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What Countries Call Soccer vs Football – FIFA’s 100 Nations ⚽

what countries call football soccer

Countries That Call It Soccer Vs Football

Football is known as “soccer” primarily in the United States and Canada. This is because these countries have their versions of football – American Football and Canadian Football, respectively. To avoid confusion, what the rest of the world calls “football” is referred to as “soccer” in these countries.

Other countries where the term “soccer” might be used to some extent include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. However, it’s worth noting that in these countries, the term “football” can also refer to other sports. For instance, in Australia, “football” could mean Australian Rules Football, while in Ireland, it could refer to Gaelic football.

In the vast majority of countries around the world, however, the sport is known as “football”.

Now, what countries call football soccer? Let’s dive in.

What Countries Call Football Soccer?

Here are the top countries where the game ‘football’ is called ‘Soccer’ nationwide- 

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. South Africa

It’s kinda like a unique club, right? Not many members, but they sure stand out!

Top Countries In The World That Call It Soccer vs Football

CountryFIFA Ranking (2023)Best Soccer AchievementTerm Used
United States20Semifinals (1930)Soccer
Australia34Round of 16 (2006)Both (Soccer and Football)
Canada59World Cup (1986)Soccer
South Africa63Round of 16 (2002)Soccer
New Zealand103World Cup (1982, 2010)Both (Soccer and Football)
France2World Cup Champions (1998, 2018)Football
Brazil3World Cup Champions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)Football
England4World Cup Champions (1966)Football
Belgium5Finals (2018)Football
Croatia6Finals (2018)Football
Netherlands7Three-time World Cup finalistsFootball
Italy8World Cup Champions (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)Both (Calcio and Football)
Portugal9Euro Champions (2016)Football
Spain10World Cup Champions (2010)Football
Denmark10Quarterfinals (1998)Fodbold
Mexico11Quarterfinals (1970, 1986)Fútbol
Switzerland13Quarterfinals (1934, 1938 a 1954)Football
Germany14World Cup Champions (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)Football
Colombia15Quarterfinals (2014)Fútbol
Uruguay16World Cup Champions (1930, 1950)Football
Chile19Round of 16 (multiple occasions)Fútbol
Senegal21Quarterfinals (2002)Football
Sweden23Finals (1958)Football
Ukraine24Quarterfinals (2006)Football
Venezuela25Copa America finalsFútbol
Poland26Semifinals (1974, 1982)Football
Tunisia26World Cup Round of 16Football
Peru27Quarterfinals (1970)Fútbol
Japan28Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)Football/Soccer
Algeria30World Cup Round of 16Football
Turkey32Semifinals (2002)Futbol
Nigeria32Round of 16 (multiple occasions)Football
Iran33World Cup participationFootball
Morocco33World Cup Round of 16 (1986)Football
Paraguay35Quarterfinals (2010)Fútbol
Slovakia36World Cup Round of 16Futbal
Russia38Quarterfinals (2018)Football
South Korea39Semifinals (2002)Football
Norway42World Cup Round of 16Fotball
Romania44Quarterfinals (1994)Fotbal
Jamaica45World Cup participation (1998)Football
Iceland46Round of 16 (2018)Fótbolti
Ghana49Quarterfinals (2010)Football
Egypt49Seven-time African Cup of Nations winnersFootball
Costa Rica50Quarterfinals (2014)Fútbol
Ecuador53Round of 16 (2006)Fútbol
Cameroon53World Cup Quarterfinals (1990) and African Cup of Nations winners (multiple occasions)Football
Finland54UEFA Euro participation (multiple occasions)Jalkapallo
Mali56African Cup of Nations runners-up (multiple occasions)Football
DR Congo57African Cup of Nations winners (1968, 1974)Football
Qatar58AFC Asian Cup winnersFootball
Ivory Coast60African Cup of Nations winners (1992, 2015)Football
Burkina Faso60African Cup of Nations runners-up (2013)Football
Slovenia62World Cup Round of 16 (2010)Nogomet
North Macedonia65UEFA Euro participation (2020)Fudbal
Honduras67World Cup participationFútbol
Saudi Arabia67World Cup Round of 16Football
Iraq68AFC Asian Cup winnersFootball
El Salvador70World Cup participationFútbol
Guinea72African Cup of Nations runners-up (1976)Football
UAE73AFC Asian Cup runners-upFootball
China77World Cup participationFootball
Panama78World Cup participation (2018)Fútbol
Syria79AFC Asian Cup participationFootball
Oman80AFC Asian Cup participationFootball
Zambia80African Cup of Nations winners (2012)Football
Bolivia81Copa America Champions (1963)Fútbol
Uzbekistan85AFC Asian Cup semi-finalistsFootball
Gabon86African Cup of Nations quarterfinals (multiple occasions)Football
Benin88African Cup of Nations quarterfinalsFootball
Lebanon93AFC Asian Cup participationFootball
Vietnam94AFC Asian Cup quarterfinalsFootball
Jordan95AFC Asian Cup quarterfinalsFootball
Luxembourg98World Cup qualification (historically)Fussball
Bahrain99AFC Asian Cup participationFootball
Cyprus100UEFA European Championship qualification (historically)Podosfairo
Trinidad and Tobago103World Cup participation (2006)Football
India104AFC Asian Cup participationFootball
Kenya104African Cup of Nations participationFootball
Mozambique105African Cup of Nations quarterfinalsFutebol
Faroe Islands110World Cup qualification (historically)Fotboltur
Zimbabwe110African Cup of Nations participationFootball
Thailand114AFC Asian Cup semi-finalistsFootball
Kosovo115UEFA Nations League participationFutboll
Namibia116African Cup of Nations participationFootball
Angola122World Cup participation (2006)Futebol
Togo124World Cup participation (2006)Football
Guatemala130Gold Cup runners-upFútbol
Rwanda130African Cup of Nations participationFootball
Suriname136CONCACAF Championship participation (1977)Voetbal
Ethiopia150African Cup of Nations winners (1962)Football
Malaysia154AFF Championship winnersFootball
Niger156African Cup of Nations participationFootball
Singapore157AFF Championship winnersFootball
Kuwait160AFC Asian Cup winnersFootball
Indonesia170AFF Championship winners (2000, 2002, 2010, 2016)Sepakbola
Liechtenstein181World Cup qualification (historically)Fussball
Bangladesh186SAFF Championship winnersFootball
Pakistan200SAFF Championship runners-upFootball

