Everyone in the world knows what soccer is. Commonly known as football (except for in the USA), it’s the most popular sport in the world, because everyone has some sort of experience with the game.
Whether you were in a soccer club in school or you enjoy watching the World Cup, we all have our own stories about soccer.
More often than not, when people think of soccer they think of the incredibly loyal fans.
They think of the comradery, the rowdiness, the competitiveness, the thrill of it all. It’s something that joins people together, for better or for worse.
So, why exactly is it the most popular sport in the world? There are hundreds of different sports that have existed for centuries globally, so why are we so enamoured by soccer in particular?
If you need more of an explanation, you have come to the right place. We have found the 17 reasons why soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
1. Soccer can be played anywhere
The rules of soccer are (more or less) the same around the world, so you can literally play the game wherever you want.
All you need is an open space, enough players to have even teams, something to represent goal posts, and a soccer ball.
In fact, most of the time you only really need a soccer ball.
It’s a brilliant universal language. If you start kicking a soccer ball in public, whether that is in the park or on holiday in Greece, chances are someone will want to join in.
It won’t even necessarily create a game, just dribbling and kicking the ball spontaneously is enough to connect with another person.
Football can also be played in any form of weather condition.
Obviously, the best conditions would be sunny and warm with a slight breeze of wind, but this doesn’t mean you can’t play a game in a thunderstorm if you really want to.
As touched upon in the first reason why soccer is the most popular sport in the world, soccer is internationally played.
Most countries have their own regional sports - for example the UK and the Commonwealth are known for cricket, Wales and New Zealand are known for rugby, and the USA is mostly known for baseball and American football.
Soccer, however, is universal and played absolutely everywhere. There are 211 members of FIFA with their own country codes.
These countries are divided into regions - UEFA (Europe), AFC (Asia), OFC (Oceania), CONMEBOL (South America), CONCACAF (Central and North America), and CAF (Africa).
This is the best way to involve almost every country to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
Like the Olympics, soccer’s international value has the unique ability to unite a country.
Even non-soccer fans enjoy watching the World Cup with their friends, supporting their own country.
Each team represents a nation, and will represent their nation with pride in both their sportsmanship and the colours of their team uniform. This is incredibly bonding for fans and to boost morale.
As soccer is so international, it means that it is naturally one of the most competitive sports in the world.
Whilst the rules don’t tend to change, this means it takes a lot of work to make each game watchable and unique.
3. Worldwide Leagues
Supporting your country in the World Cup is one thing, but it’s equally as exciting to support your own local team.
There are thousands of amateur soccer teams in the world, ranging from middle school soccer clubs to local teams in a town.
Watching a local club play is just as exhilarating as watching your country’s team play, as it builds morale for your local area.
With thousands of local clubs comes thousands of leagues, ranging from State leagues to regional leagues.
Of course, the larger leagues offer more excitement with a larger crowd and more comradery, but even the smallest of leagues are fun to partake in.
Whether it is watching your child play in a local school soccer league or following your local club as they play a State league, it all contributes to soccer being the most popular sport in the world.
4. History of soccer
As with most aspects of life, the history of soccer is incredibly fascinating and is a huge factor as to why the game is so popular.
Ball games that inspired soccer date back to around 200 B.C. In the Chinese Dynasty, they used to kick pig bladders or heads, or even the executed heads of their enemies.
The first actual game of soccer was back in 1857 when England’s Sheffield F.C was founded - the first ever soccer club. The game continued to develop, and the first real competition was England’s FA cup in 1871.
There are hundreds of iconic soccer moments in history. One of the most notable was the Christmas Day football game between England and Germany in 1914.
During a particularly hostile time on the Western Front during World War One, a game of soccer (football to them) was played during a truce between the soldiers.
This is continuously referred to as an attempt to raise morale and remind us of the beauty of the sport.
When people play or watch soccer, they are remembering their own personal history with the sport.
This could be their connection to their chosen team (which could have been their family’s favourite team for decades), or the history of a soccer pitch.
Whatever it is, the history of soccer reminds fans and players to remember the roots of the game and what it stands for, which creates a morale-boosting connection.
One of the main reasons why soccer is so popular is because of how cheap it is.
Sure, buying World Cup tickets can be a very expensive investment, but the game itself is actually very inexpensive.
