American Football vs. Soccer Explained

74 thoughts on “American Football vs. Soccer Explained”

  1. I never have understood why American Football is even called football…

    I too played soccer in HS and I hate the theatrics of it all. The game would be soo much better if some players weren’t so dramatic about being “fouled.” When I played I spent very little time on the ground because that meant more time the oponent had to gain an advantage on me if what happened wasn’t called a foul. I just let the referees do their job, plus hoping back up and continuing on could keep a play going that otherwise would have been stopped by an unnecessary foul.

    I’ve never gotten into watching soccer on television even though it is my favorite sport because of the ridiculousness of players going out of their way to make a “foul” look worse than it was. If you act like you are hurt and then 2 minutes later are playing at 100% then there was no need to cause a scene. I only stayed on the ground twice in my entire 3 year varsity starting career and once I missed the next 5 games because of a sprained ankle and the other time I had a huge charliehorse/cramp and didn’t play the rest of the game.

    I wish more players would play the game rather than the foul.

    1. American Football is called football because it derives from both rugby and soccer. In the beginning rugby was known as Rubgy Football and soccer was known as Association Football. As the two grew apart in the late 1800s, rugby dropped the “football ” part of its name and football dropped the “association” part. In fact, FIFA stands for Fédération International de Football Association, which is French for “International Federation of Association Football.” Since all three diverged from each other in about the same time period, American’s began to play American Football much more than Rugby Football or Association Football, and just as Association Football in England dropped the “Association” part because everyone knew what “football” meant in England, so to American Football dropped the “American” part because everyone in the US knew which version of which was being reffered to.

      The real question is how World Football became known as “soccer” in the USA. It must be that the word “soccer” is somehow derived from the word “association.” This is not fact, but it is my best guess and sounds pretty logical to me.

      Hope this helps.

      1. From what I understand, Oxford students from a long time ago often refered to rugby football as “rugger,” and association football as “soccer,” the “socc-” being derived from “association.”

      2. Sorry mate, but not quite accurate,

        The “Football” you’re referring to (soccer, to the toffs) is, and always has been, Association Football. It is football as played using the Association rules that are set by the Football Association (the FA, also English FA).

        The “association” refers to the association of the clubs that comprise a football league (made up of divisions) and was necessary to establish agreed rules for the league.

        FIFA was established to create an international body to unify the sport globally, although the home countries (Britain; England, Scotland and Wales) control half the seats of FIFA.

        The original association league clubs were mostly formed by factory workers (such as the Arsenal, from the Royal Arsenal munitions factory, Dial Square, Woolwich, London).

        Rugby, however, was the form of football more popular in public schools (UK private schools). There are however two versions of the rules of Rugby in England; league and union.

        There is also Australian rules, which is a derivative version of Rugby. The Gridiron rules (American Football) and Gaelic Football (Irish) are also derivative.

        There are only two basic difference between Rugby (and it’s derivative versions) and Association Football. 1 – You have to actually get the ball between posts to score in Association, and 2 – You can’t carry (handle) the ball in association rules.

        The main reason for these rules, was to stop games simply descending into bloody brawls, which matches on the streets often used to (today’s preening prima donnas still have the occasional scuffle, but it’s mostly just handbags a dawn these days)

        As for the whole soccer thing. Public school boys (Toffs as we call them in England) like to talk like stupid wallies, so they call each other ridiculous nicknames and call Rugby “Rugger”. In this way they called Association Football “Soccer”.

        Association Football wasn’t popular with the affluent classes, so their idiom wasn’t really used much in Britain. Obviously it took root in the US.

      3. @reflection2002
        “Sorry mate, but not quite accurate”.
        When the Football Association was formed there were no leagues, only the “Football Association Challenge Cup”.
        The formation of the leagues came later.

      4. @honorarynewfie

        You’re missing the point. What was it an association of?

        Football clubs.

        The football clubs that formed the association (writing the association rules) were groups of men in Britain that met up as “Clubs”. They were mostly work colleges (from factories) and met up in pubs, playing football together as clubs.

        Associations were formed with each other so they could play games between clubs. This is what started the formation of the Football Association (who wrote the Association rules)

        Leagues and divisions were frameworks created by the Association of football clubs (in Britain). This was needed to accommodate the massive number of clubs that formed in Britain.

