8 Key Differences Between Soccer and American Football

Updated on 
April 1, 2022

Every single sport on earth is quite different from each other, otherwise, the entire business of sports would collapse and shrink to a minimal degree. Throughout the world, many people enjoy a single sport that they were raised around or learned to enjoy. Usually where you are born has a large degree on what sport you will gravitate to.

World wide soccer is an extremely popular sport, fans all over the world indulge in their favorite soccer clubs playing against each other. Then if you take a quick look at America, you can notice that the sport that is their pride and joy, is football, not soccer.

If you're like me and you are trying to learn and indulge in another sport, you will wonder what makes these other sports different than your favorite.

So, what are some of the key differences between soccer and American football?

Differences between Soccer and American Football:

Let's have a look at the main differences between soccer and American football:

1. A woman's league

In the National Football League, there is not a woman's league. There is just the NFL, then the high school and collegiate levels of the game.

In my own experience, we have had plenty of women join my high school team, and were fully accepted by all of us, but unfortunately, there isn't a separate league for other women that are like-minded.

The lack of a female presence is extremely noticeable in the American football world, as recently the NFL mandated all teams to hire a female or a minority to an offensive coaching position, to continue the growth of women in the sport.

In soccer, there is an entire woman's league that was established in 2012.

The Nationals Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is the official professional women's soccer league for the United States league system. It is a successor to both Women's Professional Soccer (2007-2012) and the Women's United Soccer Association (2001-2003).

In the NFL there are 32 total teams, divided up into 8 divisions, divided into 2 conferences.

In the National Women's Soccer League there are 12 teams and these teams are:

  • Angel City FC
  • Chicago Red Stars
  • Houston Dash
  • Kansas City Current
  • NJ/NY Gotham FC
  • North Carolina Courage
  • OL Reign
  • Orlando Pride
  • Portland Thorns FC
  • Racing Louisville FC
  • San Diego Wave FC
  • Washington Spirit

2. Endzones vs Nets

When you watch or play your favorite sports you fantasize about scoring points for your team, or your team scoring points to win the game.

The name of any game is to score points, right?

So what are the differences between American football scoring space, vs Soccer's scoring space?

According to Open Goaaal:

In Soccer there are nets that need to fit the requirements of:

  • Two upright posts are joined together horizontally by a crossbar
  • Are situated equidistant from the corner flags on each side of the pitch
  • The crossbar and goalposts must be made from wood, metal, or other approved material
  • The posts, furthermore, must be either round, rectangular, square, or elliptical, and should pose no risk or physical harm to players
  • The crossbar and goalposts must be white – no other color is permitted
  • The posts should be 8 yards apart, while the edge of the crossbar, at its lowest, should measure 8 feet from the ground
  • Both the goalposts and crossbar should have a uniform width and depth, which must not be greater than 5 inches (12 centimeters).
  • Goal nets can be attached, but they are required to drape on the ground behind the goal, and should not impede or interfere with the actions of a goalkeeper in any way.

Note: This is for FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association)

In American Football there are two endzones, that if they are crossed by the ball carrier will count as a six-point touchdown. These endzones are decorated with the home team's logo and colors.

Football's endzones measure 10 yards long, and 160 feet wide and create the extra 20 yards to the 120-yard long field.

Note: Yes, a 120-yard long field, as it is a common misconception that a football field is only 100 yards. Each endzone adds 10 yards each, totaling 120 yards.

3. Total Leagues

Most fans of American Football are avid collegiate or professional watchers. Most people enjoy watching their favorite professional/collegiate teams go against other professional/collegiate teams in a clash to see who is better on that given day.

In Football, most fans stick to the NFL or the NCAA.

So when you are talking about leagues, you see the powerhouses of the NFL and NCAA, and if you go a little further down you get a few leagues trying their best to rival the NFL, but won't even get close.

These leagues consist of:

  • The XFL failed in its first season but is making a comeback in 2023.
  • The AAF also failed in its first season, due to covid.
  • USFL that is starting quite soon in 2022.

With all of this said, those few leagues I listed are quite unknown to the average football fan, and the NFL and NCAA will further dominate as household names as time goes on.

In contrast, soccer there is plenty of successful leagues around the world.

To name a few:

  • English Premier League
  • Serie A
  • La Liga
  • Bundesliga
  • Major League Soccer

All of these leagues have varying degrees of success, but all are enough to rival each other and aren't a monopoly like the NFL and NCAA are.

4. National vs. Country-Wide

All around the world people enjoy sports. Whether is playing or watching, it is much better to be close to the sport you enjoy. Unfortunately, the NFL doesn't really have a large system in play to go more commonly international for their international viewers and players.

Currently, you have a few games played across the world every year in the NFL.

"The National Football League announced today that the Arizona CardinalsGreen Bay PackersJacksonville JaguarsNew Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play international games during the 2022 season."

As for playing, the NFL has a system called: NFL's International Player Pathway Program.

