10 Significant Differences Between Soccer & Football [Comparison & Similarities]

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Soccer or football is the most followed and appreciated game all over the globe, which draws the attention of millions of eyeballs that stays glued to their respective television set to enjoy the game worldwide.

For those who’re interested in knowing the precise differences between soccer and football, both are games that is played with a round ball that can be kicked and headed.

Football (American football) is more of a rugby type of game in which the oblong-shaped ball is thrown, passed, and kicked from the linguistic standpoint of an American, Canadian, or Australian.

While soccer(European football) comes in a spherical shape and can also be kicked, headed with both legs and feet.

Both games can be a bit confusing for those who are not familiar with the differences.

However, not to worry I’ll give you an in-depth insight into the significant differences between both games.

10 Significant Differences Between Soccer & Football

10 Significant Differences Between Soccer & Football [Comparison & Similarities]

Scoring system

In American football, points are awarded for various actions such as touchdowns (6 points), extra point conversions (1 or 2 points), field goals (3 points), and safeties (2 points).

Touchdowns are the primary means of scoring in American football, and they occur when a player carries the ball into the opponent’s end zone or catches a pass in the end zone.

While in soccer, every time a team scores a goal, they are awarded one point by the referee.

The location of the goal or the manner in which it was scored is irrelevant, as the point remains the same.

After the game has ended, the points, or goals, are tallied up, and the team with the highest score is declared the winner.

The significance of scoring a goal in soccer is immense as it provides a team with the chance to accumulate points.

The more points a team earns, the better their chances are of winning the game.

It is important to note that the winner of a soccer game is determined by the team with the highest number of goals, which translates to the highest number of points.

Duration of play

In American football, a standard professional game is played in four quarters, each lasting 15 minutes for a total of 60 minutes of playtime.

However, with the time taken for huddles, timeouts, and other stoppages, a standard NFL game can last up to three hours.

In soccer, the length of a game is 90 minutes, divided into two halves of 45 minutes each.

However, if the score is tied at the end of regulation time, extra time may be added, which can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the competition.

National vs Global

In terms of global representation, American football currently has a limited presence outside the United States.

The NFL only plays a few games internationally every year and has a program called the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program to provide opportunities for international players to compete and earn a spot on an NFL roster.

In comparison, soccer has a wider reach globally and is popular in many countries.

Endzones / Nets

When it comes to scoring in American football and soccer, there are differences between the two sports.

In soccer, there are requirements for the goalposts and nets, which must be made of approved materials and should not pose a risk to players.

The crossbar and goalposts must also be white and be 8 yards apart, with the crossbar measuring 8 feet from the ground.

On the other hand, in American football, there are two endzones that measure 10 yards long and 160 feet wide.

If a ball carrier crosses these endzones, it results in a six-point touchdown.


When it comes to American football, most fans are avid watchers of either the National Football League (NFL) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

There are a few smaller leagues trying to rival the NFL, such as the XFL, AAF, and USFL, but they are not as well-known to the average football fan.

In soccer, there are several successful leagues around the world, such as the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Major League Soccer.

These leagues have varying levels of success, but all are enough to rival each other and provide competition.

Women’s League

Unfortunately, there is currently no women’s league in American football.

While some women may participate at high school or collegiate levels, there isn’t a separate league for female players in the National Football League (NFL).

This lack of representation is evident in the sport, with the NFL recently mandating teams to hire a female or minority coach to promote the growth of women in American football.

Meanwhile, soccer has the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which is the official professional women’s soccer league for the United States.

This league was established in 2012 as a successor to both Women’s Professional Soccer and the Women’s United Soccer Association.

It currently has 12 teams, including Angel City FC, Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, and more.


In soccer, if a game ends in a draw after 90 minutes of regulation time, it will go into extra time, also known as overtime.

Extra time consists of two 15-minute halves, and if the game remains tied after extra time, it will be decided by a penalty shootout.

While in American football, if a regular season game ends in a tie after 60 minutes of regulation time, the game will go into overtime.

Overtime rules in the NFL during the regular season are the sudden-death format, meaning the first team to score wins the game.

During the playoffs, a new format of overtime was introduced in 2010, allowing each team the opportunity to possess the ball at least once.


In both football and soccer, the positions vary greatly, as both sports have eleven players on the field for each team.

Football has 10 basic offensive positions and five basic defensive positions.

The offensive positions include:

  • Quarterback
  • Runningback
  • Fullback
  • Tight end
  • Left tackle
  • Left guard
  • Center
  • Right guard
  • Right tackle
  • Wide receiver.