The ranking is based on 2023 FIFA’s latest ranking data. FIFA rankings are always subject to change based on team performances, recent match results, and other factors. 

The American Influence on the Soccer vs Football Debate 🏈

You might wonder why the term “football” is used to describe two different sports in the United States: American football and association football, often termed as “soccer”. Let’s delve into the history to understand better.

In the beginning, “football” was predominantly used to refer to what we know today as soccer. This form of football had its roots set in the U.S. before American football took the stage. However, as American football started gaining traction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it sort of “borrowed” the term “football”.

Why “Soccer”?

There are some fascinating reasons behind this:

  • Differentiating the Sports: With the rising popularity of American football, a need emerged to tell the two sports apart. Enter “soccer”, a British slang that served the purpose perfectly.
  • Avoiding the Mix-up: Words can be tricky, especially when “football” also refers to other sports like rugby football and Aussie rules football. Using “soccer” ensured clarity.
  • Side-Stepping British Roots: Even though association football reached the U.S. shores via British immigrants, there was an apparent intent to diminish this British connection by switching up the name.

Now, although “soccer” dominates the conversation when referring to association football in the U.S., there’s still a minority clinging to the original “football” term. It’s a tad controversial if you ask me, and the debate is alive and kicking!

A Glimpse at the Term Usage in the U.S. 📊

SoccerMost common term for association football
FootballUsed by some for association football; Also denotes American football, rugby football, & Aussie rules football

What’s in a Name? Cultural Ties to “Soccer” ⚽

Here’s a kicker: countries that call it soccer have cultural narratives attached to their choice of terminology. While some might associate the term with British roots, others might have more localized reasons.

What’s Behind “Soccer”

Cultural factorCanadaSouth AfricaAsian countries
British influenceStrongWeakWeak
American influenceWeakStrongWeak
Local preferencesStrongStrongStrong

Country-wise Breakdown

CountryCultural factors
CanadaBritish influence, local tastes
South AfricaU.S. vibes, homegrown preferences
Asian countriesLocal love for the game

Diving deeper, the term “soccer” finds its roots in England, and many ex-British Empire nations, such as Canada, South Africa, and several Asian countries, have adopted it. However, America’s influence stands tall and unique in using “football” for their gridiron sport. Local preferences can also tilt the scale, especially in places with a vibrant soccer culture.

