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Football is one of a family of football codes, which emerged from various ball games played worldwide since antiquity. The modern game traces its origins to 1863 when the Laws of the Game were originally codified in England by The Football Association (FA). The name association football was coined to distinguish the game from the other forms of football played at the time, specifically rugby football. The first written "reference to the inflated ball used in the game" was in the mid-14th century: "Þe heued fro þe body went, Als it were a foteballe." [9] The Online Etymology Dictionary states that the "rules of the game" were made in 1848, before the "split off in 1863". [10]

The term soccer comes from Oxford "-er" slang, which was prevalent at Oxford University in England from about 1875, and is thought to have been borrowed from the slang of Rugby School. The slang also gave rise to rugger for Rugby football, fiver and tenner for a five pound and ten pound note, and the now archaic footer for association football. [11] The word soccer (which arrived at its final form in 1895) was first recorded in 1889 in the earlier form of socca. [12]

Within the English-speaking world, association football is now usually called "football" in the United Kingdom, whereas people usually call it "soccer" in countries where other codes of football are prevalent, such as Australia, [13] Canada, South Africa and the United States. A notable exception is New Zealand, where in the first two decades of the 21st century, under the influence of international television, "football" has been gaining prevalence, despite the dominance of other codes of football, namely rugby union, and rugby league. [14]

Kicking ball games arose independently multiple times across multiple cultures. The Chinese competitive game cuju (蹴鞠, literally "kick ball") resembles modern association football. [16] Cuju players could use any part of the body apart from hands and the intent was kicking a ball through an opening into a net. During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), cuju games were standardised and rules were established. [17]

Phaininda and episkyros were Greek ball games. [18] [19] An image of an episkyros player depicted in low relief on a vase at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens [15] appears on the UEFA European Championship trophy. [20] Athenaeus, writing in 228 CE, referenced the Roman ball game harpastum. Phaininda, episkyros and harpastum were played involving hands and violence. They all appear to have resembled rugby football, wrestling and volleyball more than what is recognizable as modern football. [17] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] As with pre-codified "mob football", the antecedent of all modern football codes, these three games involved more handling the ball than kicking. [26] [27]

Other games included kemari in Japan and chuk-guk in Korea. [28] [29] In North America, pasuckuakohowog was a ball game played by the Algonquians it was described as "almost identical to the kind of folk football being played in Europe at the same time, in which the ball was kicked through goals". [30]

Association football in itself does not have a classical history. [20] Notwithstanding any similarities to other ball games played around the world FIFA has recognised that no historical connection exists with any game played in antiquity outside Europe. [31] The modern rules of association football are based on the mid-19th century efforts to standardise the widely varying forms of football played in the public schools of England. The history of football in England dates back to at least the eighth century CE. [32]

The Cambridge rules, first drawn up at Cambridge University in 1848, were particularly influential in the development of subsequent codes, including association football. The Cambridge rules were written at Trinity College, Cambridge, at a meeting attended by representatives from Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury schools. They were not universally adopted. During the 1850s, many clubs unconnected to schools or universities were formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various forms of football. Some came up with their own distinct codes of rules, most notably the Sheffield Football Club, formed by former public school pupils in 1857, [33] which led to formation of a Sheffield FA in 1867. In 1862, John Charles Thring of Uppingham School also devised an influential set of rules. [34]

These ongoing efforts contributed to the formation of The Football Association (The FA) in 1863, which first met on the morning of 26 October 1863 at the Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, London. [35] The only school to be represented on this occasion was Charterhouse. The Freemasons' Tavern was the setting for five more meetings between October and December, which eventually produced the first comprehensive set of rules. At the final meeting, the first FA treasurer, the representative from Blackheath, withdrew his club from the FA over the removal of two draft rules at the previous meeting: the first allowed for running with the ball in hand the second for obstructing such a run by hacking (kicking an opponent in the shins), tripping and holding. Other English rugby clubs followed this lead and did not join the FA and instead in 1871 formed the Rugby Football Union. The eleven remaining clubs, under the charge of Ebenezer Cobb Morley, went on to ratify the original thirteen laws of the game. [35] These rules included handling of the ball by "marks" and the lack of a crossbar, rules which made it remarkably similar to Victorian rules football being developed at that time in Australia. The Sheffield FA played by its own rules until the 1870s with the FA absorbing some of its rules until there was little difference between the games. [36]

The world's oldest football competition is the FA Cup, which was founded by the footballer and cricketer Charles W. Alcock, and has been contested by English teams since 1872. The first official international football match also took place in 1872, between Scotland and England in Glasgow, again at the instigation of C.W. Alcock. England is also home to the world's first football league, which was founded in Birmingham in 1888 by Aston Villa director William McGregor. [37] The original format contained 12 clubs from the Midlands and Northern England. [38]

The laws of the game are determined by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). [39] The board was formed in 1886 [40] after a meeting in Manchester of The Football Association, the Scottish Football Association, the Football Association of Wales, and the Irish Football Association. FIFA, the international football body, was formed in Paris in 1904 and declared that they would adhere to Laws of the Game of the Football Association. [41] The growing popularity of the international game led to the admittance of FIFA representatives to the International Football Association Board in 1913. The board consists of four representatives from FIFA and one representative from each of the four British associations. [42]

Football is played at a professional level all over the world. Millions of people regularly go to football stadiums to follow their favourite teams, [43] while billions more watch the game on television or on the internet. [44] [45] A very large number of people also play football at an amateur level. According to a survey conducted by FIFA published in 2001, over 240 million people from more than 200 countries regularly play football. [46] Football has the highest global television audience in sport. [47]

In many parts of the world football evokes great passions and plays an important role in the life of individual fans, local communities, and even nations. R. Kapuscinski says that Europeans who are polite, modest, or humble fall easily into rage when playing or watching football games. [48] The Ivory Coast national football team helped secure a truce to the nation's civil war in 2006 [49] and it helped further reduce tensions between government and rebel forces in 2007 by playing a match in the rebel capital of Bouaké, an occasion that brought both armies together peacefully for the first time. [50] By contrast, football is widely considered to have been the final proximate cause for the Football War in June 1969 between El Salvador and Honduras. [51] The sport also exacerbated tensions at the beginning of the Croatian Independence War of the 1990s, when a match between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade degenerated into rioting in May 1990. [52]

Women's association football

Early women's football

Women may have been playing "football" for as long as the game has existed. Evidence shows that an ancient version of the game (Tsu Chu) was played by women during the Han Dynasty (25–220 CE). Two female figures are depicted in Han Dynasty (25–220 CE) frescoes, playing Tsu Chu. [53] There are, however, a number of opinions about the accuracy of dates, the earliest estimates at 5000 BCE. [54]

Association football, the modern game, also has documented early involvement of women. An annual competition in Mid-Lothian, Scotland during the 1790s is reported, too. [55] [56] In 1863, football governing bodies introduced standardised rules to prohibit violence on the pitch, making it more socially acceptable for women to play. [57] The first match recorded by the Scottish Football Association took place in 1892 in Glasgow. In England, the first recorded game of football between women took place in 1895. [57] [58]

The best-documented early European team was founded by activist Nettie Honeyball in England in 1894. It was named the British Ladies' Football Club. Nettie Honeyball is quoted, "I founded the association late last year [1894], with the fixed resolve of proving to the world that women are not the 'ornamental and useless' creatures men have pictured. I must confess, my convictions on all matters where the sexes are so widely divided are all on the side of emancipation, and I look forward to the time when ladies may sit in Parliament and have a voice in the direction of affairs, especially those which concern them most." [59] Honeyball and those like her paved the way for women's football. However, the women's game was frowned upon by the British football associations, and continued without their support. It has been suggested that this was motivated by a perceived threat to the 'masculinity' of the game. [60]

Women's football became popular on a large scale at the time of the First World War, when employment in heavy industry spurred the growth of the game, much as it had done for men 50 years earlier. The most successful team of the era was Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C. of Preston, England. The team played in the first women's international matches in 1920, against a team from Paris, France, in April, and also made up most of the England team against a Scottish Ladies XI in 1920, and winning 22–0. [55]

Despite being more popular than some men's football events (one match saw a 53,000 strong crowd), [61] women's football in England suffered a blow in 1921 when The Football Association outlawed the playing of the game on Association members' pitches, on the grounds that the game (as played by women) was distasteful. [62] Some speculated that this may have also been due to envy of the large crowds that women's matches attracted. [63] This led to the formation of the English Ladies Football Association and play moved to rugby grounds. [64]

Association football has been played by women since at least the time of the first recorded women's games in the late 19th century. [65] [66] It has traditionally been associated with charity games and physical exercise, particularly in the United Kingdom. [66] In the late 1960s and early 1970s, women's association football was organised in the United Kingdom, eventually becoming the most prominent team sport for British women. [66]

20th and 21st century

The growth in women's football has seen major competitions being launched at both national and international level mirroring the male competitions. Women's football has faced many struggles. It had a "golden age" in the United Kingdom in the early 1920s when crowds reached 50,000 at some matches [67] this was stopped on 5 December 1921 when England's Football Association voted to ban the game from grounds used by its member clubs. The FA's ban was rescinded in December 1969 with UEFA voting to officially recognise women's football in 1971. [66]

The FIFA Women's World Cup was inaugurated in 1991 and has been held every four years since, [68] while women's football has been an Olympic event since 1996. [69]

Association football is played in accordance with a set of rules known as the Laws of the Game. The game is played using a spherical ball of 68–70 cm (27–28 in) circumference, [70] known as the football (or soccer ball). Two teams of eleven players each compete to get the ball into the other team's goal (between the posts and under the bar), thereby scoring a goal. The team that has scored more goals at the end of the game is the winner if both teams have scored an equal number of goals then the game is a draw. Each team is led by a captain who has only one official responsibility as mandated by the Laws of the Game: to represent their team in the coin toss prior to kick-off or penalty kicks. [4]

The primary law is that players other than goalkeepers may not deliberately handle the ball with their hands or arms during play, though they must use both their hands during a throw-in restart. Although players usually use their feet to move the ball around they may use any part of their body (notably, "heading" with the forehead) [71] other than their hands or arms. [72] Within normal play, all players are free to play the ball in any direction and move throughout the pitch, though players may not pass to teammates who are in an offside position. [73]

During gameplay, players attempt to create goal-scoring opportunities through individual control of the ball, such as by dribbling, passing the ball to a teammate, and by taking shots at the goal, which is guarded by the opposing goalkeeper. Opposing players may try to regain control of the ball by intercepting a pass or through tackling the opponent in possession of the ball however, physical contact between opponents is restricted. Football is generally a free-flowing game, with play stopping only when the ball has left the field of play or when play is stopped by the referee for an infringement of the rules. After a stoppage, play recommences with a specified restart. [74]

At a professional level, most matches produce only a few goals. For example, the 2005–06 season of the English Premier League produced an average of 2.48 goals per match. [75] The Laws of the Game do not specify any player positions other than goalkeeper, [76] but a number of specialised roles have evolved. [77] Broadly, these include three main categories: strikers, or forwards, whose main task is to score goals defenders, who specialise in preventing their opponents from scoring and midfielders, who dispossess the opposition and keep possession of the ball to pass it to the forwards on their team. Players in these positions are referred to as outfield players, to distinguish them from the goalkeeper.