In reality, all you need is a soccer ball - whether this is an actual soccer ball or an inflatable one.
You also need something to represent goal posts, which could be actual goal posts or items of clothing or rocks to indicate where the goal is.
Then you need something to indicate who is on your team, which is usually sorted by a particular shirt color. People are free, so you don’t need to hire players or a referee in a casual game.
You don’t even need to play soccer in a designated soccer pitch (which usually has to be rented out).
Soccer can be played in an empty parking lot, on a quiet street, or even on the beach. This is what makes soccer so accessible, because it can literally be played anywhere.
This is what makes soccer so easy to play, because you really don’t need to have the fanciest and most expensive kit and equipment to have a good game.
6. Easy to play and learn
Unlike most sports, soccer is really easy to play. It may take a while to understand different roles and positions and the referee system, but you get the hang of it whilst playing.
The game really is as simple as “your team needs to shoot the ball in that goal, whilst the other team try to shoot the ball in the other goal”.
Obviously, soccer has more rules than that.
Players have 90 minutes to get the ball into their goal as many times as they can, they cannot use their hands, and it’s best to try and not injure any other players. It’s quick and easy to learn.
When you watch a game of soccer, whether it’s on a screen or in real life, it’s really easy to pick up the basic rules.
The more you watch, the more you will learn. With this simplicity, it’s easy to become a soccer fan at any age, whether you are a child or a 50 year old.
The simplicity of soccer is what makes it so popular - it is both easy to understand the rules of the game both as a player and a spectator.
Like most sports, soccer is incredibly competitive both on and off the field. It’s competitive to the point of genuine concern, because there are times where fans take it one step too far.
It all comes from a place of extreme passion, but the competitive nature of soccer is what makes it so addictive to be a part of.
Unfortunately, there are times when it can get nasty.
Entire cities and States can be divided into two during a league, all because they want their team to kick the ball into the goal more than another team.
It’s understandable, though, because soccer can mean a lot to people, so they are bound to get competitive with one another.
Regardless of whether the game is played by a male or female team, the amount of exercise they do emits an abundance of hormones that will naturally create an intensely heated atmosphere.
It’s inevitable, and is what makes the game even more enjoyable.
8. Short to watch
Soccer games only last 90 minutes, with a halftime break halfway through. It is unlikely that you will spend more than 2 hours watching a game of soccer, which means it doesn’t actually take up too much time.
Other games can take much longer. Baseball, for example, can take up to 3 or 4 hours depending on extra innings, and most of that time isn’t even actual gameplay.
With sports like this, unless you are really invested and a superfan, you will find yourself getting bored.
Soccer is a good length of time for a sports game, because it is faster and involves a lot more activity.
It’s not really possible to get bored when watching or playing soccer, because there is always something happening on the field.
9. Fairly safe sport
Compared to other sports such as rugby, soccer is fairly safe to play.
Of course, with any sport there is always a significant risk of injury and danger, but this does not mean it should not be celebrated or played.
For young people in particular, the chances of them breaking a limb from playing soccer are pretty slim.
More experienced and competitive players may experience more injuries from time to time, but this is still comparatively minimal compared to other sports.
The main injury risks include sprained ankles from landing awkwardly, the odd nosebleed from a ball to the face, a kick to the stomach, or potentially bruising from soccer boots.
As with other sports, soccer has developed over the years to prevent injuries from occurring.
This is mostly in the form of protective clothing such as shin pads, as accidentally kicking another player’s shin is so common.
In most cases, soccer is moderately respectable, so it’s rare that fights break about between players.
Soccer is all about individual football players. Whilst people will generally support a team based on the location (mostly their own town, city, or State’s team), they will also become aware of the individual players.
This means knowing their names, strengths and weaknesses, personalities on and off the field, and their history with playing soccer.
This makes soccer a very personal sport for both players and fans, because it individualizes each player so they have their own time to shine.
Fans will have their favourites in the most famous teams, which means they can get personalized merchandise to support them.
In soccer, there will be a soccer manager and coach, but the team itself will have a captain who will change the strategy of their game as they are playing it.
If we take American football as a comparison, the coach will take the team aside and discuss strategies with them. Soccer is all about how the players choose to play.
Being the most popular sport in the world, soccer is the perfect opportunity for advertisements.
It’s so common to see soccer fields with large posters surrounding the sides, advertising a new burger at a fast food restaurant or a new phone deal.
