is an outdoor ball and goal game, called football in most other
parts of the world. The first recorded game probably was that
on a Shrove Tuesday in
Derby, England, part of
a festival to celebrate a
over a contingent of Roman troops (AD 217). By 1175 the Shrove
Tuesday soccer game was an annual event.
The sport remained popular for centuries in England under the
name football. But the advent of Rugby (1823) as a variant led
to confusion. The London Football Association was formed (1863)
to further the game that emphasized the kicking of the ball.
This became known as association football and then, through
abbreviation, as soccer. It was rapidly adopted in continental
Europe, where it still generally goes under the name football.
Other related sports called football are popular in countries
including Ireland and Australia.
is the most popular international team sport, followed by vast,
emotional audiences and associated at times with such events
as the 1969 “Soccer War” between El Salvador and Honduras and
oubreaks of mass hooliganism, notably by British supporters.
It has long been secondary in the United States, though, where
American football, a descendant primarily of rugby, dominates.
Since the 1970s, American soccer has grown at many levels, from
childrens' to collegiate; professional soccer, however, has
achieved only sporadic success, with the birth and decline of
several leagues as fan interest generally lagged. The most recent
U.S. professional league, Major League Soccer, played its first
season in 1996 and currently has 10 teams.
International competition is regulated by the Fédération Internationale
de Football Association (FIFA; founded 1904), which sponsors
the quadrennial (since 1930) World Cup competition and whose
membership is larger than that of the United Nations. Soccer
has been an Olympic event since 1900. The first Women's World
Cup, in 1991, was won by the United States, where women's soccer
has won more attention than men's; the women's competition was
added to the Olympics in 1996. Sparked by these successes, a
U.S. professional women's soccer league consisting of eight
teams recruited from the best players worldwide began play in
2001, but it folded two years later.
The game is played on a grassy field usually 120 yd by 75 yd
(110 m by 70 m). Centered on each end line is a goal, 8 yd (7.3
m) wide by 8 ft (2.4 m) high, backed with netting. A team consists
of eleven players—traditionally a goalkeeper, two fullbacks,
three halfbacks, and five forwards. Recent variants on these
positions include the striker, a forward who remains close to
the opponents' goal, and the sweeper, a roving defender. Play
is continuous through two 45-min periods, and substitutions
are severely limited. Overtime is played in case of a tie, and
if no further scoring occurs, the match may be resolved with
a series of alternating penalty kicks.
The object of the game is to advance an inflated leather ball—about
28 in. (71 cm) in circumference—into the opponents' goal. The
ball is kicked (often dribbled with short kicks) or advanced
with other parts of the body, but only the goalkeeper may use
the hands. Each goal counts one point. Penalties are various
types of free kicks, depending on the infraction; a player may
be ejected (without replacement) for a flagrant foul. Perhaps
the greatest soccer player of all time is Brazil's Pelé ; other
recent notables have included Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), Roberto
Biaggio (Italy), and Diego Maradonna (Argentina).