These positions are further subdivided according to the area of the field in which the player spends the most time. For example, there are central defenders and left and right midfielders. The ten outfield players may be arranged in any combination. The number of players in each position determines the style of the team's play more forwards and fewer defenders creates a more aggressive and offensive-minded game, while the reverse creates a slower, more defensive style of play. While players typically spend most of the game in a specific position, there are few restrictions on player movement, and players can switch positions at any time. [78] The layout of a team's players is known as a formation. Defining the team's formation and tactics is usually the prerogative of the team's manager. [79]

There are 17 laws in the official Laws of the Game, each containing a collection of stipulation and guidelines. The same laws are designed to apply to all levels of football, although certain modifications for groups such as juniors, seniors, women and people with physical disabilities are permitted. The laws are often framed in broad terms, which allow flexibility in their application depending on the nature of the game. The Laws of the Game are published by FIFA, but are maintained by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). [80] In addition to the seventeen laws, numerous IFAB decisions and other directives contribute to the regulation of football. [81] [82]

Players, equipment, and officials

Each team consists of a maximum of eleven players (excluding substitutes), one of whom must be the goalkeeper. Competition rules may state a minimum number of players required to constitute a team, which is usually seven. Goalkeepers are the only players allowed to play the ball with their hands or arms, provided they do so within the penalty area in front of their own goal. Though there are a variety of positions in which the outfield (non-goalkeeper) players are strategically placed by a coach, these positions are not defined or required by the Laws. [76]

The basic equipment or kit players are required to wear includes a shirt, shorts, socks, footwear and adequate shin guards. An athletic supporter and protective cup is highly recommended for male players by medical experts and professionals. [83] [84] Headgear is not a required piece of basic equipment, but players today may choose to wear it to protect themselves from head injury. [85] Players are forbidden to wear or use anything that is dangerous to themselves or another player, such as jewellery or watches. The goalkeeper must wear clothing that is easily distinguishable from that worn by the other players and the match officials. [86]

A number of players may be replaced by substitutes during the course of the game. The maximum number of substitutions permitted in most competitive international and domestic league games is three in ninety minutes with each team being allowed one more if the game should go into extra-time, though the permitted number may vary in other competitions or in friendly matches. Common reasons for a substitution include injury, tiredness, ineffectiveness, a tactical switch, or timewasting at the end of a finely poised game. In standard adult matches, a player who has been substituted may not take further part in a match. [87] IFAB recommends "that a match should not continue if there are fewer than seven players in either team". Any decision regarding points awarded for abandoned games is left to the individual football associations. [88]

A game is officiated by a referee, who has "full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed" (Law 5), and whose decisions are final. The referee is assisted by two assistant referees. In many high-level games there is also a fourth official who assists the referee and may replace another official should the need arise. [89]

Goal line technology is used to measure if the whole ball has crossed the goal-line thereby determining whether a goal has been scored or not this was brought in to prevent there being controversy. Video assistant referees (VAR) have also been increasingly introduced in high-level matches to assist officials through video replays to correct clear and obvious mistakes. There are four types of calls that can be reviewed: mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card, goals and whether there was a violation during the buildup, direct red card decisions, and penalty decisions. [90]

The ball is spherical with a circumference of between 68 and 70 cm (27 and 28 in), a weight in the range of 410 to 450 g (14 to 16 oz), and a pressure between 0.6 and 1.1 standard atmospheres (8.5 and 15.6 pounds per square inch) at sea level. In the past the ball was made up of leather panels sewn together, with a latex bladder for pressurisation but modern balls at all levels of the game are now synthetic. [91] [92]


As the Laws were formulated in England, and were initially administered solely by the four British football associations within IFAB, the standard dimensions of a football pitch were originally expressed in imperial units. The Laws now express dimensions with approximate metric equivalents (followed by traditional units in brackets), though use of imperial units remains popular in English-speaking countries with a relatively recent history of metrication (or only partial metrication), such as Britain. [93]

The length of the pitch, or field, for international adult matches is in the range of 100–110 m (110–120 yd) and the width is in the range of 64–75 m (70–80 yd). Fields for non-international matches may be 90–120 m (100–130 yd) length and 45–90 m (50–100 yd) in width, provided that the pitch does not become square. In 2008, the IFAB initially approved a fixed size of 105 m (115 yd) long and 68 m (74 yd) wide as a standard pitch dimension for international matches [94] however, this decision was later put on hold and was never actually implemented. [95]

The longer boundary lines are touchlines, while the shorter boundaries (on which the goals are placed) are goal lines. A rectangular goal is positioned on each goal line, midway between the two touchlines. [96] The inner edges of the vertical goal posts must be 7.32 m (24 ft) apart, and the lower edge of the horizontal crossbar supported by the goal posts must be 2.44 m (8 ft) above the ground. Nets are usually placed behind the goal, but are not required by the Laws. [97]

In front of the goal is the penalty area. This area is marked by the goal line, two lines starting on the goal line 16.5 m (18 yd) from the goalposts and extending 16.5 m (18 yd) into the pitch perpendicular to the goal line, and a line joining them. This area has a number of functions, the most prominent being to mark where the goalkeeper may handle the ball and where a penalty foul by a member of the defending team becomes punishable by a penalty kick. Other markings define the position of the ball or players at kick-offs, goal kicks, penalty kicks and corner kicks. [98]

Duration and tie-breaking methods

90-minute ordinary time

A standard adult football match consists of two halves of 45 minutes each. Each half runs continuously, meaning that the clock is not stopped when the ball is out of play. There is usually a 15-minute half-time break between halves. The end of the match is known as full-time. [99] The referee is the official timekeeper for the match, and may make an allowance for time lost through substitutions, injured players requiring attention, or other stoppages. This added time is called additional time in FIFA documents, [100] [101] but is most commonly referred to as stoppage time or injury time, while lost time can also be used as a synonym. The duration of stoppage time is at the sole discretion of the referee. Stoppage time does not fully compensate for the time in which the ball is out of play, and a 90-minute game typically involves about an hour of "effective playing time". [102] [103] The referee alone signals the end of the match. In matches where a fourth official is appointed, towards the end of the half, the referee signals how many minutes of stoppage time they intend to add. The fourth official then informs the players and spectators by holding up a board showing this number. The signalled stoppage time may be further extended by the referee. [99] Added time was introduced because of an incident which happened in 1891 during a match between Stoke and Aston Villa. Trailing 1–0 and with just two minutes remaining, Stoke were awarded a penalty. Villa's goalkeeper kicked the ball out of the ground, and by the time the ball had been recovered, the 90 minutes had elapsed and the game was over. [104] The same law also states that the duration of either half is extended until the penalty kick to be taken or retaken is completed, thus no game shall end with a penalty to be taken. [105]


In league competitions, games may end in a draw. In knockout competitions where a winner is required various methods may be employed to break such a deadlock some competitions may invoke replays. [106] A game tied at the end of regulation time may go into extra time, which consists of two further 15-minute periods. If the score is still tied after extra time, some competitions allow the use of penalty shootouts (known officially in the Laws of the Game as "kicks from the penalty mark") to determine which team will progress to the next stage of the tournament. Goals scored during extra time periods count towards the final score of the game, but kicks from the penalty mark are only used to decide the team that progresses to the next part of the tournament (with goals scored in a penalty shootout not making up part of the final score). [4]

In competitions using two-legged matches, each team competes at home once, with an aggregate score from the two matches deciding which team progresses. Where aggregates are equal, the away goals rule may be used to determine the winners, in which case the winner is the team that scored the most goals in the leg they played away from home. If the result is still equal, extra time and potentially a penalty shootout are required. [4]

Ball in and out of play

Under the Laws, the two basic states of play during a game are ball in play and ball out of play. From the beginning of each playing period with a kick-off until the end of the playing period, the ball is in play at all times, except when either the ball leaves the field of play, or play is stopped by the referee. When the ball becomes out of play, play is restarted by one of eight restart methods depending on how it went out of play:

    : following a goal by the opposing team, or to begin each period of play. [74] : when the ball has crossed the touchline awarded to the opposing team to that which last touched the ball. [107] : when the ball has wholly crossed the goal line without a goal having been scored and having last been touched by a player of the attacking team awarded to defending team. [108] : when the ball has wholly crossed the goal line without a goal having been scored and having last been touched by a player of the defending team awarded to attacking team. [109] : awarded to the opposing team following "non-penal" fouls, certain technical infringements, or when play is stopped to caution or dismiss an opponent without a specific foul having occurred. A goal may not be scored directly (without the ball first touching another player) from an indirect free kick. [110] : awarded to fouled team following certain listed "penal" fouls. [110] A goal may be scored directly from a direct free kick. : awarded to the fouled team following a foul usually punishable by a direct free kick but that has occurred within their opponent's penalty area. [111] : occurs when the referee has stopped play for any other reason, such as a serious injury to a player, interference by an external party, or a ball becoming defective. [74]



A foul occurs when a player commits an offence listed in the Laws of the Game while the ball is in play. The offences that constitute a foul are listed in Law 12. Handling the ball deliberately, tripping an opponent, or pushing an opponent, are examples of "penal fouls", punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick depending on where the offence occurred. Other fouls are punishable by an indirect free kick. [72]

The referee may punish a player's or substitute's misconduct by a caution (yellow card) or dismissal (red card). A second yellow card in the same game leads to a red card, which results in a dismissal. A player given a yellow card is said to have been "booked", the referee writing the player's name in their official notebook. If a player has been dismissed, no substitute can be brought on in their place and the player may not participate in further play. Misconduct may occur at any time, and while the offences that constitute misconduct are listed, the definitions are broad. In particular, the offence of "unsporting behaviour" may be used to deal with most events that violate the spirit of the game, even if they are not listed as specific offences. A referee can show a yellow or red card to a player, substitute or substituted player. Non-players such as managers and support staff cannot be shown the yellow or red card but may be expelled from the technical area if they fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner. [72]

Rather than stopping play, the referee may allow play to continue if doing so will benefit the team against which an offence has been committed. This is known as "playing an advantage". [112] The referee may "call back" play and penalise the original offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue within "a few seconds". Even if an offence is not penalised due to advantage being played, the offender may still be sanctioned for misconduct at the next stoppage of play. [113]

The referee's decision in all on-pitch matters is considered final. [114] The score of a match cannot be altered after the game, even if later evidence shows that decisions (including awards/non-awards of goals) were incorrect.


