Soccer Vs. Football (Differences – Which Is Better!)

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Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and football is the most popular in the USA – This is the reason for the great debate.

While soccer is slowly growing in states, football remains the most loved, and it does not look like changing any time soon.

Here are some of the comparisons we will look at;

  • History
  • Fans
  • Rules
  • Salaries
  • Equipment

With so many questions in this debate, this article covers them with a balanced view.

Soccer vs Football
Soccer vs. Football

Which came first – soccer or football?

Officially soccer was properly formed in 1848, and football was formed in 1869. People across the globe somewhat debate the origin of soccer.

The earliest form of the game is often traced back about two thousand years to China’s Han Dynasty.

However, similar games were played in other regions like Greece, Rome, and the Aztec Empire. These versions would have been unrecognizable from today’s game. 

  • Regardless, a more recognizable form of the game came from England. Early games were much more violent than what we see today.

The game changed over time. First, each region, university, or club had its own rules. Eventually, it was decided there should be a standard.

This gave rise to the Cambridge Rules in 1848. This is considered the birth of the modern game. In light of that, football after soccer. It was born out of a combination of soccer and rugby.

The first-ever college football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. Because the game was so new, it had to adapt to rule changes and, eventually, a uniform set of rules.

Similar to soccer’s Cambridge Rules, a set of football rules were developed in the 1880s. 

The Dallas Cowboys in 2008 summer training camp in Oxnard CA during a training session working out. ○ Soccer Blade
The Dallas Cowboys at their 2008 summer training camp in Oxnard, CA during a training session working out.

Who is faster, an NFL or soccer player?

The NFL’s Raheem Mostert is the fastest football player, clocking in at 23.09. On the soccer side, Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich ran at a top speed of 22.68 mph.

Every player is different, but the top speeds for each sport are very comparable. There are incredibly fast athletes in both the NFL and professional soccer.

  • When it comes to top-level professional athletes, there are only marginal differences that set the athletes apart.

Each sport is full of athletes at a fitness level most of us could not even believe. The speed of football players will differ more widely than for soccer players.

Offensive and defensive linemen, for example, are typically much bigger and more powerful but not necessarily fast.

On the other hand, a wide receiver, running back, or linebacker requires much more speed. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26, 2020 Alphonso Davies of Bayern pictured during the 201920 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game between Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge.
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 26, 2020 Alphonso Davies of Bayern pictured during the 201920 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game between Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge.

Which is better, soccer or football?

Soccer is greater than football because of its worldwide popularity. You can play at any age, only a ball is needed, and it’s simple but technical.

Although asking what is better between soccer and football will be a personal preference. They’re both great sports that are worth watching.

I prefer soccer to football. I enjoy football but have an extensive soccer background.

There are numerous reasons why I prefer soccer over football

  • Ease of access – a ball and some space are all you need to start playing soccer.
  • The barrier to entry is so low – which is why it’s so popular worldwide. No expensive equipment is required.
  • Fluidity – soccer doesn’t stop. Each pass and run are important to try and score. It’s vastly different from football, where the game is constantly stopping. In an NFL game of four 15-minute quarters, the ball is in play for an average of about 11 minutes. 
  • Simplicity – it’s said that soccer is simple to play but difficult to play simple. The basic concept of soccer is easy to understand. Two teams. One ball. Kick the ball into the net.
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Illustrated american football field with green stripes and white lines. ○ Soccer Blade

Differences and Similarities of Soccer and Football

Football and soccer are unalike in many ways. There are still quite a few similarities between the two: 


  • Played with 11 players on each team.
  • The point of the game is to move the ball from one end of the field to the other to score points. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
  • Games are usually played on grass or artificial grass
  • Passionate fan bases
  • Growing television contracts

The differences

Ultimately, these are two totally different games with little in common. 

