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What Is a Pitch In Soccer?

As Americans, we usually refer to the grass that soccer is played on as a field, but did you know that most of the world actually calls it a soccer pitch?

This subtle difference is just one of a number of small changes that have been made to the way the game is discussed in the US and has no impact on how the sport is played. 

Today we are going to be exploring what the term pitch actually means as well as what the different parts of it represent to the game of soccer. 

The Pitch

As you would come to expect, the term pitch has its origins in the early development of the sport in England during the 19th century. Games of soccer were originally played on cricket pitches before the invention of Soccer specific areas of grass were thought up. 

The players started to become familiar with the feel and name of the cricket pitches (many also played the sport alongside soccer as teams were multi-sport based in this time).  As such, the name began to stick, and the fans started to refer to the field as a pitch. 

Soon enough, teams began to discuss the idea of soccer teams having their own dedicated pitches to play the game and not disturb the cricket season. A short while later the Soccer pitch was created, with it said to be located in the Hallam area of Sheffield and dates back to 1860.

This first pitch was actually created long before the first match of international soccer was played between England and Scotland in 1872, this match ended in a 0-0 draw. It would be some time before purpose-built stadiums came into existence though. 

The Areas of the Pitch 

Whilst the pitch is the name of the whole area that soccer is played on, there are a number of other things you also need to know about the most important areas on a soccer pitch. 

  • Center Circle – This is where the game is kicked-off at the start of each half. This area resembles a circle and features a spot in the middle of the pitch so that players know where to take the kick-off from whenever they need to. 

There can also be kick-offs whenever a goal is scored, the team that conceded is always the one to kick off in this scenario. 

  • 18-Yard Box – This is the largest box on the pitch, with two at each end (one for each team). This is the goalkeepers’ area of the pitch and signifies the areas in which they can use their hands to touch the ball. 

If a foul is committed in this part of the pitch a penalty kick is awarded to the attacking team. Free kicks can sometimes be awarded in this area, though this is rare in the modern game. 

  • 6-Yard Box  – This smaller box is found inside the 18-yard box and is designed to show the goalkeeper where they can take a goal kick whenever the ball goes out of play. 
  • Halfway Line – Quite simply, the line shows the halfway point of the pitch. It is there to show the players when they have entered or left their side of the pitch and cannot be crossed when kick-off is taking place. 

The Center Circle is also located along the halfway line. 

  • Boundaries – The entire outer area of the pitch is marked by a continuous line that is there to represent the edge of the pitch, the ball is considered out of play if it crosses any of these lines. 

If the ball crosses the line on the wider side of the pitch, the ball has gone out for a throw-in and must therefore be handed to the team that did not put the ball out of play.

The same applies to the shorter side of the pitch, though the ball can either go out for a corner kick or goal kick if it crosses this line. If the attacking team puts the ball out of play then a goal kick is awarded to the defending side, but if the opposite occurs and the defending team put the ball out a corner kick is given to the attacking team. 

  • Goal Line – Arguably the most important line on the entire pitch, the goal line is there to dictate whether the ball has entered the net and can be given as a goal. The whole of the ball must cross this line in order for a goal to be awarded to the attacking team. 

In recent years, goal-line technology has made the awarding of goals much easier as in the past they could often be awarded incorrectly when the ball had or had not crossed the line fully. 

You can learn more about the field dimensions in this post.

Why Do We Call It a Field? 

Like calling the game of football ‘soccer’ there is often an assumption that the subtle differences in the naming of the game are down to mere ignorance on Americans’ behalf, though the reason is not actually as deep as this. 

The reason we call it a soccer field and not a pitch here in the US is that most of the other sports played in this country are done so on a field. Take American Football, for example, this is a sport played with a ball on the grass and the area that they play it on is also called a field.

Whilst British fans may regard this as stupidity, it really isn’t. In all honesty, what we call the field or pitch is not important to the playing of the game we all love in the same sense that it doesn’t matter whether we call it soccer or football. 

Hopefully, this short piece has helped to answer the question of what a pitch is in Soccer and also given you some important knowledge about the various areas of the pitch that may be needed the next time you play the game. 

So whether you call it a pitch or a field, let’s just get out there and play some Soccer!