FAQs – Soccer Frequently Asked Questions



CoachingAmericanSoccer.com provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about soccer.

What is the origin of the sport of soccer?

Although there is historical evidence of ancient games in Asia, Central America, and the Roman Empire which were similar to soccer, the modern game dates to the mid-1800s in England. There, the “schoolboys” of institutions like Brighton, Eton and Harrow started playing ball-oriented games with two teams, goals, and few rules. These games used many ways to propel the ball, including carrying it with the hands and kicking it with the feet.

Over time, two distinct groups evolved with different opinions about how the ball should be moved. The first group advocated the continued use of carrying the ball with the hands. The rules that they adopted ultimately became known as “Rugby Football.” The second group advocated using the feet to dribble and pass the ball. Due to a formal gathering of this second group, the rules that they adopted ultimately became known as “Association Football.”  “Soccer” is the common term for the game in the United States. The majority of the rest of the world refers to the game as “football.”

Where does the term “soccer” come from?

Due to the first formal gathering of an association to discuss the game, the rules that they adopted ultimately became known as “Association Football.” It is commonly accepted that the word “association” was first abbreviated to “assoc” which then became “soccer.”

Why is a soccer field called the “pitch”?

The generally accepted derivation is from when, over 100 years ago, erecting posts for goals on a field resembled that of pitching a tent.

What is the origin of the term “hat trick” in soccer?

A hat trick is a term used for the same player having scored three goals in a single game.  The origin is a little muddled.  One description ties it to cricket where it refers to three wickets taken by a bowler in three consecutive balls.  (The term is said to have first appeared in 1858 when fans took up a collection for one H. H. Stephenson for this feat and presented him with an actual hat bought with the proceeds.)  Another says that, at one time, teammates would pass a hat to collect money to reward the goal-scorer.  A third implies that the scorer could figuratively “stick that in his hat” as a badge of honor.

What is a “perfect” hat trick in soccer?

A perfect hat trick is a term used for the same player having scored three goals in a single soccer game, one each with the right foot, the left foot, and the head.

If scoring three goals in soccer is a “hat trick,” are there names for scoring other numbers of goals?

Two goals is a “brace,” four goals is a “haul,” five goals is a “glut,” six goals is a “double hat-trick,” and seven goals is a “haul-trick.”

What is “offside” in soccer?

A player shall be called for an offside penalty in soccer if, at the moment the ball is passed to him by a teammate, he is in an offside position (does not have at least one defender between and at least one defender level with him and the goal-line – or at least two defenders level) and, in the opinion of the referee, he is interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gained an advantage from being in that position.

Why does “offside” exist in soccer?

When the game was first played in the late 1800s by the “schoolboys” of England, there was no offside rule.  It wasn’t necessary because “gentlemen” would not have considered it “sporting” to have the ball passed to them with no opponent present and afforded the opportunity to defend.  Accordingly, if a gentleman found himself without an opponent between himself and the goal, he would not take advantage of the situation.  When the masses began to play soccer, many of the previously unwritten gentlemanly understandings of the game had to be codified.  The first offside law, instituted in the early 1900s, required that three defenders be between the potential recipient of the ball and the opponents’ goal-line at the moment the ball was passed.  Subsequently, in 1990 in an effort to increase scoring, this was changed to two defenders between, and later to at least one defender between and one defender level with, the potential recipient of the ball.   Subsequently, even this was changed to having at least two defenders level.  Without the offside rule, the game would be reduced to kicking the ball long distances to clumps of people in front of each goal.  With  the offside rule, the game takes on the beautiful nature of back-and-forth attack and defense.

I saw a bunch of male college soccer players take their jerseys off after a game and it looked like they were wearing sports bras.  What are those?

The players were wearing telemetry vests as part of an “Electronic Performance and Tracking System (EPTS).”  This system wirelessly transmits such information as heartrate and respiration.

Adidas is a huge supplier of soccer equipment all over the world.  How did the Adidas company get its name?