Along with the general administration of the sport, football associations and competition organisers also enforce good conduct in wider aspects of the game, dealing with issues such as comments to the press, clubs' financial management, doping, age fraud and match fixing. Most competitions enforce mandatory suspensions for players who are sent off in a game. [115] Some on-field incidents, if considered very serious (such as allegations of racial abuse), may result in competitions deciding to impose heavier sanctions than those normally associated with a red card. [c] Some associations allow for appeals against player suspensions incurred on-field if clubs feel a referee was incorrect or unduly harsh. [115]

Sanctions for such infractions may be levied on individuals or on to clubs as a whole. Penalties may include fines, points deductions (in league competitions) or even expulsion from competitions. For example, the English Football League deduct 12 points from any team that enters financial administration. [116] Among other administrative sanctions are penalties against game forfeiture. Teams that had forfeited a game or had been forfeited against would be awarded a technical loss or win.

The recognised international governing body of football (and associated games, such as futsal and beach soccer) is FIFA. The FIFA headquarters are located in Zürich, Switzerland. Six regional confederations are associated with FIFA these are: [117]

  • Asia: Asian Football Confederation (AFC)
  • Africa: Confederation of African Football (CAF)
  • Europe: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
  • North/Central America & Caribbean: Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
  • Oceania: Oceania Football Confederation (OFC)
  • South America: Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL)

National associations oversee football within individual countries. These are generally synonymous with sovereign states, (for example: the Cameroonian Football Federation in Cameroon) but also include a smaller number of associations responsible for sub-national entities or autonomous regions (for example the Scottish Football Association in Scotland). 209 national associations are affiliated both with FIFA and with their respective continental confederations. [117]

While FIFA is responsible for arranging competitions and most rules related to international competition, the actual Laws of the Game are set by the International Football Association Board, where each of the UK Associations has one vote, while FIFA collectively has four votes. [42]

International competitions in association football principally consist of two varieties: competitions involving representative national teams or those involving clubs based in multiple nations and national leagues. International football, without qualification, most often refers to the former. In the case of international club competition, it is the country of origin of the clubs involved, not the nationalities of their players, that renders the competition international in nature.

The major international competition in football is the World Cup, organised by FIFA. This competition takes place every four years since 1930 with the exception of 1942 and 1946 tournaments, which were cancelled due to World War II. Approximately 190–200 national teams compete in qualifying tournaments within the scope of continental confederations for a place in the finals. The finals tournament, which is held every four years, involves 32 national teams competing over a four-week period. [d] The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world as well as the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games the cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match, a ninth of the entire population of the planet. [118] [119] [120] [121] The current champions are France, who won their second title at the 2018 tournament in Russia. The FIFA Women's World Cup has been held every four years since 1991. Under the tournament's current format, national teams vie for 23 slots in a three-year qualification phase. (The host nation's team is automatically entered as the 24th slot.) The current champions are the United States, after winning their fourth title in the 2019 tournament.

There has been a football tournament at every Summer Olympic Games since 1900, except at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. [122] Before the inception of the World Cup, the Olympics (especially during the 1920s) were the most prestigious international event. Originally, the tournament was for amateurs only. [41] As professionalism spread around the world, the gap in quality between the World Cup and the Olympics widened. The countries that benefited most were the Soviet Bloc countries of Eastern Europe, where top athletes were state-sponsored while retaining their status as amateurs. Between 1948 and 1980, 23 out of 27 Olympic medals were won by Eastern Europe, with only Sweden (gold in 1948 and bronze in 1952), Denmark (bronze in 1948 and silver in 1960) and Japan (bronze in 1968) breaking their dominance. For the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the IOC decided to admit professional players. FIFA still did not want the Olympics to rival the World Cup, so a compromise was struck that allowed teams from Africa, Asia, Oceania and CONCACAF to field their strongest professional sides while restricting UEFA and CONMEBOL teams to players who had not played in a World Cup. Since 1992, male competitors must be under 23 years old, although since 1996, three players over the age of 23 have been allowed per squad. A women's tournament was added in 1996 in contrast to the men's event, full international sides without age restrictions play the women's Olympic tournament. [123]

After the World Cup, the most important international football competitions are the continental championships, which are organised by each continental confederation and contested between national teams. These are the European Championship (UEFA), the Copa América (CONMEBOL), African Cup of Nations (CAF), the Asian Cup (AFC), the CONCACAF Gold Cup (CONCACAF) and the OFC Nations Cup (OFC). The FIFA Confederations Cup was contested by the winners of all six continental championships, the current FIFA World Cup champions and the country which was hosting the next World Cup. This was generally regarded as a warm-up tournament for the upcoming FIFA World Cup and did not carry the same prestige as the World Cup itself. The tournament was discontinued following the 2017 edition.

The most prestigious competitions in club football are the respective continental championships, which are generally contested between national champions, for example the UEFA Champions League in Europe and the Copa Libertadores in South America. The winners of each continental competition contest the FIFA Club World Cup. [124]

The governing bodies in each country operate league systems in a domestic season, normally comprising several divisions, in which the teams gain points throughout the season depending on results. Teams are placed into tables, placing them in order according to points accrued. Most commonly, each team plays every other team in its league at home and away in each season, in a round-robin tournament. At the end of a season, the top team is declared the champion. The top few teams may be promoted to a higher division, and one or more of the teams finishing at the bottom are relegated to a lower division. [126]

The teams finishing at the top of a country's league may be eligible also to play in international club competitions in the following season. The main exceptions to this system occur in some Latin American leagues, which divide football championships into two sections named Apertura and Clausura (Spanish for Opening and Closing), awarding a champion for each. [127] The majority of countries supplement the league system with one or more "cup" competitions organised on a knock-out basis.

Some countries' top divisions feature highly paid star players in smaller countries, lower divisions, and most of women's clubs, players may be part-timers with a second job, or amateurs. The five top European leagues – the Bundesliga (Germany), Premier League (England), [128] La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy), and Ligue 1 (France) – attract most of the world's best players and each of the leagues has a total wage cost in excess of £600 million/€763 million/US$1.185 billion. [8]

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  3. ^ For example, the English Premier League fined and levied an 8-match suspension on Luis Suárez for racially abusingPatrice Evra
  4. ^ The number of competing teams has varied over the history of the competition. The most recent changed was in 1998, from 24 to 32.
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A Brief History of Soccer

Soccer, or better known to the rest of the world as football, is one of the oldest sports in history. Dating back to 206 B.C., there are accounts of Chinese soldiers playing Tsu’chu, “kicking the ball,” to supplement their training regiments during the Han Dynasty. While many other ancient cultures played games involving a ball, Tsu’chu was the first to not allow hands. Goals consisted of a net attached to two bamboo poles and elevated 30 feet in the air. This is quite the contrast to modern goals that sit on the ground and extend eight feet high and 24 feet wide. The particular style of playing a game with a ball, centered around one’s feet, spread throughout the world.

During the medieval period in Europe, particularly in England, games were played in towns that pitted rival squads against one another. This was called Folkball. The goal was to place the ball into a designated area, usually the captain’s house, to score a point. This would often entail a distance of a few miles between scoring destinations. Games typically resulted in low scoring matches as the process of advancing the ball would be brutal and without regard to one’s well being. Without any set rules the game would cause massive commotion throughout the towns in which it was held, leading to it’s ban in the 14th century.

In 1863, official rules for football were drawn up to create an organized game in England. These rules formally differentiated between rugby football and association football. Hence, modern football was born.

As more clubs agreed to Football Association (F.A.) rules, the desire to breed uniform leagues emerged. In 1872 the first F.A. Cup was played, and by 1888 a league was formed with 128 teams participating in some capacity. England’s love for the game rubbed off on neighboring European countries, eventually making its way to South America. By 1907 there were twelve official F.A. leagues worldwide.

Seven members formed the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) in Paris, France, in 1904. Those members included: Belgium, France, Holland, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. In 1930, the year of the first World Cup, FIFA had reached 40 members.

Due to an economic depression in Europe at the time of the first World Cup, many nations were not able to travel to Uruguay and compete. With the help of the host country, four European teams did manage to trek the Atlantic for the World Cup, most notably being Belgium and France.

The results of the first World Cup were not shocking as favorites Argentina and Uruguay competed in the final match resulting in a 4-2 victory for the hosts. The United States of America lost to Argentina 6-1 in the semi-final, which remains the USA’s best finish in the tournament’s history.

Today there are six confederations under FIFA that govern specific regions based primarily on the continent in which they belong. In total, there are more than 200 F.A. leagues worldwide.

As the beautiful game of soccer continues to grow, it is important to reflect on how it all started and appreciate those who brought us the game we love.

Peering into the future

The Brazil World Cup will carry considerable political and economic significance. Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest economy, a rising power, and a nation obsessed with futebol, will be the centre of the world’s attention.

ESPN, which—together with its sister network ABC—will broadcast the World Cup this summer to American audiences, is going all-out for the event. It will generate 290 hours of original programming across its TV channels and online, including coverage of all 64 matches, and various pre- and post-match shows. ABC, meanwhile, is sending its veteran award-winning reporter, Bob Woodruff, to cover it.

According to ESPN’s market research, 41% of Americans now identify as pro soccer fans, its marketing director, Seth Adler, said at a media event last week. More tickets have been sold for the World Cup in the US than in any other nation besides Brazil. “We can now say that the US is truly a soccer nation,” he said. “That’s not something we could have said 12 years ago.”

The network is describing its coverage of the World Cup as its “most comprehensive to date” (and ”the most complex production we have ever done at this company, bar none”). It’s not clear what to expect ratings-wise, but the press materials say it is “expected to be record-breaking.”

There is one small hitch. The US national team has been drawn in the “group of death” alongside European heavyweights Germany, Portugal (whose side features arguably the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo) and Ghana, the side that knocked the US out four years ago. Progressing to the elimination stages looks almost impossible.

That means there’s a risk American audiences will lose interest quickly. But ESPN’s president, John Skipper, doesn’t think they will. “We don’t sit around with clenched fists going ‘oh my goodness, if the US doesn’t win we have a problem,'” he told reporters at the media event.

ABC will televise 10 matches, but for the first time in a long time, none of them includes US matches in the first, group stage. That means if the US doesn’t advance to elimination stages—as many expect—the national team won’t make it on to to over-the-air television during the tournament at all.

