Why Do Americans Call It ‘Soccer’ While Everyone Else Calls It ‘Football’?

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If you’ve been paying attention to the World Cup (or you’ve ever been a fan of the sport), you’ve undoubtedly noticed that us Americans say ‘soccer’ and almost everyone else on the planet uses the term ‘football.’ What’s the reason behind that? Get ready for a history lesson.

What we in the U.S. call soccer has been played in England since the Middle Ages. It started out as a game for the common folks, but in the early 1800s young men at the country’s most privileged schools started partaking in the sport. The rules of ‘football’ were standardized by the Football Association in 1863.

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Different sports began to splinter off from traditional English football, including rugby, and it became known widely as association football. The nickname for the sport was now assoccer, which, after a while, was shortened to soccer. Meanwhile, also in the late 1860s, American football was established at the college level, but in other parts of the world it was known as gridiron football or American football. Confused yet?

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Over in England, they dropped the “association” that preceded “football” and just made it football. So there were now two completely different sports on opposite sides of the Atlantic called football. To deal with the confusion, people in the U.S. started calling English football by its old nickname, soccer. And those are the terms we still use today.

Today, the term soccer is used in the countries that have their own versions of football: America, Canada, and Australia. Now get back to watching the World Cup!