Soccer is the world's most popular sport. It's played in more than 140
countries around the world.
The first recorded soccer game was played in England in AD 217, but it
was pretty much a free-for-all without any rules. Entire villages would play,
with half the town making up each team.
Some games got so rough that in 1314, King Edward II tried to ban the game
because it was too violent. He threatened to jail anyone caught playing soccer.
Before the soccer ball was born, players would use a pig's bladder or the
skull of an enemy soldier, according to the history books.
Soccer is often called football or association football, which may confuse
you, since it is nothing like American football.
The World Cup is a tournament held every four years to decide which nation
is the best at soccer. It began in 1930, with the first game being held in
Uruguay. Thirteen teams entered, including a team from the U.S., but the home
Pele is one of the most recognized soccer players in the world. He played
for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup and he helped popularize soccer in North
Major League Soccer (MLS) is one growing venue through which talented players
may find success in North America. It has a stable spot as America's fifth
major sports league.
Though soccer has its largest following in Europe and Latin America, the
sport is growing in the U.S., especially among youth.
"There are so many children playing the game now that when they grow up,
they'll want to keep going," says Gordon Jago, who helps organize an indoor
A soccer team has 18 players. Outdoor soccer uses 11 players on the field
at one time. This usually includes one goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders
and two forwards.
The defenders are responsible for protecting the goal (defense), forwards
make goals (offense) and midfielders play both offense and defense, depending
on who has the ball.
Indoor soccer uses only six players at a time, with fresh players coming
in to take their place when needed, just as they do in hockey.
To move the ball down the field toward a goal, players may kick it or hit
it with their head, chest or other body parts. However, they're not allowed
to touch the ball with their hands.
The goalkeeper is the only player who may use their hands. Because of this,
they must wear a different color jersey from their teammates. That way, it
is easy for the referee to see who is touching the ball with their hands when
the players crowd together.
The traditional soccer uniform consists of a shirt, shorts, knee socks
and shoes with cleats. The first shirts and socks were made of thick wool.
When wet, the socks alone could weigh over two pounds each!
The first footwear was normal shoes with studs nailed into them. Today,
players wear specially made shoes and uniforms made of a light, synthetic
Soccer is a team sport. Everyone must work together as one. Success will
depend on how well they match the skills the opposing team. "A soccer coach
does his work during the week," says Jago. "Once the players step over the
white line to play, it's out of his hands."
Soccer is one sport that doesn't depend on size. You don't have to be 200
pounds or more than 6 feet tall to play. The average male player is 5'7" and
weighs 170 pounds. Players must be physically fit, though.