That might sound disastrous for people hoping the tournament will cement soccer’s status in the US. But it can also be taken as a sign of maturity. If America is truly going to embrace the “world game”, it must accept that it won’t always be involved.

Why Do Americans Call It Soccer Instead of Football? Blame England

I n the World Cup, the U.S. and England aren&rsquot traditionally rivals. But, off the field, a different type of rivalry has reigned for more than a century: what to call the world&rsquos most popular sport.

To Americans, it&rsquos soccer. To most of the rest of the world, (including England, the birthplace of the modern sport,) it&rsquos football. But what most people don&rsquot know is that the word &ldquosoccer&rdquo is not in fact an American invention. On the contrary, it was an import from England, and one that was commonly used there until relatively recently.

At least, that&rsquos the argument made by Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports economics at the University of Michigan. In a paper from 2014, Szymanski writes that &ldquosoccer&rdquo originated in late 19th century England, as a way of differentiating between variants of the game which at that time did not have a commonly agreed-upon set of rules.

In the early 1800s in England, football and rugby existed as different variations of the same game. But in 1863, the Football Association was formed to codify the rules of football so that aristocratic boys from different schools could play against one another. In 1871, the Rugby Football Union followed suit. The two sports officially became known as Rugby Football and Association Football. (Those new rules were slow to spread to America, where another version of the game was evolving &mdash one that the rest of the world now knows as &ldquoAmerican football,&rdquo and is played in the NFL.)

In England, Szymanski writes, aristocratic boys came up with the shortened terms &ldquorugger&rdquo and &ldquosoccer&rdquo to differentiate between Rugby Football and Association Football. To support this argument, he cites a letter to The New York Times, published in 1905: &ldquoIt was a fad at Oxford and Cambridge to use “er” at the end of many words, such as foot-er, sport-er, and as Association did not take an “er” easily, it was, and is, sometimes spoken of as Soccer.&rdquo

And the term, Szymanski says, was widely recognized in England through the first half of the twentieth century, according to data he crunched from books and newspapers. It became even more prevalent after the World War II &mdash driven, he suggests, by the number of American soldiers in the country and the infatuation with American culture that came after the war.

But by the 1980s, Brits started to turn against the word. “The penetration of the game into American culture,&rdquo Szymanski writes, &ldquohas led to backlash against the use of the word in Britain, where it was once considered an innocuous alternative to the word ‘football.'”

In March, Szymanski co-authored a book alongside Silke Weineck, a literature professor and linguist at the University of Michigan. In Weineck’s words, the book – titled It’s Football, not Soccer (and Vice Versa) – “delves into internet culture, the history of sports and the history of words, the oddity of linguistic ostracism, the relationship between sports and nationalism, and so on.”

With England now into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, fans are celebrating their nation&rsquos success in the sport born in their country but long mastered by foreigners. On Twitter, that pride is manifesting itself, partially, in the age-old (since the 1980s at least) tradition of bashing the word soccer.

&ldquoIt&rsquos football not soccer,&rdquo one person tweeted, on the night of England&rsquos successful victory over Sweden which propelled the team to the semi-finals. &ldquoThe English created the game = football.&rdquo

The World Cup draws to a close this weekend, but the argument over the name of the sport it celebrates certainly won&rsquot.

Soccer Facts: History and Timeline of Soccer

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world today. Also known as the 'global game', soccer has permeated all nations and has brought even warring-nations on a playing field. Let us go back to the history and timeline of this beautiful game, and get ourselves acquainted with the important moments of this 'beautiful game'.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world today. Also known as the ‘global game’, soccer has permeated all nations and has brought even warring-nations on a playing field. Let us go back to the history and timeline of this beautiful game, and get ourselves acquainted with the important moments of this ‘beautiful game’.

Soccer is also known as football. For a European, football is also known as soccer! Games involving the kicking of a ball have been played in several countries throughout history. Soccer was played in China in the 2nd and 3rd century BC. Romans played it and different forms of soccer were played in medieval-Europe. Today, soccer is one of the most popular sport in the world, played by roughly 250 million people in over 200 countries. Let us take a look at some important events that have shaped the history of this sport.


5000 – 1000 BC: Historians have pointed out that games resembling soccer were played in China, Egypt, Japan, and Greece in this period. There were no rules and the players aimed at kicking a ball made of animal skin into a net amidst a lot of pushing and elbowing. These games were played so that the players – most of whom were soldiers – were physically fit in the eventuality of a war. Although, these games more or less resembled soccer, the foundation for modern-day soccer was achieved when the Cambridge Rules were drawn-up in Cambridge University in 1848.

1857: The Sheffield Football Club was formed.
1862: John Charles Thring of Uppingham School devised some rules for Soccer.
1863: The Football Association (The FA) was formed.
1867: Sheffield FA was formed.
1871: The Rugby Football Union was formed.
1872: The first official international football match took place between Scotland and England in Glasgow.
1886: The International Football Association Board (IFAB) was formed.
1888: William McGregor founded the world’s first football league in England.

1904: The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international football body, was formed in Paris.
1913: The growing popularity of the international game led to the admittance of FIFA representatives to the International Football Association Board.
1930: The First World Cup took place in Uruguay. Uruguay wins it.
1931: The professional soccer era started in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
1934: The World Cup took place in Italy. The host team won it.
1938: The World Cup took place in France. Italy won its second World Cup.
1940s: The World War interrupted the World Cup. The American countries played in local cups.
1940: The Xeneise Club opened it’s stadium.
1943: Professional soccer started in Mexico.
1948: Amateur soccer ended.
1950:The World Cup took place in Brazil. Uruguay won it.

1954: The World Cup took place in Switzerland. It was the first one with a sponsor. Germany wins it.
1958: The World Cup took place in Sweden. Brazil wins it with players such as Pele and Garrincha.
1959: The South American Confederation of Soccer approved a new inter-club cup.
1960: The Libertadores Cup was inaugurated. Real Madrid won against the Uruguayan team Penarol in the Intercontinental Club.
1962: The World Club took place in Chile. Fans watched Brazil win in TV for the first time.
1966: The World Cup took place in England. The host team won it. The Mexican goalkeeper Antonio Caravajal set a record for most participation in World Cups.
1970: The World Cup took place in Mexico. Brazil won it and became the country with most championships won.
1974: The World Cup took place in Germany. The fans watched the host team win on color TV.
1975: Independiente de Avellaneda won the Libertadores Cup for the fourth time.
1978: The World Cup took place in Argentina. Holland was the favorite to win. But the host team won it.
1979: Paraguay won a Copa America. Olimpia won the Intercontinental and Libertadores Cups.
1982: The World Cup took place in Spain. Italy won it. Countries from all continents played it. Maximum goals were scored.
1984: The new star Diego Maradona is transferred to the Italian team of Naples.
1986: The World Cup took place in Mexico. Argentina wins its second World Cup. Maradona scored the most amazing goal in the history of soccer.
1990: The World Cup took place in Italy. Germany won it.
1994: The World Cup took place in USA. Brazil won it.
1998: The World Cup took place in France. The host team won it.
1999: Mexico won the Confederations Cup.

2002: The World Cup took place in Japan and Korea. Brazil won it.
2005: Brazil won the Confederations Cup.
2006: The World Cup took place in Germany. Italy won it.
2007: David Beckham – one of the more popular stars in the world – made his debut in an American club, playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
2008: Spain beat Germany in the Euro Cup finals.
2010: World Cup was hosted for the first time on the African soil as the hosts South Africa played Mexico in the first match. It was Spain who lifted the coveted trophy defeating Holland in the finals.
2010: Russia and Qatar won the bids to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022 respectively.
2011: Japan’s female soccer team defeated United States in the final of World Cup in Frankfurt.

These were some of the most important events in the history of soccer. With so much soccer being played nowadays from the club to the country level, it is the fans who feel delighted to see their favorite stars in action.

Early versions of football were being played in the United States as early as 1685, and freshmen at Harvard University in 1734 were asked to provide "foot-balls". This did not resemble modern soccer in any way, except that it involved various kicking activities, and was often violent. By the 1860s, several different sets of rules began to be codified, such as the "Boston Game" which was like a hybrid of rugby and soccer. [2] : 17–20

Club soccer Edit

Active Leagues Folded Leagues

Oneida Football Club, and other organized teams Edit

The Oneida Football Club was established in 1862 by Gerrit Smith "Gat" Miller, a graduate of the Latin School of Epes Sargent Dixwell, a private college preparatory school in Boston. [3] At the time there were no formal rules for football games, with different schools and areas playing their own variations. This informal style of play was often chaotic and very violent, and Miller had been a star of the game while attending Dixwell. However, he grew tired of these disorganized games, and organized other recent preparatory school graduates to join what would be the first organized football team in the United States.

The team consisted of a group of Boston secondary school students from relatively elite public (state) schools in the area, such as Boston Latin School and the English High School of Boston. Organization served the club well, and it reportedly never lost a game, or even allowed a single goal.

Football at universities Edit

The 1869 New Jersey vs. Rutgers football game is often cited to be the birth of intercollegiate American football, but it also considered the birth of soccer in the United States as well, [a] as it was played with rules based on the Football Association's (FA) first set of rules. Although American football began to take hold at eastern universities such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, "socker" gained popularity at Haverford, Columbia, Cornell, and Penn. [2] : 24 These enthusiasts arranged for English teams to tour the United States to generate interest in the sport in 1905, 1907, and 1909. Nevertheless, American football became the primary sport at most schools. [2] : 25–26

Immigrant communities Edit

Soccer was popular among communities with large immigrant populations. Many towns in the West Hudson area of New Jersey, such as Kearny and Paterson, both of which had textile factories established and staffed by British companies. Residents of these areas founded the National Association Football League in 1895. [2] : 27–28

Another notable location was centered around Fall River, Massachusetts, which also had textile companies and many immigrants from England. This area had the Bristol County League in 1886 and the Southern New England League in 1914. [2] : 28

The third major location was St. Louis, Missouri, where the Catholic Church was primarily responsible for introducing soccer into its recreational programs. The St. Louis League was founded in 1886 and modified the FA's rules to its own liking, as did the St. Louis Soccer League, founded in 1903. [2] : 28–29

Other communities where soccer had taken hold were Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. [2] : 30

Attempts at a governing body Edit

Before the creation of the United States Soccer Federation, soccer in the United States was organized on regional levels, with no governing body overlooking regional soccer leagues. The first non-league organizing body within the United States was the American Football Association (AFA) which was incarnated in 1884. The AFA sought to standardize rules for teams competing in northern New Jersey and southern New York. Within two years, this region began to widen to include teams in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and Texas. [4]

A professional league was established by owners of several Major League Baseball teams in 1894, called the American League of Professional Foot Ball (ALPFB), in an attempt to generate revenue during the winter months when their ballparks were empty. The AFA was displeased with the idea and banned any of its players that signed contracts with ALPFB teams. Despite the financial backing they had, the ALPFB failed to generate much interest and the league folded after only 17 days. [2] : 31–32

USFA vs. AFA, FIFA sanctioning Edit

Within a year of its founding, the AFA organized the first non-league cup in U.S. soccer history, known as the American Cup. Clubs from New Jersey and Massachusetts dominated the first twelve years. However, beginning in 1894, due to economic conditions and labor unrest, teams in the Fall River area were forced to withdraw as many of them were sponsored the textile companies. Furthermore, players that had signed for the ALPFB teams were forbidden to play. As a result, the AFA suspended the cup in 1899, and it was not resumed until 1906 as a result of the interest generated by the English tour in 1905. [5] : 31 [2] : 31–32

In October 1911, a competing body, the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA) was created. The association quickly spread outside of the Northeast and created its own cup in 1912, the American Amateur Football Association Cup.