        Since I was a kid England (and Wales) have had four top flight divisions in their league. This is still the case, but Division one was rebranded as the “Premier League”, then the second division was rebranded as the Championship and Div 3 and 4 became 1 and 2.

        Despite this size, there are two more levels of the official FA leagues. These are broken down on a regional basis.

        This was necessary as the FA cup, the original Football Association competition had to many competitors. The league system allowed clubs (teams) to automatically qualify for a later round of the FA cup, with teams in the lower leagues (regional) going through a play-off.

        This is why the original association football cup, the FA cup, is still the largest club competition in Football.

      5. @reflection2002
        Yes, it was an association of football clubs, but my point was that you said…

        The “association” refers to the association of the clubs that comprise a football league (made up of divisions) and was necessary to establish agreed rules for the league.

        “…was necessary to establish agreed rules for the league.
        Not so, because there were no leagues until later on.
        It was necessary to establish agreed rules (Laws actually) under which football matches could be played in an agreed format and, in order to promote the acceptance of those “laws”, the Association invited applications from clubs to enter a knockout competition (now known informally as The F.A. Cup) for which a cup would be presented to the winners.
        That then became an annual competition and subsequently it was decided to form competitive leagues in order to give the clubs more regular matches to play.
        That was my only point, that you had inferred that the association was formed in order to formalise the leagues, but the leagues came later.
        As an aside, I don’t believe a club actually has to belong to a league of any sort in order to be a member of the Association.

      6. @honorarynewfie

        Aside from being pedantic what was the point of your comment?

        If you really want to be pedantic then look up league in an English dictionary:

        league 1 (lg) n.
        1. An association of states, organizations, or individuals for common action; an alliance.
        2. Sports An association of teams or clubs that compete chiefly among themselves. Also called loop1.
        3. A class or level of competition: The ski jump was out of his league.

        A league is just another word for an association. An association (a league of football clubs) was necessary to form rules for the first association (league) competition.

        Football competitions can be played as a single matches, a knock-out competition (where a winning team progresses through competition “rounds”), league competitions (where every team plays each other, possiably with divisions to progress through) and the modern combined competition (you qualify from a league for a second round, that can be a knock-out to the final or, as is more common, a “round-robin” league followed by a series of knock-outs. As used in the World Cup and European Champions League).

        You can win “Cups” or “Trophies” from any version of a football competition, but there are also non-competitive matches called “Friendlies”, which aren’t “Cup” competitions.

        I did not “inferred that the association was formed in order to formalise the leagues”, simply because the association is the league. The football association is and was a league of football clubs, as much as it was an association of football clubs.

        [They probably just thought association looked better on the headed paper [jokes].]

      7. @reflection2002
        Whatever, I just think the double use of the word “league” in your original sentence, especially as you go to the effort of defining it there as being made up of divisions, leaves the sentence open to a misconstruing of the historical order of events.
        I was just meaning to clarify that the second use of the word didn’t mean a league in the sense of a structured “Football League” (of divisions), that’s all.
        Stay safe.

    2. Oh my goodness! I’m so pleased to see someone who knows soccer WAY better than I (a relative newcomer this year) say the same things I was thinking watching some world cup this year. I kept wanting to blurt out, “Just play the game!” but I didn’t have a clue if this was really such an aggressive game with so many fouls and what was normal. My 11 year old son recently played his first year so our interest was piqued for the WC. But it seems that most of the games are spent calling fouls and flags while players constantly grab their ankles and faces. I sat there not knowing what had happened to make them so dramatically react at every turn, half the time.

      I’m glad I wasn’t being too rough on them! thanks for the sanity check!

    3. @ prafeston – Oh my goodness! I’m so pleased to see someone who knows soccer WAY better than I (a relative newcomer this year) say the same things I was thinking watching some world cup this year. I kept wanting to blurt out, “Just play the game!” but I didn’t have a clue if this was really such an aggressive game with so many fouls and what was normal. My 11 year old son recently played his first year so our interest was piqued for the WC. But it seems that most of the games are spent calling fouls and flags while players constantly grab their ankles and faces. I sat there not knowing what had happened to make them so dramatically react at every turn, half the time.

      I’m glad I wasn’t being too rough on them! thanks for the sanity check!