  • Offense vs. defense – The entire team plays offense and defense in soccer. Different positions might have more attacking or defensive focus, but the game is played continuously. Football has an entire set of players for offense and defense. 
  • Ball – soccer uses a round ball. A football is oblong or “egg-shaped.”
  • Point system – in soccer, there is only one way to score – kick the ball into the goal. In football, there are multiple ways to get different amounts of points. This makes for interesting tactical decisions to try and win the game.
  • Plays – in football, each play has been predesigned. The offensive players know exactly where they will run before the ball is snapped so that their quarterback knows where the open players might be. Some teams have “plays” for set pieces and corner kicks. They are much less strict than football plays. 
  • Timeouts – in football, before you run a play, you can take a timeout to discuss game plans, change a play call, or simply give your team a breather. 
  • Physicality – Contact is common in both sports, but football is far more physical. Hard hits and tackles take place on just about every play. 
Madrid Spain 01 MAY 2019 Filled tribunes with the Liverpool fans during the UEFA Champions League 2019 final match between FC Liverpool vs Tottenham at Wanda Metropolitano Spain
Madrid Spain 01 MAY 2019 Filled tribunes with the Liverpool fans during the UEFA Champions League 2019 final match between FC Liverpool vs Tottenham at Wanda Metropolitano Spain

The popularity of soccer and football

Soccer is by far the most popular sport by every measurable metric. It’s estimated that between 250 and 270 million people play the sport globally. It’s the most popular sport in nearly every country. 

Football is very popular in the United States. There are fans in other countries, but only very few. For that reason, it’s dwarfed globally by soccer.

  • There are about 5 million tackle football participants. That number has been declining dramatically since 2006.

There are several reasons for the declining population in football. The most notable being the potential health risks for football players. 

To play soccer, all you need is a ball. You can kick around alone or play a full 11v11 game and anything in-between.

Starting in football is expensive and requires lots of equipment to play. Unlike soccer, football is difficult to play in a small group. This aids soccer’s popularity.

American football helmet and ball lying on field. ○ Soccer Blade
American football helmet and ball lying on field

Soccer vs. Football: Viewership

Regarding viewership, soccer and football consistently earn some of the highest television ratings. In the American television market, football is king.

The NFL dominates everything else. In 2020, football games were 13 of the top 20 most-watched television programs.

The NFL held 12 of those, with the Super Bowl being the highest-rated program of the year at just over 102 million viewers.

Even football’s numbers pale in comparison to soccer’s global viewership numbers. FIFA released its viewership numbers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

  • They estimated 3.572 billion people tuned in throughout the event, with 1.12 worldwide viewers tuning in to the final between France and Croatia. 

The U.S. numbers were lower in this past World Cup than in previous ones. Most of this decline can be attributed to the U.S. men’s national team’s failure to qualify.

Still, nearly two million people tuned in to each game. Not an insignificant number throughout the entire event without a team involved. 

Fans cheer as 49ers celebrate win on field. ○ Soccer Blade
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – NOVEMBER 14: St.Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers: Fans cheer as 49ers celebrate win on field at Candlestick Stadium San Francisco California Sunday November 14 2010.

Soccer vs. Football: Fans

Soccer fans are seen as some of the more passionate fan bases worldwide. Fans go to great lengths for clubs and countries to support their teams.

Traveling to away matches and singing songs for the entire game is common behavior for many soccer fans. To them, it’s more than a sport; it’s their religion. The stadium is their church. 

Football also has fantastic fan bases. Sellouts are common at the college level (especially Division-I) and in the NFL.

Stadiums are full of fan bases who love their team and create a wonderful environment.

Saturdays and Sundays in the fall, you can find a huge percentage of Americans watching football. 

Both sports have excellent fans in their own right. An inherent “us vs. them” complex can be dangerous when passion turns into violence.

Still, most fan interactions remain good. 

We learned during the Coronavirus pandemic that the noise and energy that fan energy cannot be replicated. Fans are an integral part of sports.

UK London Thousands of fans take part in the American football festivities on October 24 2015 before the regular season NFL game between the Bills and the Jaguars is played at Wembley Stadium. ○ Soccer Blade

Soccer vs. Football: Money

Sports are a multi-billion dollar industry that is growing every year. FIFA alone generates over $260 million in revenue yearly. Meanwhile, the NFL brought in $12 billion in 2020. 

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Most sports teams are owned by the very rich. They are another money-making vehicle that helps diversify their already large portfolio.

Owning a sports team, especially a good one, can be seen as a status symbol in addition to returning a hefty chunk of change.

Each year, Forbes puts out a list of the most valuable sports teams in the world. Football and soccer teams are always prevalent.  

The 2020 list had the Dallas Cowboys as the most valuable sports team – coming in at $5.7 billion. 11 out of the top 25 most valuable sports teams in the world are NFL teams.

