Soccer Terms For When The World Cup Is The Only Thing On TV

The fact that American English speakers call soccer, well, soccer (and not fútbol), may set us apart from the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have love for the sport played with one’s feet.

Just look at all the words we have in English to explain what’s really going on while strikers, midfielders, and defenders boot a soccer ball around the pitch!

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When a baseball player throws a pitch out from the mound, they’re throwing the ball toward home plate. But, a soccer pitch can’t be thrown. It’s a name for that long rectangle of grass painted with white lines that a game is played on. Or … you could just call it a field.

Group of death

Although this would have made a great alternative to death eaters (J.K. Rowling, are you listening? Call us!), the group of death is less intent on destroying Harry Potter and more likely to show up in professional soccer.

The term refers to a particularly competitive group of teams in a multi-state tournament such as the FIFA World Cup.

Hat trick

Magicians are known for both their tall black hats and their tricks, but soccer players have a different meaning in mind when they celebrate a hat trick.

This term refers to the feat of one player scoring three goals in one game.


A period is “any of the parts of equal length into which a game is divided.”

When it comes to professional soccer, games are 90 minutes long, but they’re divided into two periods of 45 minutes each. These are also called halves.


If your opponents score two goals, but your offensive line doesn’t score any, we’ve got bad news. The score will be 2-nil.

Drawn from the Latin nīlum, a contraction of nihilum, nil means zero, nada, bupkus … well, you get the idea.

Own goal

The whole point, er, goal of soccer is to kick the ball into the opposing team’s goal. That’s how you rack up points.

But sometimes things get a little flustered with all those feet on the pitch, and your foot suddenly slips that soccer ball into your own net. This is called an own goal, and you better believe the other team loves it when it happens. They get to claim the extra point for their side!

12th man

There are just 11 players per side during a soccer match, but the 12th man is a bit of a misnomer. It actually refers to the crowd of fans, which can be made of people of any gender.


When it comes to soccer, using your hands is verboten for 10 of the players on the team. Only the goalie can scoop up the ball using their hands without earning a foul.

When someone other than the goalie touches the ball with their hands or arm, however, be ready for the referee to blow their whistle and call a “handball.”

Hand of God

Perhaps, the most famous alleged handball in soccer history occurred during the 1986 quarter-finals in Mexico City. Argentinian player Diego Maradona scored a goal against England, or did he?

Officials didn’t notice that Maradona had punched the ball into the net, and it helped boost Argentina to a win. When asked about it later, Maradona himself started the legend of the “Hand of God” by telling press the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”

Throw in

Wait a second, you’re not supposed to use your hands in soccer, so how can you throw the ball? Behold one of the exceptions to the “foot” rule!

When the ball rolls over the sidelines, it’s no longer in play, which means a player can scoop it up and throw it back in to restart the game.

Corner kick

Like football, hockey, and basketball, the shape of the area where soccer players square off is rectangular, which creates four corners that are all used to restart play when necessary.

A corner kick is a direct free kick awarded to the attacking team when a defender last touched a ball that crossed entirely over the goal line, taken from the corner area on the side of the field where the ball went out of play.


It’s pretty hard to physically bend a soccer ball, at least if you’re talking about the round ball players boot around the pitch. But, talented soccer players master the art of bending the ball in the air, or kicking it so that it flies in an arc.

One of the best at “bending” the ball is now retired English player David Beckham. He even earned a movie named for his talent!

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Word of the Day

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