In 1912, both the AFA and AAFA applied for membership in FIFA, the international governing body for soccer. Drawing on both its position as the oldest soccer organization and the status of the American Cup, the AFA argued that it should be the nationally recognized body. FIFA refused to recognize either of them, telling them there only needed to be a single group that could represent the United States. [2] : 33

In 1913, the AAFA gained an edge over the AFA when several AFA organizations moved to the AAFA. On April 5, 1913, the AAFA reorganized as the United States Football Association. FIFA quickly granted a provisional membership and USFA began exerting its influence on the sport. This led to the establishment of the National Challenge Cup that fall. The National Challenge Cup quickly grew to overshadow the American Cup. However, both cups were played simultaneously for the next ten years. Declining respect for the AFA led to the withdrawal of several associations from its cup in 1917. Further competition came in 1924 when USFA created the National Amateur Cup. That spelled the death knell for the American Cup. It played its last season in 1924.

Soccer Wars Edit

Towards the end of the 1920s, a period in American soccer known as the "American Soccer Wars" ignited. The Soccer Wars regarded the internal conflicts with the American Soccer League and their affiliated clubs participating in the National Challenge Cup. The debate involved whether the United States Football Association or the American Soccer League was the true chief organization of American soccer at the time, and consequently wrecked the reputation and possibly even the popularity of the sport domestically. The colloquial "war" has been considered responsible for the fall of the ASL, and the end to the first golden age of American soccer. [6]

The initial issue with the ASL had been the scheduling of the National Challenge Cup, which had been straining for the ASL season schedule. Typically, the National Challenge Cup had been played during the ASL's offseason, which made it difficult for ASL clubs to compete in the tournament. Consequently, the ASL boycotted the 1925 Challenge Cup due to scheduling conflicts, and the lack of cooperation the USFA inflicted on the ASL. American soccer historians claim that the real issue was the ASL vying to be the premier soccer body in the United States. [6]

In 1927, the issue intensified as ASL clubs were accused by FIFA for signing European players who were already under contract to European clubs. Due to the conflict and apparent corruption in the ASL, USFA president (at the time), Andrew M. Brown traveled to Helsinki, Finland for the 1927 FIFA Congress in the hopes of removing any penalties imposed on the ASL and USFA. [6] Other issues regarding the soccer league involved the closed league model and the lack of American soccer players dominating the league [ citation needed ] . It resulted in ASL owners wanting to run their soccer clubs more like Major League Baseball teams, as many ASL owners owned MLB franchises. According to owners of ASL clubs, they saw these rulings as restrictions imposed on themselves, including the National Challenge Cup. [7]

With the hope of breaking away from the National Challenge Cup, Charles Stoneham, [6] an owner of the New York Nationals proposed that the ASL would create their own tournament to determine the champion of the ASL, and thus ultimately determine the top American soccer club. This was the creation of early forms of playoffs culminating a regular season. Additionally, the proposal included expanding into the Midwest to include clubs from the Ohio River Valley and St. Louis regions, and create a new division for these clubs. Stoneham's plan involved having the two divisions compete in their own season, and the top clubs in each division playing in the ASL tournament to determine the ASL champion. Before the proposal, the National Challenge Cup was seen as the ultimate title in American soccer since most professional leagues in the United States focused on a specific region, rather than encompassing the entire country as a whole. [6]

The problem with this system was the fact that the American Soccer League was operating under a closed league model with a fixed number of franchises. [7] This new tournament, or playoffs, would permanently cap the number of clubs entering this premier competition, unlike the National Challenge Cup, which the tournament was open to any USFA-affiliated team. Due to such reasons, three teams, Bethlehem Steel, the New York Giants S.C. and the Newark Skeeters, rejected the proposal, played in the 1928 National Challenge Cup [8] and were subsequently suspended from the league and fined $1,000. [6] [7] Hence the ASL's decision, the USFA suspended the ASL which ignited the "Soccer Wars". [9] [10] In the 1928–29 American Soccer League, the Steel, Giants and Skeeters did not play in the ASL and joined local semi-professional leagues agglommerating to form the Eastern Professional Soccer League. [9]

Support for the USFA from other national federations, along with financial disadvantages the ASL faced as an unsanctioned league, eventually convinced the ASL that it could not win this "soccer war" and should yield. The "war" between the USFA and ASL was finally settled in early October 1929. [6] During that time the ASL had already begun its 1929–30 season, halted during the settlement. [9] Thanks to the settlement, the ASL was assembled back together, and played the remainder of the 1929–30 year until the moniker "Atlantic Coast League". [11]

Decline of sport, amateur era Edit

Just two weeks following the United States Football Association and American Soccer League settlement, the stock market crashed. The abrupt and intense economic impact drastically affected the ASL in the league's Spring 1930 season, in which several clubs defaulted during the season, and clubs did not finish the season with the same number of matches played. Initially, the struggles in ASL did not affect the league's stronger clubs, as the Fall River Marksmen completed the double by winning both the 1930 season and the 1930 National Challenge Cup. [12]

As the Great Depression intensified, the original ASL folded following the Fall 1932 season, which was its 15th season in existence. At the apex of the Depression, several surviving clubs created an incarnation of the ASL which began play in 1933, but the stringent economy suffered the ability for ASL teams to field strong teams, and caused teams to not have the financial means nor interest to attract foreign players. This consequently caused a Dark Age of soccer in which the sport as well as the National Challenge Cup fell out of popularity and into obscurity. [13]

In spite of the decline in the sport's popularity, in several pockets of the country, primarily the Heartland and New England regions, as well as the New York City and St. Louis metropolitan areas, soccer continued to be extremely popular, especially with certain ethnic groups and expatriates. The popularity of soccer in these areas reflected on the Challenge Cup during the later Great Depression years, through the World War II years. Most clubs participating were either top amateur teams or semi-professional clubs that hoisted a handful of U.S. internationals, who worked part-time jobs.

Second professional age Edit

Rise of the original NASL Edit

In 1967, two professional soccer leagues started in the United States: the FIFA-sanctioned United Soccer Association, which consisted of entire European and South American teams brought to the US and given local names, and the unsanctioned National Professional Soccer League. The National Professional Soccer League had a national television contract in the U.S. with the CBS television network, but the ratings for matches were unacceptable even by weekend daytime standards and the arrangement was terminated. The leagues merged in 1968 to form the North American Soccer League (NASL). It has been suggested that the timing of the merger was related to the huge amount of attention given throughout the English-speaking world to the victory by England in the 1966 FIFA World Cup and the resulting documentary film, Goal. [14] The league lasted until the 1984 NASL season.

Pele and the New York Cosmos Edit

The biggest club in the league and the organization's bellwether was the New York Cosmos, who drew upwards of 40,000 fans per game at their height while aging superstars Pelé (Brazil) and Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) played for them. Although both were past their prime by the time they joined the NASL, the two were considered to have previously been the best attacking (offensive) (Pelé) and defensive (Beckenbauer) players in the world. Giants Stadium sold out (73,000+) their 1978 championship win.

Decline and collapse of the NASL Edit

Over-expansion was a huge factor in the death of the league. Once the league started growing, new franchises were awarded quickly, and it doubled in size in a few years, peaking at 24 teams. Many have suggested that cash-starved existing owners longed for their share of the expansion fee charged of new owners, [ citation needed ] even though Forbes Magazine reported this amount as being only $100,000. This resulted in the available personnel being spread too thinly, [ citation needed ] among other problems. Additionally, many of these new owners were not "soccer people", and once the perceived popularity started to decline, they got out as quickly as they got in. They also spent millions on aging stars to try to match the success of the Cosmos, and lost significant amounts of money in doing so.

Also, FIFA's decision to award the hosting of the 1986 FIFA World Cup to Mexico after Colombia withdrew, rather than the U.S., is considered a factor in the NASL's demise.

On March 28, 1985, the NASL suspended operations for the 1985 season, when only the Minnesota Strikers and Toronto Blizzard were interested in playing.

The 1980s and the 1994 FIFA World Cup Edit

Modern professional age Edit

Men's national team Edit

1930s Edit

In the 1930 World Cup, the U.S. finished third, beating Belgium 3–0 at Estadio Gran Parque Central in Montevideo, Uruguay. The match occurred simultaneously with another across town at Estadio Pocitos where France defeated Mexico.

In the next match, the United States earned a 3–0 victory over Paraguay. For many years, FIFA credited Bert Patenaude with the first and third goals and his teammate Tom Florie with the second. [15] Other sources described the second goal as having been scored by Patenaude [16] [17] or by Paraguayan Ramon Gonzales. [18] In November 2006, FIFA announced that it had accepted evidence from "various historians and football fans" that Patenaude scored all three goals, and was thus the first person to score a hat trick in a World Cup finals tournament. [19]

Having reached the semifinals with the two wins, the American side lost 6–1 to Argentina. Using the overall tournament records, FIFA credited the U.S. with a third-place finish ahead of fellow semi-finalist Yugoslavia. [20] The finish remains the team's best World Cup result and is the highest finish of any team from outside of CONMEBOL and UEFA, the South American and European confederations, respectively.

Due to FIFA not wanting interference with the newly founded FIFA World Cup no official tournament was fielded in the 1932 Olympic Games [ citation needed ] . FIFA claimed the tournament would not be popular in the United States, so it would not be cost efficient to assist in the running of the tournament during struggling economic times. As a result, an informal tournament was organized [ citation needed ] including local rivals with the United States finishing first, followed by Mexico and Canada. The Olympic Tournament was reinstated in the 1936 Olympic Games.

