Soccer v Football: Why Do Different Countries Have Different Names


The world’s most popular sport is known by various names across different countries. Some call it soccer, while others call it football. This article explores the historical origins and cultural reasons behind the different names for this globally beloved sport. As you read on, you will learn about the evolution of the sport’s name in the United Kingdom, the regional variations, and the cultural influences that have shaped the terminology.

Historical Origins

In the United Kingdom, the sport’s name has its roots in the game’s early development. As various forms of football emerged in the 19th century, the specific type played under the rules established by the Football Association in England was known as association football. To differentiate it from other forms of football, such as rugby football, a shortened version of the name soccer, was derived from the word association.

The term football became more dominant in other countries as the sport spread internationally. However, many countries adopted the British term due to the influence of the British Empire and the spread of the sport by British expatriates.

Regional Variations

In the United States and Canada, the term soccer distinguishes the sport from other forms of football, such as American and Canadian football. These North American variations of football have their origins in rugby football and have since become popular sports in their own right.

The term football is predominantly used in Europe, South America, and other regions, the term football is predominantly used. The sport’s international governing body, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), also uses football in its name, further solidifying the term’s global presence.

Cultural Influences

Language and local sports have played a significant role in determining the name preferences for the sport in different countries. In countries where another sport is called football, such as Australia and Ireland, the term soccer is often used to differentiate the sports.

Media and globalization have also contributed to the different names for the sport. As English-language media outlets broadcast matches globally, the terminology used in the coverage can influence how the sport is referred to in various regions.


Soccer has a long and complex history that has led to the use of different names in different regions.

The word soccer actually originated in England in the late 1800s as a shortening of association football, which was the official name of the sport at the time. This was to distinguish it from other forms of football, such as rugby football and American football. The term soccer was widely used in England until the mid-20th century, when it gradually fell out of favor and was replaced by football.

In other countries, however, the name football had already taken hold. This was the case in countries such as France, Spain, and Italy, where the term football had been used to refer to various forms of football for centuries.

Today, the use of the terms soccer and football varies widely from country to country. In the United States, Canada, and Australia, for example, soccer is the preferred term, while in most other countries, including England, the sport is known as football.

The use of different names for the same sport can be confusing, but it is simply a reflection of the different linguistic and cultural traditions of each country.