  • Meanwhile, 6 of the top 25 are soccer teams. Household names like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United are unsurprisingly leading the way.

The growing value of these teams shows no signs of slowing down. 

With new state-of-the-art stadiums being built, ticket prices increasing, and media companies and sponsors shelling out billions each year, more money will continue to be poured into soccer and football. 

22.06.2018. Saint Petersburg, Russian NEYMAR in action during the Fifa World Cup Russia 2018, Group E, football game between BRAZIL V COSTARICA in Saint Petersburg Stadium.
22.06.2018. Saint Petersburg, Russian NEYMAR in action during the Fifa World Cup Russia 2018, Group E, football game between BRAZIL V COSTARICA in Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Soccer vs. Football: Salary 

Neymar is the highest-paid soccer player at $263 per year; in the NLF, it’s Patrick Mahomes on $45 per year.

A big difference between the NFL and most soccer leagues is that the NFL operates under a salary cap. Each team has a set amount of money to disperse amongst their roster yearly.

The idea is that working within these rules helps level the playing field. In 2022 each team’s salary will be capped at $208.2 million. 

Because of the NFL’s structure, the league minimum salary is negotiated by the NFL Player’s Union. Per their collective bargaining agreement, the minimum salary is $660,000.

  • The highest-paid players make many millions of dollars. Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, tops the list raking in $45 million yearly.

Considering practice players and players lower on the depth chart, the average NFL salary is nearly $900,000.

The top-end multi-million dollar salaries are reserved for star players. The system in professional soccer is different and varies widely from league to league. 

Except for Major League Soccer (MLS), soccer leagues do not use a salary cap. This means they do not have collective bargaining agreements that set league minimum salaries.

That structure allows players to get paid whatever their team’s owner can afford. As more money is poured into the sport, the price of players is increasing dramatically. 

When a soccer player moves teams, the club that acquires the player pays a transfer fee.

This essentially gives them the rights to the player and pays their wage—transfer fee money to bring in other players or improve the club. Giant transfer fees and wage bills make it difficult for small teams to keep up.

The top ten highest transfer fees have been made in the last 8 years.

  • The record is held by Neymar, who was sold from Barcelona (LaLiga) to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) (Ligue 1) for $263 million.

With PSG, Neymar is on a salary of $36.8 million yearly. All-in-all, PSG is spending a massive sum of money on just one player. 

Football Field and Soccer Field with Football Players and Soccer Players. ○ Soccer Blade

Soccer Vs. Football: Rules

Soccer and football operate under very different sets of rules. One of the most obvious differences is that football is played with the hands.

TimeTwo halves – 45 minutes eachFour quarters – 15 minutes each
Players11 each11 each
Point System1 goal = 1 pointTouchdown = 7, Field goal = 3, Safety = 2, Extra point = 1
Shirt pulling
“Cleats up” slide tackle
Pass interference
False start
Soccer vs. Football Rules Comparrison

Football Overview

  1. The ball is thrown or handed off to teammates to advance the ball into the opponent’s end zone.
  2. The offense gets four opportunities to move the ball 10 yards. They get a new set of downs to continue moving the ball if they do. 
  3. While the offense is trying to move the ball, the goal of the defense is to stop them.
  4. Tackling an offensive player to the ground stops the play. 
  5. Each play starts with both teams lined up against each other.
  6. The center on the offense starts the play by snapping the ball to the quarterback.
  7. The play continues until an offensive player is tackled or a throw is unsuccessful.

Although football can be violent, there are rules against certain acts that result in varying degrees of penalties.

Penalties on the offensive team move them backward, further from a first down. Defensive penalties do the opposite. Move the offense closer to a first down. 

Brazil Soccer Fans
Brazil Soccer Fans

Soccer Overview

Soccer, meanwhile, is played exclusively using the feet (except for the goalkeeper).

  1. There is constant passing and movement. Play is continuous unless there is a stoppage because of a foul or goal. 
  2. Offside is seen as the most complicated rule to understand. It occurs when an attacking player is behind the opponent’s last defender when the ball is passed to them by a teammate.
  3. A regular foul will be a free kick given to the opponent. Some conduct is subject to a yellow card (caution) or red card (ejection) being shown.
  4. Two yellow cards within the same game equal a red card, and the player will be ejected from the game. 
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Aerial view of eight soccer training fields doing soccer drills 2

Soccer Vs. Football: Field – Dimensions

The surface and general size of soccer and football fields are roughly the same – 120 yards by 50 to 70. At the youth levels, soccer and football often share a field. 

