There’s much more to this sport than meets the eye of Bend It Like Beckham and She’s the Man (though let’s be real, those are cinematic masterpieces).
Soccer is played on a field called a pitch with nets on both ends. Each team has 11 players (including a goalkeeper). A game is made up of two 45 minute halves. The object of the game is to score goals by kicking or heading the ball into the other teams’ net. The soccer ball cannot be touched with hands or arms unless you’re the goalkeeper or completing a throw in. Consequently, the game is known as “football” pretty much everywhere except North America. This name, of course, makes much more sense in comparison to NFL or CFL football, a sport played primarily using your hands. SMH at whoever came up with that name.
How is it organized?
Soccer is a wildly popular global sport mostly due to its accessibility — you literally just need a ball to play it. As a result, almost every single continent has its own professional soccer league (which can get a little confusing). The most popular men’s leagues are the English Premier League (EPL), Spanish La Liga and Major League Soccer (MLS). MLS is played in North America.
Unlike other sports with a regular season and playoffs, teams collect points for wins at home or away, and goals home or away, so that at the end of the season a champion can be named. Playoffs start after the season champ is determined. On top of that, because soccer is a worldwide sport, there are huge tournaments where players represent their countries rather than the professional teams they’re signed to. These are the World Cup (played every four years) and the Euro Cup (also every four years but in the even-numbered year between World Cups).
Women in Soccer
Unlike men’s soccer, which is well established in Europe, women’s soccer is most popular in North America. The best league in the world is the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with all teams based in the US. The NWSL was the first pro sports league in the US to return from the COVID-19 sports shutdown, with the Houston Dash winning the inaugural Challenge Cup. And with the regular season being disrupted, the North Carolina Courage will be going for a NWSL title three-peat this year after hoisting the trophy in 2018 and 2019.
Another major tournament to have on your radar is the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League. The tournament is an international competition, pulling together the best club teams from across Europe. Check here for more deets on the Champions League structure and keep your eyes on USWNT members Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, lighting up the UEFA Champions League with Manchester City. So proud.
And, speaking of the USWNT, we have to talk more about our favorite squad. Most recently they made epic headlines for winning back-to-back World Cups in 2015 and 2019. In fact, dating back to the first women’s World Cup, our American squad has never placed worse than third place. Unreal.
Though she is retired, Abby Wambach is the team’s all-time top scorer and second on the all-time list for international goals scored. More recently, Megan Rapinoe dominated headlines in 2019 for her and vocal fight for , earning her Sports Illustrated honors (an article that is worth every second of your time). We aren't worthy.
Stuff to Know About Soccer
- Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, being played in over 200 countries!
- No one knows exactly when soccer was created, but the earliest versions of the game can be traced back 3,000 years. Woah.
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