      1. Soccer can be a very aggressive game if it’s played right and people aren’t acting like babies at every turn. Some referees will even let a lot slide…no pun intended! 🙂

        I think the real issue with soccer not being more popular in America is the fact that there is very little scoring. We are used to games like basketball and football which can be relatively high scoring games.

  2. I’m an Englishman in London and I am a big fan of both Football and American Football and get great enjoyment with them both. The one point I would agree with Mr Cleese is the annoyance of Americans calling Football soccer, but the rest of the world forgives you.

  3. Ok, aside from the commercial break/ naming issues- I find this fellow’s observations entirely erroneous. The notion that there is no creativity in football can only be made by someone who did not see the famous 2008 Boise State/ Oklahoma game, where a combination of creativity and willpower won the day for Boise State.

    In truth, when the play is in effect, football is more like dance than anything else, where every step is choreographed. However, Before the play is in effect, football is analogous to chess, where the coaches and the quarterback work together to stay one mental step ahead of their opponent. In this way football is more creative than soccer, because the offensive and defensive play callers have hundreds of options with which they architect their play.

    1. You are most welcome…as a spectator of both sports I can say that they are both joys to watch in their own way.

  4. Love the video. One of the great things about watching the World Cup is that there aren’t a ton of commercials. The networks can’t decide when to stop the action on the field. I suspect one of the reasons it hasn’t caught on here is that the TV networks don’t like to show it because they can’t make enough money from it.

  5. If I ever see him in public, I will show him the new American sport, FootEuorpeanAss where the object of the sport is to strike an ignorant European Actor’s Ass with a Foot! The term, “SOCCER” was derrived from the English as an elite game superior to “football” which separated the poor people’s sport from the rich people’s sport. Then Europe just called it Football and now we’re the ignorant ones? I think the English are starting to act too much like the French!

  6. Football is called football because people handle a ball while on their foot running…of course both games are quite strange, but both are fun to me.

  7. See here for how the word “Soccer” evolved.
    Both Association Football (“Football” to me) and American Football are great games in my opinion, although I agree whole-heartedly with those who dislike the fawning and play-acting which is becoming so prevalent in “football” these days.
    It is up to the referees to take action for “Ungentlemanly Conduct” where such play acting is concerned but, unfortunately, as a body they have become increasingly weak over recent years, almost frightened to do their jobs properly, especially when the players are overpaid “idols”.
    When I was refereeing I made it very clear before each match that I would not accept certain types of behaviour and/or language, and I kept to it. In return I received much respect and recognition for taking such a stance.
    Regrettably my refereeing career was cut short by rather weak knee ligaments, but I can still shout at the TV ! 😉

  8. Even having a reason about the evolution of the name, apart of the enjoyment watching or playing both, it´s a nonsense call football to a sport where the most of the time the ball is caught with a hand….

  9. I am a diehard American Football fan and all my friends played soccer in High School so I have an appreciation for both sports. I would first say John Cleese is a British Comic so anything he states in the video is done with a bit of a laugh intended but delivered as dryly as possible because that what he thinks is funny. He really wants to insult Americans and their intelligence and really doesn’t care about the sports at all. It’s just a wild analogy. If he cared much about the sport he would know better than to think Football is not creative. It involves so much that it’s obvious that he has never watched the game. Just as many people think that soccer is boring because they watched in once. The game with Argentina and Mexico was out of control exciting. But in football there are so many specialize positions and plays it’s amazing that the game is played as well as it is. In soccer most players are about the same size and similar skills. They all need foot skills and aside from some differences in offense and defense many of the plays are the same. This allows for the on field creativity John is promoting. Only Peyton Manning knows enough plays to just call everything on the field. And plays last as long as the ball is moving not the few seconds he describes. It’s a fun video and a quick laugh but come on John. If you want to call Americans or Dick Cheney stupid just say it don’t insult a sport you know nothing about.

  10. LOL Always loved John Cleese and he’s absolutely correct! For years, I’ve disliked ‘football,’ but do love soccer (or ‘football’ as it’s properly titled by the rest of the world). Not sure why we Americans have labled a sport using the majority of our upper bodies with the body part almost completely unrealted to the sport, but we have. Well at least no one can claim that we’re ordinary. 🙂

  11. the lack of ref technology in soccer, even World Cup soccer, is extremely frustrating for fans and players alike. how an such a large organization as FIFA be so slow to adopt already widely used technology to make the games fairer?