A regulation soccer field is 110 -120 yards long and 70-80 yards wide. The 18-yard box surrounding each goal is the only area where the goalkeeper can use their hands. 

A football field is 120 yards long (including the end zones) by 53.3 yards wide. Some lines show each yard, and longer lines indicate every 5 yards. 

Soccer Vs. Football: Cleats/Equipment

To help with traction and prevent slipping, players wear cleats. Each sport has cleats designed specifically to meet their needs. 

soccer cleats turf
Soccer Cleats

In soccer, cleats are one of the very few pieces of equipment needed. Football requires many pads, a helmet, gloves, and other equipment besides cleats.

American football cleats
American Football Cleats

Soccer Vs. Football: Injuries

The physical nature of both sports means that injuries are unfortunately common. A major risk is assumed when you sign up to play either sport. 

Some of the common injuries for both sports include:

  • Concussion heading the ball in soccer or being tackled in football can cause concussions. These can be extremely dangerous, especially in young people. 
  • Ligament damage – both of these sports require explosive leg power. This puts your knees under a great deal of stress. Turning the wrong way or being hit in the knee can do structural damage resulting in torn or strained ligaments (e.g. ACLs). These injuries often require surgical repair and strenuous rehab to get back to full fitness. 
  • Muscle injuries – even athletes who are as fit as the ones at the top level experience muscle injuries. Not warming up and stretching properly or recovering enough leaves your muscles subject to pulls and tears. Although they often don’t require surgery, they can be painful and leave an athlete out of competition for a long time. 

A 2017 study looked at the brains of deceased football players.

  • It found that 99% of NFL players, 91% of college football players, and 21% of high school football players have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is caused in part by repeated blows to the head. Something extremely common on every play in a football game. 

Because of this, parents have been reluctant to have their youth athletes play football. Instead, they opt for sports with less head-to-head contact – like soccer. 

Head coach Pep Guardiola of Manchester City watches his players during a training session for the Beijing match of the 2016 International Champions Cup China in Beijing, China, 24 July 2016
Head coach Pep Guardiola of Manchester City watches his players during a training session for the Beijing match of the 2016 International Champions Cup China in Beijing, China, 24 July 2016

Soccer Vs. Football: Coaches

Coaches and their assistants head both games. They have a team that each specializes in areas of the field, positions, and tactics.

In soccer, the head coach is supported by assistant coaches. They often take on specific responsibilities, such as focusing on improving a specific position (e.g., goalkeepers). 

Football teams tend to have more coaches. Under the head coach, offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators oversee each side of the ball.

Depending on the team, the coordinators may make the play calls using a predetermined game plan. Each position will then have a position coach under them.

Who wins? Soccer or Football

Nothing brings us together like sports. It creates communities and provides a distraction to everyday life.

When it comes down to it, both sports are great. Each has pros and cons, but the debate over which is better may never end. 

Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade | + posts

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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Soccer Lifestyle FAQ

How Much Do Soccer Referees Get Paid?

The salary for a referee ranges from $27 to $50 per youth game. The MLS pays $900 per game and the highest-paid referees are in Spain, they get $6,354 per game!

How much does a stadium cost?

Professional soccer stadiums can cost from 250$ upwards to 1.5 billion dollars. With capacities from 25,000 to 60,000 as an average.

How To Avoid Stomach Cramps While Playing Soccer

Avoiding nasty stomach cramps while playing soccer can be achieved by proper hydration methods, ensuring that your body has all the correct minerals, and properly stretching before the game.

How much do players get paid in the MLS?

The highest-paid player is Carlos Vela, who earns $6.3 million per year playing for Los Angeles FC.
However, the average base salary for a senior roster, a non-designated player in the league is $398,725. While this is a lot of money, it is significantly less than Vela’s whopper wage.

What are the most common scores in the English Premier League?

The most common score in the Premier League is a 1-0 home win, followed by a 2-0 home win, and finally a 2-1 home win. The away victories follow, with 2-1 victories being more prevalent than 1-0 victories.

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