"Instituted in 2017, the program aims to provide elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster."

Soccer is easily the best international sport in the world. The different leagues and teams that render from across the world make it enjoyable for any soccer consumer.

Where are some of these famous soccer leagues from?

  • English Premier League - UK
  • Serie A - Italy
  • La Liga - Spain
  • Bundesliga - Germany
  • Major League Soccer - US

All in all, soccer brings a very easy ability to watch soccer no matter where ever you are from, as American Football is nearly strictly an American sport.

5. Point Systems

This point (no pun intended) is quite simple. Both sports have different ways of measuring scores and have different names for both.

In soccer, there are 2 different amounts of points that are able to be scored.

The first is the basic goal, being worth one point for the team that scored such a point.

The second is much rarer;

"A 2 POINT GOAL is awarded for any goal legally scored by the attacking team from within the neutral zone of the field provided the ball was not then touched by any attacking player in the offensive third. Any ball kicked from the white line defining the neutral zone or closer is determined to be only 1 point."

As for Football, there are plenty of different score values. These values range from one to 6.

What are these scores called?

6. Positions

One of the first questions you get asked as an athlete is "what position do you play?" (of course for your respective sport), and in both of these sports we are covering, the positions vary quite a bit.

Both sports have eleven players for each team on the field at a time, making the different positions very specific and important to each sport. Teamwork makes dream work as they say.

In football, positions can do either the same thing as each other, or do something completely different.

Football includes 10 basic offensive positions, which can vary in the amount on the field at a certain time, different alignments, and techniques.

  • Quarterback
  • Runningback (formerly known as a halfback)
  • Fullback
  • Tight End
  • Left Tackle
  • Left Guard
  • Center
  • Right Guard
  • Right Tackle
  • Wide Reciever

On defense, there are 5 basic positions, but like offense, these positions can vary in alignment and techniques.

  • Defensive End
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Safety

Note: Positions like Wide Reciever, tight end, linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety can have different alignments which could have them change their positions to a more specified version of such position. For example, if a Wide Reciever lines up in between another receiver and the offensive line, they would be considered a "slot receiver".

Soccer has 11 positions on their respective teams, and these positions are as follows:

All of these positions have different jobs, and because it is a much different sport than American football, the jobs of such positions are nowhere close to the same as American football's positions.

Suggestion: You can learn more about soccer positions in this comprehensive guide.

7. Length of the Game

Watching a sports game can you leave you entertained for hours, and when you are playing a sport usually the game can exhaust but keep you entertained for hours as well.

Soccer, on average, has a 90-minute long game, that is split up into 45-minute halves.
Stamina for all sports is very important, but for such a long game with an immense amount of running, soccer players easily are more conditioned than football players.

As for football, games are 60 minutes long, and they are divided into four quarters and a large halftime.

Fun Fact: The average NFL game takes 3 hours and 12 minutes to complete, but this can vary drastically.

Football has only 60 minutes of ball vs Soccer's 90, which is 1/3 longer than a football game.

Universally, both sports have a large amount of time to play, but soccer takes the cake in having 30 whole minutes than football.

8. World Cup vs Super Bowl

Viewership in the big game, is almost like a national holiday. Depending on where you live, it'll seem bigger than it is. In America, the SuperBowl is considered nearly a full holiday. Around the world, the world cup is considered a huge commodity aswell.

According to Business News Daily,

"An estimated 20% of employees ages 18 to 34 missed work after the NFL's championship game last year. Even those with authority are often truant after the Super Bowl. An estimated 29% of people who identify as a manager or boss with the authority to approve time off say they missed work the next day."

Beyond truancies to work the next day, the NFL's viewership is minuscule when compared to the tyrant FIFA World Cup.

FIFA's World Cup in 2018 racked up 1.013 BILLION viewers vs America's pride and joy, the Super Bowl racked up 114.4 million viewers.

All in all, when you look into a sport, the first game you always hear about is the final game, the championship game. The one for all the marbles. Soccer and Football are both large sports in their own rights, but when you compare the entirety of championship viewership, the FIFA World Cup makes the NFL's Superbowl look pathetic.

Wrapping it up

Either way, you look at it, these sports are both beautiful and filled with history and entertainment. The differences are to show how great they can be in their own right.

All 8 of these differences can ensure these sports will never overlap in gameplay but will ensure viewership for anyone.

As a massive NFL fan, this article and its research were extremely eye-opening for me, as it taught me a lot about soccer, a sport I previously never showed much interest in. After all the research and writing, I am much more interested in furthering my sports knowledge.

Whether you're a football fan trying to learn more about soccer, or a soccer fan trying to learn more about the football world, both sports will have something for you.

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Tom Lindeman
Ball Athlete project
Hey! My name is Tom and I created this blog in order to help people wherever they are in their sport journey. Inspirational posts, guides, reviews and much more! Read about the project here.
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