A couple of other game-changers in this naming match are the soccer infrastructure’s level of development in the country and media influence. If a nation’s soccer team nails it in global competitions, chances are “soccer” will score big in popularity.

But hey, languages evolve and cultures mix. There might be countries swaying to the “soccer” rhythm even under strong American vibes. After all, it’s not always black and white in the colorful world of soccer…or should I say football?


🌍 Why is the term “football” more universally accepted?

The term “football” traces its origins to traditional forms of folk football played in England, which were collectively known as “football”. When the sport began to formalize in the late 19th century, “association football” emerged to distinguish it from other forms like rugby football. 

Over time, “association” was dropped and the sport became simply “football” in most parts of the world.

👟 What are the origins of the word “soccer”?

“Soccer” is derived from the term “association” in “association football”. It comes from the colloquial use in England where they often added “-er” to abbreviations. This term was popular in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but waned in favor of “football”.

🤔 Why did Australia and New Zealand adopt both terms?

Australia and New Zealand have strong ties to both British and American cultures. They originally adopted “soccer” due to British influence, but with the emergence of their own versions of football (Rugby and Australian Rules), it became necessary to distinguish between the sports. 

Today, both terms are used interchangeably, but context often dictates which is preferred.

🌐 How does the global community view the “soccer vs football” debate?

For many purists and fans around the world, “football” is the accepted term. However, they also recognize the cultural reasons behind the term “soccer” in countries like the U.S. and Canada. Generally, while there may be playful banter around the topic, there’s a broad understanding of the historical and cultural reasons for the differences.

Are there other sports with similar naming confusions?

Yes, many sports have different names across cultures. For instance, what Americans call “field hockey” is simply “hockey” elsewhere, while “hockey” in the U.S. usually refers to ice hockey. Additionally, “table tennis” and “ping pong” refer to the same sport but have different connotations based on competitive play versus recreational play.

🏆 How do international tournaments address the term?

In official settings like the FIFA World Cup, the term “football” is predominantly used, given FIFA stands for “Fédération Internationale de Football Association”. However, in countries like the U.S., media might still use “soccer” for local audiences.

📺 How has media influenced the terminology?

Media plays a significant role in popularizing terms. In countries like the U.S., broadcasters and advertisers use “soccer” to avoid confusion with American football. The global nature of modern media, though, means that many Americans are also exposed to the term “football” through international broadcasts.

💬 Are there other English words that have different meanings in different countries?

Absolutely. English as a language has evolved differently in various regions. For instance, in the UK, the back of a car is the “boot” while in the U.S., it’s the “trunk”. Similarly, “chips” in the UK are “fries” in the U.S., while “chips” in the U.S. are “crisps” in the UK.

⚖️ Is one term more “correct” than the other?

Neither term is more “correct” than the other. Both “soccer” and “football” have valid historical and cultural origins. The usage simply depends on regional preferences and cultural influences.

🎓 Are there academic or official guidelines on which term to use?

While there’s no global standard, institutions might have their own guidelines. For example, an American school might use “soccer” in its curriculum, while a British school would use “football”. In international or multicultural settings, the context often determines the preferred term.

📈 Has the popularity of either term changed over time?

Yes, the popularity of terms often evolves. “Soccer” was once a popular term in Britain but is now less common. With globalization and the spread of media, there’s greater exposure to both terms, but regional preferences still dominate.

🤝 Do players have a preference for either term?

Players usually use the term that’s popular in their home country. However, those who play in international leagues adapt to the local terminology. For instance, a British player in Major League Soccer (MLS) would likely refer to the sport as “soccer” in interviews.

📜 What’s the oldest football or soccer club in the world?

Sheffield Football Club, founded in 1857 in England, is recognized by both FIFA and The Football Association as the world’s oldest football club still in existence.

💰 How much is the global football/soccer industry worth?

The global football industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector. As of the last estimates before 2021, FIFA’s revenue for the 2018 World Cup alone was around $6.1 billion. European football, with leagues like the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Bundesliga, contributes billions more in revenues from broadcasting rights, merchandise, ticket sales, and sponsorships.

🎉 How is the World Cup’s impact measured in countries where football/soccer is less popular?

The FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sporting event globally. Even in countries where football isn’t the dominant sport, there’s a noticeable spike in interest during the World Cup. This is measured in terms of TV ratings, merchandise sales, and online engagements. 

Moreover, hosting the World Cup can have a transformative effect on a nation’s relationship with the sport, as seen in the U.S. after hosting the 1994 World Cup.