The Adidas company was founded in Germany by Adolf Dassler.  A common nickname for Adolf is Adi.  Combining the nickname with the first three letters of the last name resulted in “Adidas.”  The original German pronunciation is “AH-dee-DAHS.”

What is it when a soccer player receives a “cap”?

An old term still in common usage, players used to physically receive caps (hats or headgear) each time they represented their country in an international match.  One “cap” is now figuratively “awarded” for each time a player plays for his or her national team.  The total number of caps equals the total number of international appearances by a player.

Why are the sidelines in soccer officially called “touchlines”?

“Touch” is a rugby term referring to the areas outside of the two sidelines.  The touchlines are therefore the demarcation between the field of play and touch.  The term results from the common origin of the two sports.

What does it mean when the soccer ball is “in touch”?

A soccer ball is in touch when the whole of the ball was sent out of bounds over a sideline (touchline) and into either of the two areas outside the field of play (known as “touch” from rugby).

What is the “bi-line” and why isn’t it shown on a soccer field diagram?

Because the official term for the boundary at each end of the field is a “goal line,” there was confusion between that portion of the goal-line that is inside the goal itself and the two portions of the goal-line that run from outside of the goalposts up to both corner flags.  Accordingly, common usage now refers to the two (“bi”) portions of the goal-line outside of the goalposts up to the corner flags as the bi-line.

Why are the rules of soccer called “Laws”?

The first rules of soccer were adopted in Great Britain in 1863.  Because they were written in English “common law” style, they were titled the “Laws of the Game.”

What is FIFA?

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (in French), or the International Federation of Association Football (in English), is a non-profit organization recognized as the world governing body of soccer.  Every four years, FIFA conducts a men’s and a women’s “FIFA World Cup,” open to all member countries, to determine the best national teams.  (Pronounced: “Fee-fuh.”)

What is the IFAB?

The International Football Association Board is responsible for the “Laws of the Game” of soccer.  Amendments to the Laws are made annually by the IFAB and published in late spring.

What is the “instep” and why is it so important to soccer?

The instep is that part of the top of the foot that would otherwise be covered by the laces of a shoe. The main kick of soccer, using flexion generated from the hip and knee and then the force of the quadriceps extending the lower leg to strike the ball with the top of the foot, is called the “instep drive.”

What is a “nutmeg” in soccer?

To perform a nutmeg is to kick the ball between a player’s legs as a dribbling move used to beat a defender.  It is also referred to as a “meg.”

What is “advantage” in soccer?

The referee shall refrain from penalizing an infringement of the Laws of the Game when doing so would result in unfairly giving an ‘advantage’ to the infringing team. Generally, when the attacking team has a potential opportunity to advance or score but the opposing team commits a foul that did not alter the course of play, the referee chooses not to call the foul.  Calling the foul might otherwise give the infringing team an unfair ‘advantage’ by stopping the attack.

How is a an “offside trap” performed in soccer?

An offside trap in soccer is a defensive maneuver where all of the defensive backs step upfield simultaneously, just before an opponent passes the ball forward to a teammate, causing the teammate to be caught in an offside position at the moment the ball was passed.

What is an “own goal” in soccer?

An “own goal” in soccer is when a defender inadvertently propels the ball into the goal that he or she is defending, giving a score to the opponent.

Why does the soccer referee keep time?

The Laws of the Game of soccer provide a basic structure for the length of a match, two 45-minute halves, but allow for the addition of playing time based on stoppages.  “Stoppage time” usually includes on-field treatment for injuries and such things as overly-prolonged goal celebrations.  Since the referee has the sole discretion as to how much stoppage time is to be added, the referee has the one and only official watch.

What is a “bike” in soccer?

