What Does United Mean In Soccer?

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Soccer is a sport that’s steeped in tradition. While the game is continuously advancing in terms of tactics and strategy, certain things remain unchanged for decades. 

One constant in soccer is how teams are named. You may have noticed that in certain regions, there are several teams that end in “United”. But what does United mean in soccer?

Let’s take a look at what United means and why so many teams have this word in their name. Some of the topics we’ll touch on include: 

  • What United means in soccer
  • Famous teams with United in the name
  • Why teams have certain words in their names
  • MLS team names

Read on to discover the reasons for and meanings behind certain soccer team names:

MANCHESTER ENGLAND Old Trafford stadium

What Does United Mean In Soccer?

Several English, Scottish, Welsh, and U.S. teams have the word United in their names. While you may have grown accustomed to United-based team names, you may not know why so many clubs follow this trend. The reason teams have United in their name isn’t all that special. 

The term United in soccer essentially means the same as it does in English. United can be defined as coming together for a common purpose.

This meaning alone bears significance on the soccer field, where teamwork is an essential aspect of the game. However, for many old teams, the term United refers to the amalgamation of several small teams into a bigger franchise. 

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In the early days of English soccer, several small teams joined forces to form a stronger side that could compete with teams in the higher divisions. They frequently called themselves United to show that they were an accumulation of multiple teams from the region. 

Does that fully clarify why some teams are called “united”? Not entirely but it does explain why some teams are.

In other cases, the term United is used to show that the team represents a broader area. For example, Manchester United was born from Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) Football Club.

After falling into financial difficulties, the team was rescued by the captain and several local businessmen, who each invested their personal money in exchange for rights to run the club. 

Manchester United

To mark the team’s revival, they decided to change the name to Manchester United. The name change also signaled intent to represent Manchester and the surrounding areas. Rather than becoming a city team, Manchester United stood for the greater Manchester area. 

Despite the resurgence of Manchester City over the past two decades, a phrase commonly uttered in those parts is “there’s only one team in Manchester”. 

Famous Soccer Teams Ending In United

Throughout soccer history, many franchises have been forged with United in their name. It is a long-standing tradition that doesn’t look like it’s going to change.

However, several of the more recent teams with United in their name don’t necessarily have the same traditions as older franchises.

Rather than being an accumulation of multiple smaller teams, they are named United after the famed clubs that came before them. 

Some of the most famous teams ending in United include: 

Manchester UnitedEnglandPremier League
Leeds UnitedEnglandPremier League
Newcastle UnitedEngland Premier League
Atlanta United FCUSAMLS
Minnesota United FCUSAMLS
West Ham UnitedEnglandPremier League
Sheffield UnitedEnglandEnglish Championship
Dundee UnitedScotlandScottish Premiership
Famous teams ending in United.

Why Are Soccer Teams Called “Rovers”?

Another common team name in England, Ireland, and the U.S. is Rovers. Blackburn Rovers, Tranmere Rovers, Shamrock Rovers, and Derby City Rovers are all examples of soccer teams with strong followings in their regions. 

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The origin of Rovers soccer teams comes from the way these teams operated when they were first established.

Rovers were teams with no home ground. Rather than play home and away games, these sides would travel around their localities to compete against other teams on away turf.

Although most of these teams eventually built home stadiums or fields, they kept their original names. 

There are several teams with the word “Rangers” in their name. The origin of these teams is similar to Rovers. They were originally established without a fixed home ground. 

Why Are Soccer Teams Called “Wednesday”?

Sheffield Wednesday is one of the oldest soccer teams in the world and the second oldest in England. They were among the founding members of The Football Alliance, Football League, and Premier League. 

The term Wednesday was used in the name of the original team members who used to have a half-day of work on Wednesdays. During their time off, they would play games against neighboring teams.

Although they are currently competing in League One, the third-tier of English soccer, Sheffield Wednesday is certainly a household name among big soccer fans.

Again, they have stuck to tradition and stayed with their original name, almost 200 years after the club was established. 

Real Madrid celebrate the victory in the final of the UEFA Champions League 2018
Real Madrid celebrates victory in the final of the UEFA Champions League 2018.

Why Are Soccer Teams Called “Real”?

The word “Real” is Spanish for “Royal”. Spanish teams could earn the title from the Spanish King in power. Unsurprisingly, Real Madrid was the first team to be granted this honor, by King Alfonso XIII in 1920. Until that point, Los Blancos were known as Madrid Football Club.

Real Madrid went on to become a European giant, dominating domestic tournaments and European competitions.

Real Madrid have 14 Champions League titles, which is twice as much as the next most successful team, AC Milan (7). Playing for a team with Royal and soccer heritage has a lot of prestige, which has been referenced on more than one occasion:

“Real Madrid are obliged to win always – this jersey makes it an obligation.”

Casemiro (5 time Champions League winner with Real Madrid)

Since then, three other teams received royal patronage from Spanish Kings: Real Zaragoza, Real Betis, and Real Sociedad. However, these aren’t the only current teams in the world with Real in their name.

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MLS team, Real Salt Lake are named under the Royal brand. The Utah-based side was established in 2004, much later than their Spanish namesakes. 

Since they operate outside of Spain, Real Salt Lake didn’t need to receive patronage from the King. The name was inspired by their Spanish counterparts and was meant as a mark of respect to the trailblazing teams in Spain. 

Real Madrid - Champions of Europe • The Movie • Road To Victory - UCL 2022
Real Madrid had one of the greatest runs in Champions League history in 2021/22.

Why Do MLS Teams Have “FC” In Their Name?

In soccer, FC stands for football club. Although we call it soccer in the U.S., the official name of the sport is association football. Historically, soccer franchises have been established as football clubs.

As we’ve mentioned, soccer is a sport with a lot of tradition. Although MLS teams were founded much later than most of the major teams worldwide, they maintain the naming traditions of the greats that came before them. 

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Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade

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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