  12. @prafeston
    We are used to games like basketball and football which can be relatively high scoring games.
    So Jets 7 – Miami 14 is a higher scoring game than Arsenal 3 – Chelsea 2 is it ?
    I make that 5 “scores” to football as opposed to 3 for American Football.
    And if Americans like high scoring games so much why don’t they play more cricket ? ( Lots of commercial breaks there too ! )

    1. I clearly wasn’t thinking correctly in reference to football scores. Basketball it could be true of though. But Americans are crazy about THEIR Football. Though the time play to play can be slow the action of Football during plays is quite fast. I think that is what is so fun to watch.

      I will say that this year is the most excited I’ve seen people about World Cup ever. Like people I would have never guessed enjoyed soccer are talking about World Cup and actively watching the games. Maybe it’s popularity is picking up some…

      1. Yes, it seems that Americans are getting into the World Cup even more this time, although I can’t say that I understand why this one in particular.
        It used to be great to see the “London Monarchs” back in the Old Days but it seems the NFL let the opportunity slip a little bit for the chance of major worldwide excursions.
        Maybe having the occasional game in London will help, but there will never be enough of it for me.
        Can’t wait the new season(s) to start.

      2. i think it’s just as generations go by more americans actually enjoy soccer. Though i must also add that many Americans simply like to win everything. Alot of people i know were shocked and upset when the U.S. lost to Ghana. Of course anyone with two eyes could have seen that Ghana was obviously a superior team with superior talent.

    2. I’ve thought that Americans like scores that sound higher OR have more scoring opportunities that are obvious.

      the example you gave has one team in the double digits (14). While yes, there were only 3 times that the ball was carried into the end zone during the game, the points posted went into the double digits. It sounds higher than 3-2 in a soccer game.

      Then there are the scoring opportunities: you can always have someone break through and score a touchdown out of nowhere, or have the long bomb pass, or the field goal. basketball has someone taking a shot at the basket at least once a minute if not more. in baseball, there’s always the chance of the home run, and even if the score finishes relatively low (like 2-1), everyone’s had a chance to get on base, hit long hits towards the fence, etc.

      with soccer, it takes a lot of effort to even get the ball close to the penalty area, and then when it does, it usually ends in a close attempt that didn’t lead to a goal. Not many people can appreciate the subtleties and nuances of bringing the ball up, setting up a play, and taking a shot at the goal. Not enough score board ‘action’ for an American who is used to seeing lots of score board changes.

      Soccer is still my number one sport for watching though!

  13. About the players falling as soon as they are touched, its only at the pro level. At regional leagues, soccer is as hard as it gets.
    About american football, I like it, however, i don’t think it should be called football though.

  14. i’m indonesian. the rest of the world called it football, because the ball controled most of the time, by foot.
    but its fine, as long as the american say their game american football, not the world football…

  15. Well, essentially what John Cleese says in the clip, is true… American football is clearly based on that other insane sport called Rugby… (I always say that American Football is Rugby for sissies…if you’ve eveer seen real Rugby, now those dudes are insane…) so why indeed is it called football?

  16. i cannot agree more with cleese… football is called football, because you kick ball with your foot, so foot+ball=football. naming this game as a “soccer” is a heavy crime and should be banned 🙂

  17. I just cannot understand why can you call football a sport that it is played with the hands…
    Call it American Handball or American Rugby.
    There is only one Football and it is played (only) with the feet.

  18. @prafeston

    I think the real issue with soccer not being more popular in America is the fact that there is very little scoring. We are used to games like basketball and football which can be relatively high scoring games.

    Futbol is maximum effort, minimum results. The players are running back and forth, blocking and kicking…and after thirty minutes of game-play, there may not have been any goals scored. How high or low the score is itself is an issue when combined with the duration of game-play. After fifteen minutes, a football team could get 21 points (three touchdowns–without the extra points–and one field goal), while a futbol team might score 1 point (one goal).

    I realize that two quarters of football can go by without anyone making a touchdown or a field goal; and even if no interceptions or fifty yard+ drives are made, the televised aesthetics of the game-play still make me smile more.

    I’ve only recently began to appreciated televised basketball game-play.

    1. Its a;ll about the thrill; its about jumping off the sofa and yelling of excitement; its about the wish that your team scores; its about thinking whats going on. Soccer is the best sport.