These advertisements need to be eye-catching and snappy to get people to recognize them. Whilst spectators are watching the game, they will subconsciously be acknowledging the advertisements surrounding them.
Sponsorships are huge in the soccer world.
Big soccer clubs receive millions of dollars worth of sponsorship money, and all the players have to do is wear their uniform that has the logo of the sponsorship brand on it.
Nike, for example, is one of the biggest brands in the world, and one of the most iconic sponsors for soccer.
World famous Portugese player Cristiano Ronaldo is known for his endorsement of Nike soccer boots.
All of the celebrity endorsements and soccer sponsorships of Nike is what made it an official World Cup sponsor.
One of the main factors of what makes a sport so popular is down to passion. For those involved in the sport (players, referees, coaches, managers, standbys etc.), soccer is often their lifeline.
It isn’t just a well-paid job (if they are part of a popular team), it’s a passion-led career that they have been training and dreaming of since a young age.
This passion is what is so inspiring to sports fans, because you witness people achieving their dreams and working towards their goals - metaphorically and literally!
For fans, this is the exact type of passion that inspires them to continue supporting their team.
Being in a stadium or on the sidelines of a soccer match is a feeling like no other when you are a dedicated fan.
It’s a very motivating and adrenaline-filled atmosphere that makes people excited for living their lives. It may even inspire them to fulfil their own dreams of playing soccer.
13. “The Beautiful Game”
Soccer is often referred to as “The Beautiful Game” - and it sort of speaks for itself. Soccer matches are an incredibly exciting atmosphere for its visual aesthetics.
A full crowd bearing the colors of their chosen team, waving flags and scarves and their arms frantically in the air as a sign of enthusiasm and support.
The bright green soccer field. A (hopefully) clear blue sky. Dozens of talented soccer players running around the field in their team’s uniforms.
Bright and eye-catching advertisements dotted around the stadium. The smell of a burger van only 100 metres away. A cool pint of lager in your hand.
It’s enough to make anyone want to watch a soccer game.
The game itself is also incredibly satisfying to watch - even more so if your chosen team wins.
Sure, it’s often frustrating when your team misses the goal or has a moment of weakness, but it’s so enjoyable to watch them run across the field after a ball that is going at lightning speed.
The feeling of the ball hitting the back of the net is like no other, and the excitement that roars around the stadium cannot be matched elsewhere.
14. Players get to be in the spotlight
As mentioned briefly before, each member of a soccer team gets their own moment of spotlight.
This could be a hindrance or an advantage to some players, but the fans love it. Fans want to support their team, whether it is local or national, so they will want to get to know each player individually.
They will want to know their weaknesses and strengths, because it helps them get more involved with the game.
It’s a very personal experience that involves the spectators, even if they are trying to yell strategic advice to a player who definitely cannot hear them.
For the team members, this can be very exciting for them. To hear the crowd roar when they are close to the goal is one thing, but actually hearing their response for when you shoot a goal is another.
In big teams, soccer players will gain a certain level of fame, which lands them in a place of respect and, more often than not, good fortune.
This could be a hindrance in a stressful situation, however, as fans may get frustrated if the player makes a mistake - but they are trained to take this in their stride and to ignore them.
Spotlight doesn’t even have to be exclusively for the famous soccer teams in the world.
Watching your child play soccer in their local or school team gives them a chance to show their skills and have some of the spotlight shine onto them.
It’s incredibly beneficial for confidence boosting, and encourages them to train and play even more.
15. Fun to watch
This seems pretty obvious, but soccer is incredibly fun to watch. The game itself is fast-paced and exciting, as there is never a dull moment of peace when the game is on.
Most importantly, there is nothing quite like being surrounded by passionate fans. Nobody sits down at a soccer game when the players are on the pitch.
From the national anthem being passionately sung (or yelled) across the stadium to the moment the players leave the field, nobody really sits down unless it is half time.
It’s an exciting and invigorating environment that involves absolutely everyone, whether you are in the back row or right at the front.
Halftime is probably the least exciting part of the game experience, but you will appreciate the dull break.
Sure, soccer doesn’t feature large halftime shows like in American football, but this means you can use this precious break to go to the bathroom, to get another drink, to buy a burger or some merchandise, or to sit down and talk with fellow fans.