“Bike” is shorthand for “bicycle” which is shorthand for a “bicycle kick,” also known as an “overhead volley” or a “scissor kick.” In an overhead volley, the non-kicking leg is thrust high into the air in order to raise the path of the kicking leg as it is thrust even higher into the air to strike the ball immediately thereafter, above the original level of the head.  The player then usually lands on his or her shoulders and upper back, using the hands and arms to cushion the fall.  It is the motion of the two legs that, upside down, looks like that of pedaling a bicycle.

Why is there such an issue with “hand balls” in soccer?

The parts of the body associated with “handling” are from the tips of the fingers to the articulation of the upper arm with the shoulder of both arms.  The issue arises from the fact that it is not sufficient, in and of itself, for the ball to just contact these body parts. The contact must also be considered by the referee to have been deliberate on the part of the player.  Based on the Laws of the Game, the referee must take a number of factors into consideration in order to determine if a handling offense should be called.

What is the “box” and why isn’t it shown on a soccer field diagram?

The “box” in soccer almost always refers to that rectangular section of the field outlined in front of each goal technically called “The Penalty Area.”  This area is special because it is where the goalkeeper is allowed to use his or her hands.  Also, if a defender commits a direct-free-kick-style offense in this area, it results in the award of a Penalty Kick.

What is a “wall” in soccer?

A “wall” is a group of defenders lined up shoulder-to-shoulder to try to block their goal from a nearby free kick taken by the opponent.

Why are there yellow and red cards used by the referee in soccer?

Colored cards were introduced to clearly identify to players speaking different languages what kind of actions were being taken against them.  Yellow cards indicate that certain violations have occurred which result in a “caution.”  Red cards indicate that certain violations have occurred which result in an “ejection.”

What does “U” mean in soccer?

The “U” stands for “Under” and is associated with the age classification of youth soccer players. For example, for a player who is 10-years old or younger, the term is commonly expressed as “10 and Under,” “Under 10,” or “U-10.”

Why do I hear some soccer announcers talk about a “number-9 shirt”?

Historically, number 9 was the jersey number assigned to a center forward under the old, traditional (numbers 1-through-11) numbering scheme.  More recently, it has come to refer to the position assigned to a strong, goal-scoring, lead striker, no matter what actual jersey number may be worn.

How is a goal scored in soccer?

A goal is scored when the entire ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar, provided no infringement of the Laws of the Game has been committed previously by the team scoring the goal.  A ball that is on the goal line or has not passed all the way through the plane of the goal has not yet scored.

What is “Recreational,” “Select,” “Travel,” and “Club” soccer?

Recreational – A level of soccer designed to be more for fun and exercise than for competition or based on the ability of players.  Select – Higher level, competitive youth soccer where players are chosen (selected) for the team.  Travel – Select team that plays games outside of its local jurisdiction, often in other States. Club – Usually a local organization providing access to youth recreational and competitive games, but may include adult programs as well.

Is soccer safe?

Yes, soccer is a safe sport, especially when compared with a “collision sport” like American football.  Let there be no misunderstanding, however; based on the rules, soccer is a “contact sport.”  With up to 22 players running around competing for space and the ball in the full-sides outdoor game, the chance for either intentional or unintentional bodily or other physical contact in soccer is high.  As a result, injuries can occur.  There are also new concerns about concussions associated with heading.  Accordingly, heading is banned for 10-year-olds and under, and age-restricted for youth 11-years-old and over.

What is the difference between the USSF and US Soccer?

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and US Soccer are the same entity with the United States Soccer Federation being the formal name.  The USSF is recognized by FIFA as the official governing body for soccer in the United States.

What does MNT and WNT stand for in American soccer?

MNT stands for the United States Men’s National Team and WNT stands for the United States Women’s National Team.

What is a “banana” in soccer?

A “banana” kick, pass, or shot in soccer is a strike of the ball that imparts spin, or “english,” to the ball causing the ball to curve or “bend” in flight, making the path of the ball look like the curve of that of a banana.

What does “on goal” mean in soccer?

A shot “on goal” means that the ball, without any intervention on the part of the goalkeeper or a defender, would otherwise go into the goal and score.  Similar terms are “on frame,” “on target,” and “on net.”

