Why Do Some Countries Call the Sport Soccer While Most Call It Football?

Soccer is a popular sport that’s loved and played around the world. But have you ever wondered why it’s called soccer in some countries and football in others? The answer lies in both history and semantics. The word “soccer” comes from the British term “association,” which refers to a particular type of organization within English law. 

Over time, “association” became shortened to simply “soccer.” When people outside of Britain began playing the game, they would call it football because they didn’t know there was another name for this sport. In fact, some Americans still call it football, even though most people refer to it as soccer here.

The Sport We Call Soccer is Called Football in Most of the World

The word “football” (which comes from an old English game called “foteball”) refers to a variety of sports played with an oblong ball on foot (or sometimes by hand), such as rugby union or American gridiron football.

Soccer originated in England during the 19th century as an offshoot of rugby football; its name derives from Association Football — a reference to the rules laid out by England’s Football Association (FA).

Soccer May Be the Name That Sticks in America, but It’s Actually a British Term

The word “soccer” and “football” are not interchangeable for Americans. Soccer is often used to describe the sport in North America, whereas football refers to American football. That being said, both are the most popular sports in America

most popular sports in America

Football, according to Dictionary.com, originated from a term used at Cambridge University in the 19th century called “footeball.” At this time in England and Wales, Rugby Football was popular among students, but there were many variations on how the game was played by different colleges. 

One group decided to change some rules of rugby and eventually formed a club called Cambridge University Association Football Club (CUAFBC). They then used this name as an acronym: C-U-A-F-B-C. Over time it evolved into ‘association football.’

Countries That Use the Word Soccer

The word soccer is used by the following countries:

1. United States

In the United States, a variation of rugby, known as football, is played. The game has been called soccer and football interchangeably due to its growing popularity in America faster than Association Football.

2. Australia 

Australian Rules Football is Australia’s most popular spectator sport, with over 1.5 million players in over 25,000 clubs. Soccer, called “association football” in Australia, is the country’s second most popular spectator sport, with its national team known as the Socceroos, a combination of the words “soccer” and kangaroo.

3. Ireland

Unlike association football, Irish football is called Gaelic football. It’s played in over 2,500 clubs in the country and is mostly referred to as simply “football.” Irish people call association football “soccer” because of this.

4. South Africa

Soccer is a popular sport in South Africa, a country where the game was introduced through colonialism in the late 19th century. The first non-racial association football body was formed in that country in 1991 when the South African Soccer Association was established. In South Africa, people refer to association football simply as soccer.

5. Papua New Guinea

While the most popular sports in Papua New Guinea are Rugby and Australian Football, association football, or soccer, is commonly referred to as soccer in this country due to its popularity.

6. Canada

Due to the fact that Canada is located north of the United States, it was inevitable that American football would become popular in Canada. The term soccer, on the other hand, became more familiar with Canadians as a result of their association with European countries known for playing the sport.

7. New Zealand

Rugby is the most popular sport in New Zealand, and for a long time, association football was called soccer by most New Zealanders. However, an increase in news coverage of association football and its increasing popularity has led the general population to use the term soccer regardless of whether they are talking about association football or rugby.

8. Japan

Japan uses the word soccer when referring to association football, although this is rather strange as the national association of soccer is called the “Japan Football Association,” and several clubs have FC in their club names. This distinction came after World War II, and most Japanese people use the word soccer when referring to association football.


The term soccer—which was once used in England to differentiate association football from other forms of football—fell into disuse in the 1970s and ‘80s but has recently been revived by British sports journalists to distinguish association football from other forms of American football, such as gridiron.

If you ask any American, they’ll tell you that the sport we call soccer is called football in most of the world. But it turns out that soccer isn’t even an American term at all! Rather, it was brought over by English immigrants who used “soccer” as a way of pronouncing “association,” which refers to the type of football played by many countries around the world today. 

In fact, there are many different types of football—including Australian Rules Football and Gaelic Football—which means there are plenty more names for this beloved pastime than just one.