People have been playing soccer for centuries -- so no wonder this sport
is the most popular in the world!
The ancient Greeks, Chinese, Romans, Egyptians and Native Americans all
had their own versions of the game. In 1863, the rules used in modern soccer
were established in England.
Soccer is commonly called "football" in England and in most other parts
of the world, except the U.S. and Canada.
Even though people in North America call the game soccer, the term soccer
originally came from England. The first version of modern soccer was called
Association Football. This was eventually nicknamed soccer.
Every soccer team has 11 players, including a goalie. The object of the
game is to kick the ball into the opposite team's goal. You can't touch the
ball with your hands, but you can move the ball by dribbling it with your
feet, kicking the ball, passing to another player or deflecting the ball with
A game of soccer needs to be played on a field or in a large, open space.
It's played on outdoor grass fields, on artificial turf and in stadiums. Variations
of the game are played on asphalt or pavement. Indoor soccer is played in
|Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. There are amateur
and professional leagues all over the world.|
|Courtesy of: Philip Greenspun|
Soccer is the most popular game on the planet -- it's played all over the
world by all kinds of people.
Children as young as six play in competitive leagues. Men and women play
in community recreational and competitive leagues. Many people kick the soccer
ball around at the park, or take the ball to the beach for a game. Soccer
is also a popular professional sport.
Soccer is popular in Britain and in Canada, and is catching on in the United
States. Andrew Potts is an English soccer player who says soccer is becoming
more popular in North America because of increased TV coverage of the sport.
Tammy Baltazar agrees. She's involved with a soccer league in Washington.
She says that more and more young players are signing up each year.
The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is a national association
for soccer players and supporters. It says nearly 630,000 boys and girls,
aged four and a half to 18, are involved in the game. Then there are another
250,000 volunteer coaches, referees and administrators in 46 states.
Soccer isn't an expensive sport, but costs do add up quickly with equipment,
membership fees and travel costs. Cleats can cost $15 at a second-hand sports
shop, or can cost as much as $150 new. The price depends on the quality of
Shin guards are recommended and the starting price is about $7. That also
goes up with quality. Mouth guards are recommended for goalkeepers. They can
usually be obtained for free or for a minimal cost from your dentist.
"The cost of playing community soccer is relatively inexpensive," says
Lance Kraus, of the Breakaway Soccer Academy. Some of the higher levels may
require more expensive annual fees, depending on how many trips and tournaments
they enter. "Often community teams fund-raise for the added costs," he says.
Then there are soccer programs and developmental schools that run year-round.
They are much more expensive.
Travel costs depend on the league you're in. Generally, the more competitive
and more skilled the league, the further and more often you will have to travel
to play games.
Players normally pay a fee to join a soccer league. An average youth membership
is approximately $60 for the season. Players may have to pay extra costs for
team uniforms, bags and warm-up clothes.
Soccer requires physical strength and stamina. Players must be fit enough
to run, stop and start repeatedly throughout the game. Strength is needed
for an effective kick. Many of the skills, such as dribbling and heading the
ball, require physical coordination.
Players do get hurt. Ankles and knees are most commonly injured. Many players
choose to wear protective shin-pads and mouth guards. Because soccer isn't
a true contact sport like American football or rugby, fewer injuries occur
than in these sports.
Seeing-impaired people can play soccer too. They use a ball with a bell
People who just can't get enough of soccer may be able to find a part-time
or full-time job related to the sport. People can work in sporting goods stores,
at youth centers or at recreation clubs.
Many soccer players help manage or coach a team. Some become interested
enough to train as a coach. People can also train to be a referee or lines
keeper. But only a dedicated few become professional soccer players.
"Coaching requires experience, training, a love of the game and a love
for kids," says Baltazar. "Some coaches and parents are so set on making their
kid a winner that they lose the fun of the game."
If you're interested in soccer, go out and kick the ball around. It doesn't
take much skill to be able to enjoy the game, even the first time you are
out on the field.
Soccer is a great way to stay in shape. "Turn off the TV, unplug the Nintendo,
put the coloring books away, and go out and run, play and jump!" advises Baltazar.
Soccer helps people build endurance and improve coordination.
Many schools have soccer teams or lunch-hour soccer leagues. Don't be afraid
to go and try playing the game. You'll enjoy it and feel better after getting
Most communities have soccer leagues -- either recreational leagues or
ones that are more competitive. If you're truly dedicated to the sport, you
might consider going to soccer camps to develop your skills. These are usually
held for one week during the summer.
Figure out what you want out of soccer, and then join an appropriate league.
"This will help ensure that the benefits are what each player wants," says
"For example, if a player decides to play soccer to make friends and keep
in relatively good shape, but does not want to dedicate too much time, then
he or she would be better off playing in a house or community level.
"On the other hand, if a player shows potential and would like to pursue
an education via a soccer scholarship, then he or she may strive to play at
the highest community level and also train at an alternate soccer program."
After playing in community leagues you could play in college or university
competitions. There is always a chance for a dedicated few to play professional
Having a good coach can make all the difference in how much you enjoy the
At a club and junior level, soccer is meant to be fun.
"Sure, it's fun to win, but it's much more fun to play a good game without
the pressures of having to win all the time," says Baltazar. "Life is full
of stress and pressures all by itself. Soccer should be a release from all
While learning to play the game, remember these important tips:
- Don't fear failure
- Offense is the best defense
- Always be in position
- Get to know how your teammates play
- Practice, practice, practice!
American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)
12501 South Isis Ave.
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association
725 Fifth Ave.
Links to other soccer pages, listings of organizations, leagues
Terrace-Brier Soccer Club
Tammy Baltazar's page has all kinds of information about youth
soccer and links to other youth soccer pages
MIT Women's Soccer Team
Great soccer photos and links