On defense, the positions are:

  • Defensive end
  • Defensive tackle
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Safety.

Some positions, like a wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety, have different alignments that can change their position to a more specific version.

While Soccer has eleven positions including:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Right full-back
  • Left full-back
  • Center back
  • Defensive Midfielder
  • Right Midfielder
  • Center midfielder
  • Attacking Midfielder
  • Winger
  • Striker (Forward)

Each position has a unique role, and the positions in soccer are vastly different from those in American football.

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The rules for substitutes in American football and soccer are different, reflecting the distinct characteristics and demands of each sport.

In American football, each team is allowed to have up to 46 players on its active roster for a game, with unlimited substitutions allowed during the game.

Teams can use substitutions to bring in fresh players, replace injured players, or make tactical changes during the game.

Substitutions must occur during designated stoppages in play and must be made through specific channels, such as through the sideline.

Meanwhile, in soccer, each team is allowed to have up to 11 players on the field at one time, including a goalkeeper.

Substitutions are limited in soccer, with each team only allowed to make three – five substitutions per game.

This limit was introduced to prevent teams from making frequent and tactical substitutions, which could disrupt the flow of the game.

Substitutions must be made during designated stoppages in play, such as after a goal or when a player is injured.

The player being substituted must leave the field before the substitute can enter.

World Cup / Super Bowl

The World Cup and the Super Bowl are two of the biggest sporting events in the world, attracting millions of viewers from around the globe.

The World Cup is a quadrennial international soccer tournament organized by FIFA, while the Super Bowl is the championship game of the NFL in the United States.

The World Cup involves 32 teams from around the world competing against each other in a knockout-style tournament over the course of several weeks.

The Super Bowl, on the other hand, is a one-off game between the winners of the AFC and the NFC that determines the champion of the league for that season.

In terms of popularity, the World Cup is considered one of the largest and most popular sporting events in the world, with an estimated 3.2 billion people watching the tournament in 2018.

The Super Bowl, meanwhile, is one of the most watched television events in the United States, attracting millions of viewers, both fans and non-fans, every year.

The viewership for the World Cup and the Super Bowl can sometimes vary, but the World Cup often attracts hundreds of millions to over a billion viewers, while the Super Bowl consistently surpasses 100 million viewers.

The World Cup is a larger, more widely followed event, while the Super Bowl is a culturally significant event in the United States.

Comparison: Soccer vs Football

Comparison Football (American) Soccer
Governing Body International Federation of American Football (IFAF) FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association)
Year Established 1998 1904
Countries Played America, Canada Global
Number of Players 11 11
Ball Shape Elongated Spheroid Spherical
Ball Dimensions Center: 52cm diameter, length: 28cm, weight: 0.875 pounds Circumference: 68-70cm, weight: 410-450gm
Scoring Hands or Feet Feet, Chest, Head
Most Important Player Quarterback All Players
Time Frame Four 15-minute quarters, half-time break 90 minutes (120 minutes for extra time)
Substitutions Infinite 3 (recently increased to 5)
League National Football League (NFL) Various including Champion League and World Cup
Scoring Method Running with the ball past the opposition and touchline Free-kick, corner-kick, penalties, direct
On-Field Officials Referee, Umpire, Line Judge, Side Judge, Down Judge, Back Judge, Field Judge, Reply Official Referee, Assistant Referee, Fourth Official, Additional Assistant Referees, Reserve Assistant Referee
Protective Gear Helmet, Shoulder/Chest Pad, Protector, Upper Leg Padding, Mouth-guard Boots, Shin-guards

Note: The information above may not be exhaustive and could be subject to change based on updates in rules and regulations.

Similarity: Soccer vs Football

Feature American Football Soccer
The object of the game The ball is a prolate spheroid, around 28 cm long and 56 cm in circumference at the center, weighing around 400 grams. The ball has a spherical shape, weighing between 410 grams and 450 grams with a circumference of 68 cm to 70 cm.
Playing surface The football field is 120 yards long and 160 feet wide. The soccer field ranges from 100 to 130 yards in length and 60 to 70 meters wide.
Number of players 11 players per team are allowed on the field. 11 players per team are allowed on the field.
Tactics Both sports have tactics as a vital component, with coaches having a full staff behind them to analyze the strengths, flaws, and vulnerabilities of both teams. Tactics can be changed during the game depending on the result and flow. Both sports have tactics as a vital component, with coaches having a full staff behind them to analyze the strengths, flaws, and vulnerabilities of both teams. Tactics can be changed during the game depending on the result and flow.
Playmakers The playmaker also called the quarterback, is the most important player on the team who takes the biggest responsibility during the game. The playmaker is the player who controls the flow of the game, usually playing in the midfield position with great dribbling technique and a wide passing range.
Playing environment Both sports are played at stadiums under the open sky, with the players having to be ready to play under different weather conditions. Both sports are played at stadiums under the open sky, with the players having to be ready to play under different weather conditions.