1970s–1990s Edit

After the enthusiasm caused by the creation and rise of the North American Soccer League in the 1970s, it seemed as though the U.S. men's national team would soon become a powerful force in world soccer. Such hopes were not realized, however, and the United States was not considered a strong side in this era.

From 1981 to 1983, only two international matches were played. To provide a more stable national team program and renew interest in the NASL, U.S. Soccer entered the national team into the league for the 1983 season as Team America. This team lacked the continuity and regularity of training that conventional clubs enjoy, and many players were unwilling to play for the team instead of their own clubs. Embarrassingly, Team America finished the season at the bottom of the league. Recognizing that it had not achieved its objectives, U.S Soccer canceled this experiment, and the national team was withdrawn from the NASL.

U.S. Soccer made the decision to target the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California and the 1986 World Cup as means of rebuilding the national team and its fan base. The International Olympic Committee declared that teams from outside Europe and South America could field full senior teams, including professionals (until then, the amateur-only rule had heavily favored socialist countries from Eastern Europe whose players were professionals in all but name). The U.S. had a very strong showing at the tournament, beating Costa Rica, tying Egypt, losing only to favorite Italy and finishing 1–1–1 but didn't make the second round, losing to Egypt on a tiebreaker (both had three points).

By the end of 1984, the NASL had folded and there was no senior outdoor soccer league operating in the United States. [21] As a result, many top American players, such as John Kerr, Paul Caligiuri, Eric Eichmann, and Bruce Murray, moved overseas, primarily to Europe.

The United States did bid to host the 1986 World Cup after Colombia withdrew due to economic concerns. However, Mexico beat out the U.S. and Canada to host the tournament, despite concerns that the tournament would have to be moved again because of a major earthquake that hit Mexico shortly before the tournament.

In the last game of the qualifying tournament, the U.S. needed only a draw against Costa Rica, whom the U.S. had beaten 3–0 in the Olympics the year before, in order to reach the final qualification group against Honduras and Canada. U.S. Soccer scheduled the game to be played at El Camino College in Torrance, California, an area with many Costa Rican expatriates, and marketed the game almost exclusively to the Costa Rican community, even providing Costa Rican folk dances as halftime entertainment. [22] A 35th-minute goal by Evaristo Coronado won the match for Costa Rica and kept the United States from reaching its fourth World Cup finals.

In 1988, U.S. Soccer attempted to re-implement its national-team-as-club concept, offering contracts to national team players in order to build an international team with something of a club ethos, while loaning them out to their club teams, saving U.S. Soccer the expense of their salaries. This brought many key veterans back to the team, while the success of the NASL a decade earlier had created an influx of talent from burgeoning grass-roots level clubs and youth programs. Thus U.S. Soccer sought to establish a more stable foundation for participation in the 1990 World Cup than had existed for previous tournaments.

2000–present Edit

After failing to maintain his 2002 success at the 2006 World Cup, Bruce Arena was eventually replaced by his assistant with the national team and Chivas USA manager, Bob Bradley, whose reign began with four wins and one draw in friendlies leading up to the 2007 Gold Cup, hosted by the United States.

The U.S. won all three of its group stage matches, against Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and El Salvador. With a 2–1 win over Panama in the quarterfinals, the U.S. advanced to face Canada in the semifinals, winning 2–1. In the final, the United States came from behind to beat Mexico 2–1. [23]

The team's disappointing Copa América 2007 campaign ended after three defeats in the group stage to Argentina, Paraguay, and Colombia. The decision by U.S. Soccer to field what many considered a second-tier team was questioned by fans and media alike. [24]

One of the hallmarks of Bradley's tenure as national team manager has been his willingness to cap a large number of players, many for their first time. This practice has been praised by those wanting to see a more diverse player pool for the national team, as well as criticized by those hoping for more consistency and leadership from core players. [25] This has coincided with many young American players like Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu, Brad Guzan, Eddie Johnson, and Michael Parkhurst making their first moves from MLS to European clubs, meaning that more American players are gaining experience at the highest levels of club and international soccer than at any other time in the team's history.

In Summer 2009, the United States had one of the busiest stretches in its history. For the 2009 Confederations Cup the U.S. was drawn into Group B with Brazil, Egypt, and Italy. After losing 3–1 to Italy and 3–0 to Brazil, the United States made an unlikely comeback to finish second in the group and reach the semi-final on the second tie-breaker, goals scored, having scored four goals to Italy's three. This was achieved on the final day of group play when the United States beat Egypt 3–0 while Brazil beat Italy 3–0. [26]

In the semifinals, the U.S. defeated Spain 2–0. [27] At the time, Spain was atop the FIFA World Rankings and was on a record run of 15 straight wins and 35 games undefeated (a record shared with Brazil). With the win, the United States advanced to its first-ever final in a men's FIFA tournament however, the team lost 3–2 to Brazil after leading 2–0 at half-time. [28]

Only a few days after the Confederations Cup Final, the United States hosted the 2009 Gold Cup, and was drawn into Group B with Grenada, Haiti, and Honduras. Due to the fact that the U.S. had just played in the Confederations Cup and still had half of its World Cup qualifying campaign to go, Bob Bradley chose a side consisting of mostly reserves who had never really played together on the international stage and was criticized for selecting a "B Side" for the Continental tournament. [29] The U.S. began group play with a pair of victories over Grenada and Honduras, and won the group with a draw against Haiti.

In the quarterfinals, the United States defeated Panama 2–1 after extra time. In the semifinals the U.S. faced Honduras for the second time in the tournament, and the third time in less than two months. The United States beat Honduras 2–0 and advanced to its third consecutive Gold Cup final where the team faced Mexico in a rematch of the 2007 Gold Cup final. The United States was beaten by Mexico 5–0, surrendering its 58-match unbeaten streak against CONCACAF opponents on U.S. soil. It was also the first home loss to Mexico since 1999.

The United States qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup atop their group, and they were drawn into Group C with England, Slovenia, and Algeria. Despite an early goal by Steven Gerrard, the USA drew 1–1 with England in their first match after a sloppy save by Rob Green off Clint Dempsey bounced off his hands and rolled into the goal. Against Slovenia, the United States found themselves down 2–0 quickly, and managed to tie the game at 2–2. They would have won, except a Michael Bradley goal was wrongly disallowed, and the game ended at the 2–2 scoreline. In their third and final group stage game against Algeria, Landon Donovan scored in the 91st minute to win the game 1–0 for the US, winning the group. They played Ghana next, where they lost in Extra Time 2–1 and bowed out of the tournament.

The 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup was supposed to be a rebound for the United States, and for a time they looked to do very well. When they reached the Final, they found themselves against Mexico, where they went up 2–0 at halftime. However, they let the lead slip and lost 3–2. After this defeat, Bob Bradley was relieved of his position as manager. Not long after, Jürgen Klinsmann, former Bayern Munich and Germany manager, was hired.

Under Klinsmann's leadership, the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying cycle went very well for the United States, as did the friendlies during that period. The United States defeated Mexico 1–0 in the Azteca Stadium for the first time in history in 2012. The United States also defeated Italy in Italy, at the time the number 3 team in the world, marking it the first time in history the USA defeated a Top 4 opponent on their soil. The second stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualification ended with the USA topping its group of 4, Jamaica taking 2nd.

In 2013, the United States had a record year. It started poorly, with a 2–1 loss to Honduras in San Pedro Sula, but the United States rebounded to defeat Costa Rica in Denver 1–0 in a match dubbed the "Show Clasico," followed by the United States drawing Mexico in Azteca and earning the second qualification point in Mexico in history. The United States continued its strong run through June, defeating Germany 4–2 in the Centennial Match, and Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras to take a commanding lead of the Hex. The 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup took place at this point, and the United States fielded a younger team of players who were attempting to win their way into the senior squad, including Landon Donovan who was coming off of a sabbatical from the sport at the time. The United States won every game they played in the tournament, defeating Panama 1–0 in the Final to take the cup. The United States continued its win streak by defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina, but lost to Belgium to end their win streak at 13. The USA lost to Costa Rica, but defeated Mexico 2–0 in the Hex to seal a trip to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The United States then ended their year strong, defeating Jamaica and Panama to close out 2013, and Klinsmann was given a 4-year extension to his contract.

2014 brought Klinsmann's first World Cup with the United States, in which they were drawn in a "Group of Death" in Group G, alongside Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Controversy marked the USA's entry, with the exclusion of Landon Donovan from the roster, with many believing Julian Green had been brought on at Donovan's expense. The USA entered the World Cup on a 3-game win streak from their send-off series. They defeated Ghana 2–1 off of a header from John Brooks in the 89th minute, and then played Portugal. The United States looked to have defeated Portugal and to have sealed a place in the knockout stages, but in stoppage time, Portugal scored a goal to end the game 2–2. The United States then played Germany and lost 1–0, but did escape group on goal difference. They were defeated by Belgium 2–1 in extra time after a heroic effort by Tim Howard, in which Howard set a World Cup record of 16 saves in a single match.

The United States exited 2014 shakily, as opposed to their entry. In early September, Landon Donovan played his farewell match, and for a few months after, the USA failed to earn a win until a friendly against Panama.

The United States finished in fifth place in the final round of the qualifying cycle for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which concluded in October 2017 due to this result, the team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Club Soccer Edit

Amateur Soccer: W-League and WPSL Edit

Originally called the United States Interregional Women's League, the W-League was formed in 1995 as the first national women's soccer league, providing a professional outlet for many of the top female soccer players in the country. Starting as the Western Division of the W-League, the Women's Premier Soccer League broke away and formed its own league in 1997 and had its inaugural season in 1998. Both the W-League and the WPSL were considered the premier women's soccer leagues in the United States at the time, but eventually fell to a “second-tier” level upon the formation of the Women's United Soccer Association in 2000.

Women's United Soccer Association (2000–2003) Edit

As a result of the US Women's National Team's (USWNT) first-place showing in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, a seemingly viable market for the sport germinated. Feeding on the momentum of their victory, the twenty USWNT players, in partnership with John Hendricks of the Discovery Channel, sought out the investors, markets, and players necessary to form the eight-team league in February 2000, playing its first season in April 2001. It would be the world's first women's soccer league in which all the players were paid as professionals. The eight teams included the Atlanta Beat, Boston Breakers, Carolina Courage, New York Power, Philadelphia Charge, San Diego Spirit, San Jose CyberRays (called Bay Area CyberRays for 2001 season), and the Washington Freedom.