What is the “eighteen” in soccer?

The “eighteen” is the outermost line of the Penalty Area marked on a soccer field, parallel to and 18-yards away from, the goal line.  It is important because it defines the boundary where the goalkeeper may use his or her hands.

Juggling seems to get a lot of attention in soccer.  What is “juggling?”

Juggling in soccer is the skill of repeatedly striking the ball with any part of the body, other than the hands and arms, in order to keep it in the air. This is usually done while standing in place.  Juggling, in and of itself, is a practice skill which is often the best way for players to develop a soft, deft “touch” to the ball.

Why is “Nil” used in a soccer score?

Common English speakers worldwide use “nil” as “zero” when referring to a soccer score.  For example, a 3-0 result would be stated as “three-nil.”  This accepted usage dates to approximately the 1870s in England and is derived from the Latin “nihil” meaning “nothing.”  The source may come from when the “schoolboys” who are credited with origins of the game all were required to learn Latin.

What are the positions in soccer?

Positioning is the assignment of players to particular areas of the field in order to facilitate tactics and strategy.  The basic positions are commonly goalkeeper, back defenders (fullbacks), midfielders (halfbacks), and strikers (forwards).

What is advancement and relegation in soccer?

For leagues having multiple divisions, there is a procedure for a number of winning teams to move up from lower divisions to higher divisions after a competition has been completed.  This is called advancement or promotion.  In order to maintain the same number of teams in a division, a corresponding number of losing teams move down.  This is called relegation.

What is a “tackle” in soccer?

A legal “tackle” in soccer is an attempt to take the ball away from an opponent, who has possession, in accordance with the rules.  This may involve physical contact and may be called by a number of terms, such as “front block” tackle and “slide” tackle.

What is a soccer “professional foul?”

A “professional foul” in soccer usually involves a last defender intentionally tripping, kicking, illegally charging, or otherwise bringing down an attacker who has broken free and is about to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper.  This is often done when the attacker has a high chance of scoring and the goalkeeper is determined to have a low chance of stopping the attacker.  It is also known as a “tactical foul,” is made outside of the Penalty Area, and will be punished with at least a yellow card as a cautionable offense.

What’s the difference between a soccer “formation” and a “system of play?’

A “formation,” is a structure designating the positions of players on the playing field, establishing a basis for the strategy and tactics of a team’s play.  In common usage (with a goalkeeper assumed), it numerically identifies the players from the goal outward, signifying the total number of back defenders (fullbacks), midfielders (halfbacks) and strikers (forwards), e.g., 4-3-3.  The total of the numbers always adds up to 10 for full sides. A “system of play” identifies the strategy and tactics to be employed within a formation. These may involve long passing, short passing, possession, keeping the ball on the ground or sending the ball in the air, and zone or man-to-man marking.

Why did I see a player in a soccer game intentionally toss a throw-in to the other team?

If there is no clear attack or immediate threat on goal, a player of either team may choose to intentionally stop play, by kicking the ball out of bounds over the touchline, so that assistance may be rendered to an injured player. Once the injured player has been attended to, the referee is then obligated to restart the match with a throw-in to be taken by the team that did not kick the ball out. Sportsmanship is then shown by the thrower throwing the ball to a player on the team that had previously kicked it out.  In effect, the team taking the throw-in is giving the ball back to the team that had had possession in the first place to acknowledge the original courtesy.

What is the origin of the classic black-and-white soccer ball?

The classic black-and-white soccer ball was created by Adidas and made its debut in 1970 for the World Cup.  The contrasting panels on the “Telstar” ball were designed to make the ball stand out in photographs.


HAVE A QUESTION?  Submit it to headcoach@coachingamericansoccer.com

WANT A LOT OF ANSWERS?  Purchase “The ULTIMATE SOCCER DICTIONARY of American Terms” at Amazon.com

© Copyright, John C. Harves