The world's most popular game is understood by many names; however there is much debate in English speaking countries regarding what it should be often called. While most in North America and Australia refer to the sport as soccer, anything else of the world calls it football. What is the cause of this confusing naming convention?
To understand the debate, the history of soccer needs to be examined. The modern game can be traced back to 19th century England whereby football and rugby had not yet divided into separate exercises. Eventually, disagreements on how the game should be played led to a separate set of rules being developed. These rules became known as the Cambridge Rules, and with their establishment the sport of association football was born.
Officially speaking then, the sport is understood as association football. England exported the modern game to most of the world, and most English speaking countries in turn began calling the sport football. In fact, even when translated into other languages such as Spanish and Portuguese, the game retains the futbol name.
At the same time however, the phrase "soccer" was created through slang by merging the -soc half of the phrase "association" to the -er suffix. Language can sometimes develop organically in this way and the creation of this phrase had huge ramifications for the naming of the sport when the time came for the game to be imported to the North American continent.
At the time when the game was being introduced to North America, American Football was exploding in popularity. To avoid confusion, the term soccer was used to distinguish it from the vastly exceptional game. This is basically not to say that as soon as the sport was introduced to North America it was named soccer; quite the contrary truthfully. In truth, the term football was used concurrently to the point whereby the association overseeing soccer in the United States was known as the United States of America Foot Ball Association, then becoming the United States Soccer Football Association, before finally settling on its present name as the United States Soccer Federation.
Eventually though, the growth of American football meant that the term soccer remained the only name the sport would be known as in North America. Despite the United States being a comparatively minor player on the international soccer scene until very recently, American culture quickly spread the term around the world.
To this day, heated arguments take place over the fabulous term for the sport. Those outside of North America typically resent the term soccer, however it should be said that while the name could be exceptional, the game itself is the same around the world.