The US Soccer Federation approved membership of the WUSA as a sanctioned Division 1 women's professional soccer league on August 18, 2000. The WUSA has previously announced plans to begin play in 2001 in eight cities across the country, including: Atlanta, the Bay Area, Boston, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington, D.C. Led by investor John Hendricks, the WUSA has also forged ahead on a cooperation agreement that will see the new league work side by side with Major League Soccer to help maximize the market presence and success of both Division I leagues. [30]

The WUSA played for three full seasons and suspended operations on September 15, 2003, shortly after the conclusion of the third season due to financial problems and lack of public interest in the sport. [31]

Post-WUSA (2004–2009) Edit

With the WUSA on hiatus, the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and the W-League regained their status as the premier women's soccer leagues in the United States, and many former WUSA players joined those teams. The Washington Freedom was the only WUSA team to continue operations after the league dissolved (although new versions of the Atlanta Beat and Boston Breakers formed in 2009) and eventually became a part of the W-League in 2006. After the folding of WUSA, WUSA Reorganization Committee was formed in September 2003 that led to the founding of Women's Soccer Initiative, Inc. (WSII), whose stated goal was "promoting and supporting all aspects of women's soccer in the United States", including the founding of a new professional league. [32] Initial plans were to play a scaled down version of WUSA in 2004. However, these plans fell through and instead, in June 2004, the WUSA held two "WUSA Festivals" in Los Angeles and Blaine, Minnesota, featuring matches between reconstituted WUSA teams in order to maintain the league in the public eye and sustain interest in women's professional soccer. [33] A planned full relaunch in 2005 also fell through. In June 2006, WSII announced the relaunch of the league for the 2008 season. [34]

In December 2006, WSII announced that it reached an agreement with six owner-operators for teams based in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington, DC, and a then-unnamed city. [35] In September 2007, the launch was pushed back from Spring of 2008 to 2009 to avoid clashing with 2007 Women's World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Games and to ensure that all of the teams were fully prepared for long-term operations. [36]

Women's Professional Soccer (2009–2012) Edit

The name for the new professional league, along with its logo, was announced on January 17, 2008. [37] The league was to have its inaugural season in 2009, with seven teams, including the Washington Freedom, a former WUSA team. Twenty-one US national team players were allocated to each of the seven teams in September 2008. Also in September, the league held the 2008 WPS International Draft. Unlike WUSA, the WPS took "a local, grass roots approach", and "a slow and steady growth type of approach.” [38] In addition, the WPS attempted to have a closer relationship with Major League Soccer in order to cut costs.

The seven teams that played in the inaugural season of the WPS were the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Gold Pride, Los Angeles Sol, magicJack (originally Washington Freedom), Sky Blue FC, and Saint Louis Athletica. Most teams considered the first season a moderate success, despite many losing more money than planned. However, most teams began to see problems in 2010. Overall attendance for 2010 was noticeably down from 2009, teams were struggling with financial problems, and the WPS changed leadership by the end of the season. The success of the United States women's national soccer team at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup resulted in an upsurge in attendance league-wide as well as interest in new teams for the 2012 season. [39] However, several internal organization struggles, including an ongoing legal battle with magicJack-owner Dan Borislow, [40] and lack of resources invested in the league lead to the suspension of the 2012, announced in January 2012. [41]

On May 18, 2012 the WPS announced that the league had officially ceased operations, having played for only three seasons. [42]

WPSL Elite (2012) Edit

Up until 2012, the WPSL and W-League were the two semi-pro leagues in the United States and had sat under WUSA and the WPS. Upon the disbandment of the WPS, they once again regained their status as the premier women's soccer leagues in the United States. In response to the suspension, and eventual end, of the WPS, the Women's Premier Soccer League created the Women's Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL Elite) to support the sport in the United States. For the 2012 season, the league featured former WPS teams, Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, and Western New York Flash, in addition to many WPSL teams. Six of the eight teams were considered fully professional. [43] Many members of the USWNT remained unattached for the 2012 season while others chose to play in the W-League instead of the WPSL Elite.

National Women's Soccer League (2013–present) Edit

After the WPS folded in 2012, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced a roundtable for discussion of the future of women's professional soccer in the United States, leading to the creation of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). The meeting resulted in the planning of a new league set to launch in 2013 with 12–16 teams, taking from the WPS, the W-League, and the WPSL. [44] In November 2012, it was announced that there would be eight teams in a new women's professional soccer league. The league would be funded by the USSF, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). USSF would fund up to 24 players, the CSA up to 16, and the FMF a minimum of 12. [45] Former WPS teams Western New York Flash, Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, and Sky Blue FC were joined by four other teams, for a total of eight teams for the inaugural season in 2012. Each club is allowed a minimum of 18 players on their roster, with a maximum of 20 players allowed at any time during the season. [46] Each team's roster includes up the three allocated USWNT players, two Mexico women's national team players, and two CANWNT players via the NWSL Player Allocation. Each team also has, as of 2015, four spots for international players. The remaining roster spots must be filled by domestic players from the United States.

In 2013, the Houston Dynamo of MLS stated interest in starting a women's team. By December 2013, the NWSL approved the new team, the Houston Dash, run by the Dynamo organization, for expansion in 2014. [47] After the media boom of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, MLS side Orlando City SC showed interest in starting a women's team for the 2016 season. On October 20, 2015, it was announced Orlando City would launch its new NWSL team, the Orlando Pride, in the 2016 season. [48]

The NWSL in the first professional women's league to reach nine teams with the addition of the Houston Dash and is the first to last past its third season.

Folding of the W-League and Creation of United Women's Soccer Edit

The W-League had served as a Division II development organization and league for women's soccer in the United States for 21 seasons. However, the W-League announced on November 6, 2015 that the league would cease operation ahead of the 2016 season. [49] In response to the folding of the W-League and the problems occurring in the WPSL, the other Division II league in America, United Women's Soccer (UWS) was founded as a planned second-division pro-am women's soccer league in the United States. There are currently eight known teams, with plans to create the league with two conferences for the 2016 inaugural season. [50]

Women's National Team Edit

1980s Edit

Mike Ryan was named the first national team coach after his success with the Tacoma Cozars, who won three straight national titles. A national women's soccer team was selected in 1982, 1983, and 1984, but they never played together. In 1985, about 70 women, mostly players from university teams, were invited to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to participate in the Olympic Sports Festival. At the end of the festival, Mike Ryan selected 17 players to play in a tournament in Italy. The players practiced for three days at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University. They were issued men's practice uniforms and sewed the "USA" decal on the front of their shirts the night before they flew to Italy. [51]

The national team's matches against Italy were brutal and many criticized Ryan on his coaching ability. After the Italy trip, he was unceremoniously removed as national team coach and replaced by Anson Dorrance, who had begun to build the most successful collegiate women's program in history at North Carolina. [51] [52] Dorrance built a national team with a core of young players and put the team in a 3–4–3 system, now legendary, but then scandalous. [53] Dorrance had been told that if the team did not perform, he would be removed as head coach. This put a lot of pressure on the team to do well. The team played for no money, got around with third-class travel and cheap motels, and had little food. The attendance at their matches was low all throughout the 1980s. [54]

In 1988, FIFA hosted an invitational in China to test to see if a women's World Cup was feasible. The U.S. women's national team took part in the tournament and while they made it past the group stage, they were beaten by Norway in the quarter-finals. [55]

1991 Women's World Cup Edit

The U.S. team took part in the first CONCACAF Women's Championship in 1991, which determined CONCACAF's single qualifier for the 1991 Women's World Cup. It took place between April 18 and 27, 1991 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The U.S. won all of its group matches in the tournament as well as all matches in the knockout stage, qualifying to the 1991 World Cup.

In 1991, FIFA held the first FIFA Women's World Cup in China with 12 teams participating. The U.S. team consisted of now USWNT legends, including Joy Fawcett, Shannon Higgins, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, April Heinrichs, Carla Overbeck and Carin Jennings. The United States won all six of its games and outscored its opponents 25–5. [53] The team won its three group matches to finish first in the group, beat Taipei in the quarter-finals, and defeated Germany 5–2 in the semifinals. The United States beat Norway 2–1 in the final, and was the first U.S soccer team to win a World Cup.

The team expected great fanfare upon returning to the United States, having just won the first Women's World Cup. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The win did not draw national attention and the team was without money. There was no training or games, and many players returned to college to await the fate of the team. [54] It was nine months after the World Cup that the team played another match however, they only played in two matches in 1992. [56]

1993–1994 Edit

The team seemed to rebound in 1993, playing in significantly more matches than the previous year. Attendance had also increased from the previous year. The U.S. team took part in the 1993 CONCACAF Women's Championship in Long Island, New York, winning all of the matches they played. [57]

In 1994, the main task for the women's national team was to qualify for the 1995 Women's World Cup. In preparation for the qualifying tournament, the team competed in the inaugural edition of the Algarve Cup in Portugal. The U.S. finished in top position in its group however, they lost to Norway in the final that was a replay of the 1991 Women's World Cup Final. The Algarve Cup was followed by wins over Trinidad & Tobago and Canada. The U.S. team then competed in the inaugural USA Women's Cup, pitting the U.S. against Germany, China, and Norway, their biggest rival at the time. They won all three matches, including a 4–1 win over Norway, to take the USA Women's Cup 1994. [58]

The 1994 CONCACAF Women's Championship in August determined the CONCACAF's two qualifiers for the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup. The team easily won the tournament to qualify for their second World Cup. [59]

1995 Edit

The women's national team spent the first part of 1995 preparing for the World Cup. The team once again competed in the Algarve Cup in Portugal, during March. They started off the tournament well however, a loss to Denmark put them in the third place match against Norway. The U.S. lost in penalty kicks. Next up was the Tournoi International Feminin in France in April. The team was back in shape, winning all of their matches, including a 3–0 win against host France. [60]

The team spent the two months leading up to the World Cup practicing, playing in six friendlies, all victories. They competed against Finland (2–0 and 6–0), Brazil (3–0 and 4–1), and Canada (9–1 and 2–1) just two weeks before the 1995 World Cup. [61]

In the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup in June, the United States won their group with 2 wins against Denmark and Australia and a draw against China. During their match against Denmark, goalkeeper Brianna Scurry received a red card for handling outside the penalty area and faced a two-game suspension. [62] Since the US had already used their three substitutions, they had to finish the game with Mia Hamm in goal. In the quarterfinals, the U.S. faced Japan and won 4–0. Unfortunately, the quarter-final win led to a dreaded match against Norway. Michelle Akers, who was injured earlier in the tournament, returned at less than full strength. They lost the match 0–1 and had to settle for third place, beating China 2–0. The result was disappointing given that the U.S. had been the favorite to win. [63]

Shortly after their disappointing World Cup run, the U.S. competed in the 1995 USA Women's Cup in July and August in New Britain, CT. The U.S. team won all of the matches that they played in the tournament, including a 2–1 win over the 1995 World Cup Champion, Norway, to take the cup. [64]

1996 Edit

The women's national team entered the Brazil Soccer Cup in January 1996 and won all four matches they played. The championship game was against Brazil and resulted in a draw, but the U.S. prevailed in penalty kicks. [65] Following the Brazil Cup, the U.S. began their preparation for the Olympics, the first time women's soccer would ever be played at the event. They began their preparation with a series of friendlies, including two matches against Norway that resulted in one win and one loss. [56] The U.S. team once again competed in the USA Women's Cup in May, winning all of the matches they played in the tournament.

