American Football vs Soccer – What is the difference?

American football vs Soccer: In the sports universe, few debates stir up as much passion as the one between American Football and Soccer. Even though both games are team sports that involve ball movement and strategic planning, they are vastly different. Today, we venture into the heart of the “American Football vs Soccer” debate, examining their differences and similarities in greater detail.

Comparison chart

American FootballSoccer
Number of players 11 players11 players (10 players on defensive and offensive lineup and 1 goalkeeper)
Game objective Score points by carrying the ball to the opponent’s goal line by running or passing the ball to other players. When a ball breaches the opponent’s goal line, this is called a touchdown (6 points). Kicking the ball through the goal post is called a field goal (3 points)Score a goal. The team with had higher goals will be the winner
Time limitation Four 15-minute quarters, with a half-time intermission after the second quarter.45 minutes for each half of the game. There is added time for each half. 90 minutes in total
Definition A game with physical aggression to score a point against the opponent team. Players are required to put on helmets and paddingThe most common sport across the globe. The game’s objective is to score goals by kicking the ball into the net behind the goalpost.
Major League The National Football League – NFL Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga(Germany), Serie A (Italy), Ligue 1 (France)
Countries The USA, CanadaWorld wide
Current World Champions Tampa Bay BuccaneersFrance
Number of referees 3 to 6 referees3 referees
Protective Gear Helmet, Shoulder/Chest pad/protector, upper leg padding, and mouthguardBoots, Leg padding, and Gloves for the goalkeeper
Major Tournament NFL PlayoffsWorld Cup, UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, Copa del Rey, DFB Pokal, Coppa Italia, Coupe de France
Highest governing bodyNFLFIFA


American Football vs Soccer Popularity

Before diving into the nitty-gritty details, let’s start with a basic understanding of the two sports. American Football, primarily played in the United States, is a sport characterized by strategic team play, physicality, and frequent stoppages in play. On the contrary, Soccer, known as ‘Football’ in many parts of the world, emphasizes continuous play, and finesse, and is globally popular.

On the global stage, soccer has an unrivaled following, with over 3.5 billion self-proclaimed fans. The sport’s simplicity and universal rules have made it accessible to people from all walks of life. However, when we narrow the focus to the United States, American football takes the lead. The Super Bowl, the championship game of the National Football League (NFL), often ranks as the most-watched television event in the country.

Despite the numerous contrasts, there exist several soccer and football similarities:

  • Both games involve two teams, each comprising 11 players on the field.
  • The primary equipment used in both sports is a ball.
  • Scoring goals is the ultimate objective in both games.
  • Each sport requires a combination of team strategy, skill, and athletic ability.

A Deeper Look into History

The first American football game was played on November 06th, 1869 between 2 college teams name Rutgers and Princeton. The match consisted of 25 players per team and used a ball that could not be picked up or carried. Rutgers won the game 6–4.

After that, Representatives of Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers met on October 19, 1873, to create a standard set of rules for use by all schools. Teams were set at 20 players each, and fields of 400 by 250 feet (122 m × 76 m) were specified.

After playing McGill University using both Canadian and American rules, the Harvard players preferred the Canadian style. It has only 11 men on the field, running the ball without having to be chased by an opponent, the forward pass, tackling, and using an oblong instead of a round ball.

American Football vs Soccer history

With soccer, while those associated with football in England pride themselves on the fact that they are the ‘inventors’ of modern football, in many other parts of the world there are other versions of football, even earlier than in the UK.

The first football version was thought to be ‘Cuju’, originating from China during the Han Dynasty, from 206 BC to 220 BC. ‘Cuju’ is understood in the literal sense of ‘shot’ and the purpose of this game is to bring the ball into the net. Like the later versions in the UK, Cuju did not allow the ball to touch.

Similarly, in Greece, there are similar matches, called “Episkyros”. However, the difference is that in the matches in Greece, players can use their hands to play football.

The difference between the rules of the 2 sports

In American football rules, a team will score points when their player placed the ball on the opponent’s goal line. When a player passed the ball to the opponent’s goal line, this will be called a touched down and the scored team gets 6 points. When a free-kick happened and the players pass the ball through the opponents’ goalposts, the teams will get 3 points.

Each match is 60 minutes long, divided into 4 halves, excluding dead time (ball out of play), so sometimes the total playing time on the field is up to 180 minutes. The ball is made of leather, weighs 400 grams, is oval, and has 2 white lines for easy viewing, but it is not available in the NFL. Referees are also known as “The Zebras” because of their white, black plaid uniform. Each match has from 4 to 7 referees on duty.

American Football vs Soccer Rules

On the other hand, in soccer, each team will have 11 players (10 for the defensive and offensive lineup squad, and 1 goalkeeper). To win the match, each team needs to score plenty of goals at their opponent’s goalpost. Therefore, the 3 points will be given to the winning team after 90 minutes are finished.

Moreover, if the match ended up with a draw result, each team who participated in the match will receive 1 point on the ranking table. The team who receives the highest score on the football league ranked table will be the champion.

American Football Cleats vs Soccer Cleats

The difference in these sports extends to player equipment, especially their footwear. American football cleats are designed with a focus on traction, control, and stability. They feature a toe stud for improved traction during rapid acceleration and higher-cut styles for ankle support, due to the physical nature of the sport involving tackling and blocking.

In contrast, soccer cleats are designed for agility and precise footwork. They feature low-cut styles for maximum mobility and lack a front-toe stud to avoid accidental tripping. The studs on soccer cleats are also generally shorter than those on American football cleats, focusing more on facilitating quick directional changes and high-speed maneuvers.

American Football vs Soccer field

American Football vs Soccer ball, field shape

One of the primary distinctions between these two sports lies in the dimensions and markings of their playing areas. An American Football field measures 120 yards in length (including two 10-yard end zones) and 53.3 yards in width. The field is marked with yard lines every five yards, extending across the field, and hash marks, for ball placement, running parallel to these yard lines.

On the other hand, a soccer field, also called a pitch, can range between 100-130 yards in length and 50-100 yards in width, depending on the venue. Notable markings on a soccer field include a center circle, a halfway line, and penalty boxes near each goal. Unlike American football, there are no ‘end zones,’ and play is focused around the two goals positioned at the center of each end line


In summary, American football and soccer may both be classified as team sports involving ball play, but they vary significantly in numerous aspects – including the field, equipment, popularity, gameplay, and rules. It’s this difference that adds to the richness of the world of sports, offering something for every enthusiast. You can see more in the same article “American Football vs Rugby“.

For more deep dives into the world of sports comparisons, explore SimilarSport. It’s your go-to platform for understanding and appreciating the diversity of sports worldwide as well as sporting difference. After all, the joy of sports lies as much in understanding and appreciating their nuances as it does in the thrill of the game!

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