  19. I will also say this about people who don’t like soccer. I concede the argument that the diving makes the game awful.

    As for the scoring, no matter how low it is that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. First, if you have never watched a game of any sport that ended scoreless at the end of regulation, or that ended 1-0 and said to yourself “that was a great game” then you are watching for all the wrong reasons.

    Secondly, even though I staunchly support the introduction of technology in soccer, one reason I love it is the fact that the rules have not been changed strictly for the purpose of adding to score totals, unlike basketball, football, and even baseball several decades ago. In soccer no rules give the offense a definite advantage.

    Finally, the low-scoring nature allows for unexpected results a little more often than most sports. Let’s not forget that for a team like Luxembourg to tie a team like Brazil is still a huge upset even though it’s a draw. The idea of upsets, which are discouraged in the NBA because of the way the playoffs work, is the very essence of sports. The old saying “that’s why they play the game” rings as true if not truer in soccer than any other sport, because one moment of magic or one mistake can change everything. Frankly I can’t watch the NBA except for the finals because there is no chance of upsets if the better team gets 5 or 7 chances to prove itself, which is far too many. As for football the sheer number of plays per game means that the cream usually rises to the top. Granted upsets happen in every sport, but the low scores in soccer allow for maximum upset possibility. Soccer may be the most upset-friendly sport, and for that I say “god bless it!”

  20. This is a nice blog message, I will keep this idea in my mind. If you add more video and pictures because it helps understanding 🙂

  21. the difference of the 2 sports are many. American Football is very rigid in the way plays are made and action engaged. On the defence there is a bit more anticipation manouvering and decision making. On the offense it is guile strength and speed. special teams demonstrate amazing instances of talent. In Association Football all these things must be entailed in every player to varying degrees. What people enjoy in the sports are similar. It is how they are presented to the audience that differs and here i will begin to speak of two different forms of thought. In american football there is a greater need for accuracy. As a result i find that many American football fans find a need for closure justice (due to constant review) and intensity. In a way it encourages specialization and narrowness for only the coach knows what to do and only each player can perform their position/positions (if they are similar) effectively. In soccer there is a greater degree of ambiguity sometimes things just dont go your way, luck plays a major role. sure people exploit this when it comes to fouls but there are just as many people who refuse to do so. individually each player must know both technically and tactically how to play. The biggest influence a coach has is at the start half-time and subs. formation is key but it is fluid and they players must decide how it moves.

    in many ways sports resemble life, football seems to appeal to what it is people primally want but neglects the fact that sometimes things just don’t happen. Soccer on the other hand, with it’s low margins, shows everything and at the same time. to me i view it as a more complete expression in comparison to football. and i suppose so do most in the world i watch football sometimes but games last too long and are too fractured for me to enjoy. Americans seem to enjoy one dimensional uncontroversial sports.

    it is a matter of “his feet crossed, they win” and “did the ball cross the line? the ref says no, but the replay says yes” and so is a matter of culture.

    Association football is soccer n football is american football. i was born in the US

  22. i must also add some of my conceptions of americans is also from basketball due to series campionships. also i believe basketball is more popular than football or baseball. at least i enjoy it more than either.

  23. If americans only knew how much skills it takes to control a ball with your feet..then maybe…er,forget it:It’s like logical reasoning,can’t talk logical to people who doesn’t understand it…I’m sorry,didn’t mean to confuse people here.Now go back to gulping down your popcorns and sodas and continue to watch man with muscles wrestling with other muscular men if that’s your turn-on…

  24. Unfortunately it’s hard to get cowboys to like an international sport. All they know is NFL (American Cowboys). Strange enough I was speaking to a Texan (American football land) the other day, talking about sports and more specifically the NBA and MLS. The first comment out of her mouth was, “I love Football, I want see people get hit”. I thought to myself, what an idiot thing to say, simple mentality individual. Football, why not call it UFC ball. (Ultimate Fighting Contest Ball)

    NFL is nothing more than brute strength at best, and less finesse or technical ability. Speed is sporadic and comes in burst, but not needed for the entire duration of the game, unlike Association football. Speed and technique are of the utmost importance for Association football. That’s why you never see 250 LBS, 300 LBS guys playing Association football, they would fall on their face from exhaustion.

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