Leading up to the 1996 Olympics, a dispute between the players at the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) put their Olympic dreams in jeopardy. At this time, the members of the U.S. women's national team received $1,000 a month. However, they wanted to receive bonuses for any medal won, like the men's team USSF was only offering a bonus if the team won gold. Several star players boycotted the training camp in January because of the dispute. [66] It was eventually settled and the players returned in order to make the Olympic roster. [54]

At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, women's soccer was added for the first time. [67] In the group stage of the tournament, the U.S. came away with two wins against Denmark and Sweden and a draw against China. In the semi-finals, the U.S. faced their long-time rival, Norway. While they fell behind in the first half, they were able to tie the game with a penalty shot late in the second half. During extra time, the U.S. scored, beating Norway to move on to the final. The U.S. team went against China in the Olympic final and won 2–1, taking away the gold medal. [68] By the time the games were over, the top thirteen crowds in U.S. history for women's soccer had been set, including 76,489 for the final. However, the final match was not broadcast on national television.

Following the 1996 Olympics, women's soccer began to attract serious attention around the nation. One player especially, Mia Hamm, became the face of women's soccer.

1997–1998 Edit

The U.S. women's national team played 18 games in 1997, mostly international friendlies. The only major tournament was the 1997 USA Women's Cup held in May, which the U.S. once again won. The team ended the season with 16 wins and 2 losses. [69]

The team started off 1998 with the Guangzhou International Tournament in China with two wins against Sweden and Norway and a draw against China. They participated in the 1998 Algarve Cup in March and started off well with two wins in the group stage, but lost to Norway, leading to third place. A series of friendlies followed the Algarve until July, when women's soccer was added to the Goodwill Games for the first time. Only four teams competed and the U.S. took the gold, beating Denmark 5–0 and China 2–0. They ended off the year with the 1998 USA Women's Cup, winning every match they played. It was during that tournament that Mia Hamm scored her 100th goal. [70]

1999: The Road to Pasadena Edit

In preparation for the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, the U.S. women's national team played nineteen games, entitled "The Road to Pasadena," leading up to the World Cup. The team started off the year with two friendlies against Portugal in January, winning both. In February, they got a wake up call when they lost an exhibition match against the FIFA World Stars. In March, they competed in the 1999 Algarve Cup, and lost in the final to China, 1–2. Following the devastating losses, the team spent the next three months with a series of friendlies in preparation for the World Cup. Their only loss was against China in late April. [57]

1999 World Cup Edit

The Women's World Cup was held in the United States for the first time in 1999. Originally, FIFA had planned a small, low-key event, as the other two cups were. The USSF proposed that this World Cup was an opportunity to promote soccer in the United States and called for the use of larger stadiums across the nation. FIFA eventually allowed the competition to be staged at the level that the USSF wanted. [71]

The United States' roster for the World Cup was filled with veterans, six of the players having been in both the 1991 World Cup and the 1995 World Cup. Michelle Akers was on the original national team in 1985, Mia Hamm had just set the world scoring record, and Kristine Lilly was the world's leader in international appearances. In addition to the six players that appeared in the first two World Cups, six players would be playing their second World Cup, and eight players were appearing in a World Cup for the first time. Additionally, the team included thirteen of the sixteen members of the 1996 Olympic Team. [72]

During the group stage, the United States won all three of its matches, beating Denmark 3–0, Nigeria 7–1, and North Korea 3–0. [56] Their opening game against Denmark brought a crowd of 78,972 fans, setting a world record for attendance at any women's sporting even, and an all-time Giants Stadium record for a sporting event of any kind. [71]

In the quarter-finals, the United States went against Germany in perhaps their toughest game of the tournament. They did pull through and beat Germany 3–2. In the semi-finals, the United States went against Brazil, winning easily 2–0 and advancing to the final against China. The final was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and brought in over 90,000 fans. The game was scoreless after 90 minutes and two overtime periods, resulting in a penalty kick shootout. Briana Scurry, having proved herself throughout the entire tournament, saved the third shot by Liu Yang, putting the United States ahead. Brandi Chastain, a veteran on the team, scored the last shot, giving the U.S. the victory. [71]

Following the World Cup victory in July, the US took almost two months off to rest before playing a friendly against Ireland in September in Foxboro, MA. They then played Brazil in October, winning again. The United States also once again took part in the USA Women's Cup in 1999, winning all of the matches they played. Every game after the World Cup brought in large crowds, highlighted by 35,000 for the final two USA Women's Cup games. [71]

After their performance at the World Cup, the team made a 12-city Victory Tour playing exhibition indoor matches against a team of international stars. The tour lasted three months and featured cities that had not seen MLS or national team action. [73]

2000 Strike and Summer Olympics Edit

In December 1999, the team announced they would be sitting out the 2000 Australia Cup over a contract dispute with US Soccer. [74] [75] The federation was forced to send a team of younger players in place of the group that had competed at the World Cup the previous summer. Following the tournament, this younger group sided with the veterans and also refused to play until a more favorable contract was signed. The dispute was resolved in late January, and US Soccer was forced to increase the players' salaries, to a minimum of $5,000 a month. [76] This raised the women's team salaries to be more on par with the men's team and reflected growth of the team. [77]

Following the dispute and the Australia Cup, the team had a year packed with major tournaments leading up to the Olympics. They won their first Algarve Cup in March, taking Portugal in an impressive 7–0 in the opening match of the tournament. The USA Women's Cup was played in May and the team had two shutouts to win the tournament. During the tournament, Kristine Lilly became the first player to earn a 200th cap in international play. The Pacific Cup took place in late May and although they suffered a loss in their first match against China, they recovered and won the tournament. [77]

In late June, the national team won the inaugural Women's Gold Cup, which served as the CONCACAF Women's Championship. In their last major tournament before the Olympics, the team headed to Germany for the DFB 100th Anniversary Tournament, which they easily won. Following a "Road to Sydney" friendly series, the team headed to Australia for the third time that year. [77]

Having won gold in 1996, the team automatically qualified for the Olympics. They were placed in a group with Norway, China, and Nigeria, guaranteeing a tough group stage. They made it through to the knockout stage and ended up in the final against Norway. At the end of the 90 minutes, the score was tied 2–2 after intense play. The final goal of the game was considered controversial. In overtime, United States defender Joy Fawcett attempted to clear an incoming ball. Instead, it hit Norwegian player Dagny Mellgren in the arm and she then kicked it into goal. The goal was allowed, and Norway won the game and the gold medal. The United States had to settle for silver. [77] [78]

The women's national team saw a number of changes in 2000, with several veteran players retiring or injured, allowing the younger generation to step up.

Soccer - HISTORY

Soccer History In Brief Overview

Soccer history began in the mid-nineteenth century, when the game of soccer was developed in England. However, the origin of soccer goes as far back as 2500 B.C.

It is believed soccer derived from a combination of ancient games.

The Chinese are credited with the earliest form of soccer, commonly recognized as approximately 2500 B.C. They played a game called "Tsu Chu", which may be translated to "kicking the leather and stuffed ball with feet". The game was part of the physical education program used to train soldiers. The goal was a net with a hole strung between two bamboo poles that were 30 feet high. To "score", the ball had to go through the hole in the net and players were not allowed to use their hands.

In approximately 50 BC, the Japanese played a game in which players kicked a ball made of deerskin on a small field. They called it "Kemari". The game was not competitive and was played by different classes of people to exercise and relax. The ball was simply passed from player to player in the air and was only touched with the feet.

A game called "Episkyros", between two teams of 12 players with one ball, was played in Ancient Greece. However, the rules of the game allowed using hands.

The Romans adopted the game of "Episkyros" from the Greeks and by allowing kicking during the games they created a rugby-style game, which they called "Harpastum". The ball was made from a stitched leather skin and stuffed animal fur. "Harpastum" was a very fast, physical and violent game. The number of players varied from game to game, some reports suggest games with hundreds of players on each side.

If you are interested in more detailed information about soccer history, especially the origin of soccer, click here.

The English had been playing games similar to soccer (football) from around the 8th century. Many early games were disorganized and violent affairs with any number of players.

In the early 14th century the Royal Family banned soccer because, according to King of England Henry V, people were spending too much time playing soccer instead of practicing archery for military purposes. The threat of imprisonment for playing soccer didn't make any difference whatsoever, the game still stayed very popular among the working class.

In the early 1800s, a number of versions of soccer were being played in private schools throughout England. But it was nearly impossible for different schools to play each other because teams couldn't agree on the rules. Some allowed players use their hands others did not.

In 1848, students from Cambridge University tried to create the first rules that everyone would accept everwhere. Organized soccer began in 1863, when the English Football Association was founded in London. By the end of the year, the game split into two games, rugby and association football. That's when contemporary soccer history began.

Rugby, which allowed players to touch and carry the ball with their hands, gave rise to American football. Association football (soccer) became popular in the rest of the world.

Only eight years after its foundation, The Football Association already had 50 member clubs. The FA Cup (first soccer tournament in soccer history) was started in the same year.

After the English Football Association, the next oldest are the Scottish FA (1873), the FA of Wales (1875) and the Irish FA (1880).
Soccer spread outside of Great Britain rapidly to all parts of the world. The next countries to form football associations were: Netherlands and Denmark (1889), New Zealand (1891), Argentina (1893), Chile (1895), Switzerland, Belgium (1895), Italy (1898), Germany, Uruguay (both in 1900), Hungary (1901) and Finland (1907).

As soccer developed throughout the world, teams were playing against each other, and the need for proper organization grew.

In 1904 delegates from France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland established FIFA - the international governing body of soccer - to "promote the game of association football".
In 1912, 21 national associations were already affiliated to the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). By 1925, the number had increased to 36, in 1930 - the year of the first World Cup - it was 41, in 1938, 51 and in 1950, after the interval caused by the Second World War, the number had reached 73. At present, FIFA has over 200 members in every part of the world.

By the way. Do you know where the term "soccer" came from?
"Association football" was a long name, so some English college students began calling the game "assoc". The name was further shortened to "soc", and eventually became "soccer".

Hopefully my presentation of soccer history was brief enough not to bore you, but with plenty of facts to satisfy your needs.