Why football is called soccer in the USA

Why do Americans insist on calling the sport "soccer" rather than "football," as the Brits do? This article explains it.

Why football is called soccer in the USA
Photo by Peter Glaser / Unsplash

Why do Americans insist on calling the sport "soccer" rather than "football," as the Brits do? England is entirely to blame for the true reason Americans refer to it as "soccer."
If you're English, then you can only blame yourself.

Although referring to the most popular sport in the world as "soccer" is frequently portrayed as a sign of American ignorance, Britain is to blame for the fact that Americans do not refer to it as "football" like the rest of the world does.

According to a 2014 paper by professor Stefan Szymanski at the University of Michigan, the term "soccer" is a British invention that British people stopped using around 40 years ago.

The usage of the term "association football" in Britain, which dates back 200 years, gave rise to the term "soccer."

A number of British universities started playing their own versions of "football," a medieval game, under different rules at the beginning of the 1800s. These games were grouped under various organizations and given different names in an effort to make things more uniform across the nation.

"Rugby Football" evolved into a hand-held version of the game. After the Football Association was established in 1863 to promote the game, 15 years after the rules were established at Cambridge, another variant became known as "association football."

"Rugby football" was shortened to "rugger" and then "rugby." "Soccer" took the place of "association football."

In the early 1900s, Americans developed their own version of the game, which they simply referred to as "football," following the spread of these two sports across the Atlantic.

In the United States, "association football" became "soccer," while "football" became "gridiron" in the United States.

The interesting thing is that British people continued to use the term "soccer" frequently for a significant portion of the 20th century, despite the fact that Americans now use the term. As a result, the majority of British people no longer use the word "soccer." Szymanski discovered that "football" and "soccer" were "almost interchangeable" in Britain between 1960 and 1980.

Then Szymanski changed everything:

"Since 1980, British publications have used the word "soccer" less frequently, and when it is used, it typically refers to an American setting." This decrease appears to be in response to the rise in usage in the United States, which is consistent with the NASL's peak around 1980.

However, UK broadcaster Sky Sports continued to use the term "soccer" to brand the wildly popular television shows "Soccer Saturday" and "Soccer A.M." Therefore, no, it is not wrong to call it "soccer" if you are American. However, due to its American connotations, the majority of British people have stopped using the term.