind each goal line, there is a 10-yard extension to the end lines, taking the overall length of the sidelines to 120 years. This area is called the end zone, where touchdowns, two-point conversions and safeties are scored.
A standard soccer match is played between two teams with eleven players each. Each team has 10 outfield players and one goalkeeper. The goalkeeper is the only member of the team allowed to touch the ball with his hands.
Outfield players can touch the ball with all other parts of their bodies, except their hands, with the main objective being to put the ball into the opponent’s goal.
American Football is also played by two teams of 11 players, but unlike football, where touching the ball with the hands is illegal (unless you are the goalkeeper), moving the ball with the hands is an integral part of American Football.
The scoring system in Association Football is very simple. Every time a team legally puts the ball into the opponent’s goal, it is counted as one point, or one goal, to use the proper terminology. The team that scores more goals at the end of the match is the winner.
Scoring in American Football is a little bit less straightforward. The most valuable scoring play is the touchdown, which happens when the ball is advanced into, caught in, or recovered in the opponent’s end zone. A touchdown is worth six points.
When a team successfully makes a touchdown, they get the opportunity to score more points through points-after-conversion. This may be a single point or two extra points. A team can decide to go for either option.
The one-point conversion is the easier option, and it occurs when a player hits a place kick or drop kick between the opponent’s goal posts.
In a two-point conversion play, a team must run a scrimmage from close to the end zone and move the ball into the zone just like they would do if they were scoring a touchdown.
Other scoring plays in American football are field goals, which are worth 3 points, and safety, worth 2 points and awarded to the defending team.
Another major difference between soccer and American Football is in the type of ball used for each sport. The soccer ball is spherical in shape, with a diameter of about 8.7 inches. The ball used in American Football, sometimes referred to as a pigskin, has a prolate spheroid shape.
Number of Players
In both soccer and American Football, both teams start the game with 11 players. However, while the number of player substitutions allowed on a standard soccer match is limited (used to be three, but many leagues now allow 5), there are no limits to how many subs a team can make in American Football.
For a typical NFL match, each team has a 53-team roster, with 11 of the players being starters.
A standard soccer game comprises two halves of 45 minutes each, taking the total game duration to 90 minutes. An American Football game lasts 60 minutes, divided into two halves of 30 minutes, and four quarters of 15 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest competition in American Football is the NFL, while the most prestigious single event is the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl serves as the NFL championship game, featuring the winners of the NFC and AFC conferences.
For Association Football, the biggest international tournament is the FIFA World Cup, staged every four years.
However, with the sport being very popular in many parts of the world, there are other prestigious tournaments within the different continents and countries.
The European Championship, Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup are amongst the biggest continental events.
Club football is also hugely popular, with the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and the Spanish La Liga being amongst the most followed leagues in the world.