Is it Soccer or Football? The Beautiful Game's great name debate

Whether you call it ‘soccer’ or ‘football,’ the passion for The Beautiful Game is the same worldwide.

And with the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship (Euro 2024) and 2024 Copa America kicking off in June, fans around the world – including Canada – will be treated to a month’s worth of the game’s top talent representing their countries and battling it out on the pitch for national glory.

Canada is making its Copa America debut and will face Lionel Messi and reigning champion Argentina in the tournament opener on June 20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Across the pond, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Cristiano Ronaldo will headline some of Europe’s top teams when the Euro tournament kicks off June 14 in host nation Germany.

The highly anticipated return of these quadrennial international men's soccer tournaments brings excitement, passion, and debate.

Here in Canada – a country featuring dozens of sizable expat communities of fans from all over the world – the tournaments stir an age-old question in cafes, pubs, and restaurants across the country: Is it soccer or football?

Attempting to convince someone to come to the other side in this debate is like drawing blood from a stone, so don’t worry, that’s not our intent here. 

Bet on Euro 2024 Here | Bet on Copa America 2024 Here

But do you know how or why these two terms came to be and where they are most widely used today?

The answers may surprise you. But first, some historical context.

What are football's origins?

The origins of the sport date back thousands of years. According to the Bundesliga’s official website, records from ancient China, Greece and Rome all describe games played with rock and animal hide balls filled with hair.

A variant of soccer/football sometimes known as “Folkball” was played in 12th-century England. In that game, players kicked a ball but were also allowed to punch it – and violently tackle their opponents – similar to Gaelic football today.

That doesn’t sound much like the modern Beautiful Game, does it?

Regardless, it was one of several sports with written accounts that spectators sparsely called “football.” The name didn’t specifically refer to the ball being kicked by foot, though. Games were played on foot, as opposed to horseback.

The primitive nature of the game (hello, rocks) and the number of severe injuries (including deaths) incurred by its participants led to a crackdown in England by authorities.

In response to public disruptions attributed to the game’s popularity, in 1314 the Lord Mayor of London decreed the following: “As there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot balls in the fields of the public from which many evils might arise which God forbid: we command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.”

Decades later, the sport continued to draw the ire of England’s authorities, including King Edward III. “We ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment all and sundry from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football … or other such idle games," he said.

Fast forward 500 years later, in 1863, and the modern rules of today’s game were officially codified by England’s Football Association (FA).

Where does the term soccer come from?

Coincidentally, it was also around this time when the term ‘soccer’ first surfaced.

Students at England’s University of Oxford in the 1880s created slang terms to distinguish association football from rugby football. Their solution was simple: Call the first ‘Assoccer’ and the latter ‘Rugger.’

‘Assoccer’ was shortened to ‘soccer’ and the term soon spread beyond the campus, including overseas.

So if you’re on team soccer, the next time a British pal or family member gives you grief for using the term, be sure to let them know it originated from their own backyard.

The Canadian Soccer Association (founded 1912) was originally called ‘The Dominion of Canada Football Association,’ and later ‘The Football Association of Canada,’ (1952). Soccer didn’t replace football in the organization’s title until 1971 when the organization rebranded to become the ‘Canadian Soccer Association.’ 

But what about today?

Anyone who’s done any research on this topic has likely come across this fascinating map via r/soccer

As you can see, the majority of Canadians, Americans, South Africans, Australians, and Irish are in camp ‘soccer.’ Australians distinguish soccer from Aussie rules football, whereas Ireland has its Gaelic football.

Not surprisingly, ‘football,’ or a variation, dominates South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and most of Asia.

Bet on Euro 2024 Here | Bet on Copa America 2024 Here

But at the end of the day, it’s all semantics. What matters is that fans worldwide will soon be treated to some of the sport's most intense competition outside of the World Cup. 

And with Team Canada looking to make waves at Copa America as we gear up to welcome the world for the men’s FIFA World Cup in 2026, perhaps we should put the “soccer” or “football” debate aside for a few matches and collectively root for the Reds to get the job done.

All odds shown in this article are from The odds presented in this article are sourced from, the producer of this content. Please note that odds may vary and are subject to change. Odds units and offers are advertisements and promotions from Any odds units and offers mentioned within this content are advertisements and promotions provided by These promotions are subject to terms and conditions, and readers are encouraged to review them before participating. This blog and article is owned and controlled by This blog and article are owned and controlled by and are intended for commercial purposes. The content is created to provide statistics & analysis for global sporting events, highlight odds and offers available on and may contain promotional material.