What is the origin of the word “soccer”?

The name “football” was used to refer to various ball games in the 1800s, which involved hitting, kicking, throwing, and so on.

Soccer, as we know it today, became official in 1863 when a group of English schools and clubs came together to form the Football Association and set a standard set of rules.

To differentiate it from rugby, which was known as “rugby football,” the sport became known as “Association Football” in England.

But the name “Association Football” was too long, and people found it inconvenient. As a result, British players began to shorten it to “assoc,” which eventually became “assoccer” and finally “soccer” or “soccer football.”

The Americans, however, continued to use the term “soccer.” This is because another sport emerged in America and adopted the name “football,” which was derived from “rugby football.”

This sport became more popular in the country, so to differentiate it from soccer, the name “soccer” was retained for the sport that involves kicking the ball.

Meanwhile, “football” was used to refer to the sport that involves throwing the ball.

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What is the origin of the word “football”?

The word “football” has a long history, dating back centuries.

The origins of the word are not entirely clear, but it is widely believed to have originated from the game played in England during the Middle Ages, which was called “foot-ball.”

This game was played with a ball that was kicked around by players using their feet, and it was a precursor to the modern sport of association football (or soccer, as it is called in some countries).

Over time, the term “football” came to be applied to a wide range of similar games played in different parts of the world.

In the 19th century, several distinct forms of football emerged, including association football, rugby football, and American football.

The reason it didn’t change from “rugby football” to “American rugby” remains unclear.

One theory is that it’s called “football” because of the length of the ball, which is approximately one foot, and the measurement system used is the Imperial System, which also originated in Britain.

Today, the word “football” is used to refer to many different codes of the sport, each with its own unique set of rules and regulations.







Why is football called soccer?

The word “soccer” is derived from “association football”, the sport’s official name in England. The word “football” is used to describe many different codes of football in different countries, including American football, Australian rules football, and Canadian football. In order to avoid confusion, the sport known as football in the rest of the world is referred to as “soccer” in the United States. The use of the word “soccer” has become widespread in America, and it is now an established term for the sport there.

Is soccer originally called football?

Both soccer and American football have their roots as games that involved kicking a ball.

Soccer, which is now the most widely played sport globally, was initially referred to as “association football.” In an effort to shorten this name, newspapers started calling it “assoc,” which was eventually shortened further to “soc.” Eventually, it became known as “soccer.”

Who is the founder of soccer?

The origins of soccer can be traced back to over two millennia ago, with records pointing to ancient China.

Although other civilizations such as Greece, Rome, and certain regions in Central America also claim to have started the sport, it was in England where soccer, also referred to as “football” by the British and many others worldwide, was transformed into the game that is recognized today.

When was the first international soccer match played?

The first recorded international soccer match was played on November 30, 1872, between Scotland and England.

When was the first American football match played?

The first recorded American football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Who is the father of soccer?

Ebenezer Cobb Morley

There is no one person who is universally recognized as the “father of soccer.”

However, Ebenezer Cobb Morley, an English sportsman, is often credited with being one of the key figures in the development of the sport of soccer. Morley was a founding member of the Football Association (FA) in England and played a significant role in establishing the rules and regulations that are still used in the modern game of soccer.

What is the oldest soccer team?

Sheffield Football Club, founded in England in 1857, is regarded as the oldest soccer club globally.

A group of English intellectuals who sought to play a variation of football distinct from the rough, folk versions popular during that time established the club.

Sheffield FC played a crucial part in the sport’s early evolution and still exists today, although it operates as an amateur club.




Final thoughts – Soccer vs Football 

When it comes to American football and soccer, there’s no denying that these two sports are both stunning and steeped in tradition and excitement.

The fact that they’re so different from each other just goes to show how amazing they can be in their own unique ways.

And with 10 key differences between them, you can be sure that these sports will never become too similar and will always provide a thrilling experience for fans.

So, whether you’re a football fanatic wanting to delve into the world of soccer, or a soccer nut trying to get a taste of American football, both sports have something to offer that’ll keep you entertained.

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