Soccer is an intense game to watch and it goes by so quickly, so this break is necessary and gives spectators and players enough time for a brief rest before the game continues.
Also, on a slightly more shallow level, there’s never a time when watching dozens of incredibly fit soccer players is boring. It’s always fun to watch, whether they are male or female.
16. Loyal fans
There isn’t really a group of fans in the world that can be compared to soccer fans.
People who are fans of soccer usually start when they are young, for example a young child who goes to watch a match with their dad and develops a fascination with the game.
People don’t generally tend to change the team they support regularly, so their chosen favorite team becomes a lifelong commitment to them.
In most cases, people won’t even have a choice of what team will be their favourite, as their parents will give them merchandise when they are babies.
With this in mind, you can see why friendly family arguments may arise if someone in the family supports another team!
Soccer is all about bringing people together. This includes people from all ages and walks of life, people from different cultures and backgrounds and religions and upbringings.
Sure, there may be slight competition in who has been a fan of a team for longer, but these fans are all there for the same reasons.
Friendships can be made through soccer, because watching their chosen team win and even lose a game is a bonding experience.
It’s fun to celebrate a winning game, but it’s almost just as fun to be frustrated at your team losing. No matter what, the fans will still be by their side.
Loyal fans are everything to soccer teams. In a match, each team will be spurred on by their fan’s roars and excitement, which can be motivating for the players.
Fans will even travel across the country, or even travel abroad just to watch their team play an away game.
This is an extreme level of commitment that is never embarrassing to admit, as loyal fans have been a tradition in the world of soccer for decades.
17. Sport for everyone
Last but not certainly not least, soccer is a sport for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you are a fan who has been supporting your favorite team for 70 years or whether you are a newbie after enjoying a recent championship, there is a place in soccer for everyone.
Whilst soccer is seemingly a male-dominated sport both on and off the field, there is always a place for women to be a fan or a player.
Women’s soccer is just as enjoyable and exciting to watch as men’s soccer, so there really are no gender boundaries.
Soccer doesn’t have to be about the spectatorship, either.
Soccer is there to be enjoyed as a game, whether you want to train professionally or you want to play weekly games because you find it a fun form of exercise.
There are hundreds of ways to get involved in soccer, and it usually starts with a local club.
You don’t have to fit into a certain body type to play soccer either, unlike basketball that requires tall players. Lionel Messi, for example, is only 5’7”.
Soccer is all about bringing people from all walks of life together, so anybody can be a fan or player.
- Soccer balls traditionally have 32 panels to represent each European country.
- The first American professional soccer league was the USSA.
- Soccer was actually illegal in Mississippi until 1991.
- Referees weren’t introduced until 1881. Before this, there was a lot of faith in good sportsmanship to play the game fairly.
- Soccer is a result of colonialism, as Britain took the game to various countries around the world.
- There have been unfortunate fatal events in the history of soccer, including the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989 where overcrowding suffocated and killed 96 people in England.
- Soccer players end up running around 6-10 miles per match depending on their position on the field and how intense the game is.
- Just in case you didn’t realise how popular soccer really is, over the last few World Cups, half of the world’s entire population have listened or watched the games, making the FIFA World Cup the most viewed sporting event.
- The reason why teams switch sides after halftime is because soccer pitches can slope up to 5 degrees. Switching sides makes for a fairer game.
- The FIFA World Cup began in 1930, and the Women’s World Cup was created in 1991.
Is soccer the most popular sport in the USA?
Whilst soccer is the most popular sport in the world, the most popular sport in America is American football.
The reason for this is that, without sounding too harsh, American soccer teams aren’t very good compared to other countries.
Sports that are more popular in America include American football, baseball, and basketball - all because the American teams for these are elite.
With these other sports, it can’t be said that soccer is the most popular sport in the USA, though that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
As soccer is mostly televised, there isn’t actually much screen time that can be dedicated to sponsorships and advertisements.
In longer sports such as American football and baseball, there are designated time slots to show advertisements or to focus on sponsorships during the halftime shows.
As soccer is fast-paced and does not allow for quiet periods that are perfect for advertisements, there isn’t as much of a demand for networks to televise soccer compared to other sports in the USA.
What are the other most popular sports in the world?
There are hundreds of different sports globally, but here are the most popular sports in the world:
- American Football
- Table Tennis