Why does America call Football Soccer? A short history of Fußball

Sometimes it seems like Soccer in America is treated as a “lesser” sport. Then it feels like an insult to injury when we don’t even call it by the name Football or Fußball like the rest of the world. And why is that? Why does America call Football Soccer? Why would we have a different name for a worldwide sport that seems to have no relation to the sport itself? After all… in Fußball/Football,  you use your feet to move a ball. There’s no socking involved. Ahhhh… but it turns out there IS a reason that Americans call if Soccer!

Looks like we can blame the British!

Why does America call Football Soccer?

Why does America call Football Soccer

image from pixabay… and just a recreation of an old image

Football or Fußball got its name in the mid 1860s. Now, a version of the game, kicking the ball into a goal, had been around since the Middle Ages. But by the mid-1800s, rules were being established, and the game was played by upper-class English kids at posh schools. They couldn’t keep saying “let’s go play that game where you kick a ball into a goal” (it’s much too clunky a name), and besides, teams were being formed to play against opposing schools. They needed a name, and there needed to be some rules regulations… (like “no intentionally kicking the other guy in the shins“).

So one night a bunch of team leaders got together and came up with a list of rules... and they called their sport Association Football. They didn’t just call it Football, because there was this other similar sport called Rugby Football, and they needed to keep the two clearly separated.

Now, it is apparently very British to call something by a shortened form of the name. Over time, Rugby Football came to be called Rugger… and (for reasons known only to the guy who did it first) Association Football was shortened to Soccer. (I wonder if it was pronounced Sosser at any point?)

Time moves forward a bit….

So, Why Do Americans Call Football Soccer?

In England, the term “Soccer Football” was fairly common. Still, when the game traveled across the Ocean to the United States, the word Football got dropped. America already HAD a game called Football (interestingly enough, the game was called Gridiron in England). And since the English understood what was meant by Soccer, it stuck.

Funny part, over time, the word Soccer started to slowly disappear from the British vocabulary. This coincided with the rise of Soccer popularity in the United States. (Could they POSSIBLY have been a little jealous of the US success at the sport? Hard to believe). By the 1980s, just over 100 years since the sport was officially recognized, the word Soccer stopped being used, and now it is Football exclusively.

Why do Germans Call if Fußball?

Why does America call Football Soccer

Legend has it that in 1874 August Hermann and Konrad Koch organized the first Fußball Game in Braunschweig, after August brought home a ball that he picked up in England. (I know they were adults, but I have this mental image of a kid racing out to meet his friend with a new ball). Shortly thereafter, the first club, the Dresden English Football Club was founded by expat English workers in Germany. Since they apparently didn’t play Rugby or Gridiron in Germany… all they used for the name was Football or Fußball. And the game spread in popularity until in 1900, 86 German Clubs came together to form the DFB -Deutscher Fußball Bund (German Football Association).

And it stuck…. and to this day, the sport is called Fußball (Fussball)

August 24, 1963 The Bundesliga is Born

In July 1962, delegates came together to vote for a top flight Professional Fußball league in Germany. The move was controversial, with the usual heated debates, but ultimately the resolution passed 103 to 26. And on August 14, 1963, sixteen teams formed the first season of Bundesliga. Cologne won that first season! Bayern München didn’t even qualify that year, instead 1860 Munich did (Originally, there was a “one team per city” rule). Over the years, 57 different teams have played in the Bundesliga. 60 years later the Bundesliga fills stadiums with fans who have come to expect skill, excitement, and especially GOALS!

Looking for More Fußball/Football/Soccer History?

Here are some of the books I have on my shelves….

The Ball is Round: A Global History of SoccerThe Ball is Round: A Global History of SoccerTor!: The Story of German FootballTor!: The Story of German FootballThe Illustrated History of FootballThe Illustrated History of FootballMen in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America's Sport of the Future Since 1972Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America’s Sport of the Future Since 1972


Learn German Soccer/Fußball Terms? –>German Fußball Vocabulary

Get yourself ready for the game!


why does america call football soccer

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