Football or Soccer?

21 April 2023

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between football and soccer.


Hello, my name is Ben.

Ask a Teacher: Football or Soccer?
Ask a Teacher: Football or Soccer?

I am a middle school student from China. I like learning English. "Soccer" and "football" sometimes mean the same thing, and sometimes they mean different things. Could you please explain how to tell the difference in daily life?

Thank you!


This is an awesome question, Ben.

You are correct, "football" and "soccer" are the same sports. But "football" in the United States is a completely different game from the "football" played in other parts of the world.

Let's take a closer look at the two terms and two different games played.

The most popular game in the world - "football" - is the one played only with the feet. Every four years, players from many nations gather for the World Cup. In game play, a ball is passed and kicked around a large field with goals at each end. A goalkeeper protects each goal while 10 other players try to score. Football is played almost year-round with two short breaks in the winter and summer.

The Argentina national football team won the 2022 World Cup.

We also play this game in the United States, but we call it "soccer." It is the same sport.

Eleven US cities will host soccer games for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

One of the most popular sports in the United States, however, is called "football," but it is a completely different sport. Most people from outside of the U.S. know this sport as "American football" and the big game each year is called the Super Bowl.

In this sport, the ball is oval-shaped and brown. The players mostly use their hands as they run and throw the ball down the field to the other team's end zone to score points, known as touchdowns. Players can also kick the ball over a high bar to score extra points.

As with soccer, there are 11 players on each team, but no goalkeepers. Instead, defensive players try to stop the other team from scoring by knocking the ball away or knocking down the player with the ball. American football is played September through January.

Unlike soccer, there are no professional football teams with women.

The West Virginia Mountaineers have won a lot of football games, but they have never won a national college championship.

Tailgating parties before football games include music, food, and drinks.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples helped you, Ben!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo and Dan Friedell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

knocking –v. to cause someone or something to fall to the ground

tailgate v. to have a social gathering in which food and drinks are served at or near the back of a parked vehicle