Soccer and American Football have some similarities, but they also have a lot of differences.
The most obvious similarity between the two games is that they are both played on a similar-shaped field.
In this article, we’ll be lining up the soccer and football field alongside each other to see how they compare.
100 yards (91.5m) between the goal lines, 120 yards (109.7m) including end zones.
Minimum of 100 yards (90m) and maximum of 130 yards (120m).
160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m)
Minimum of 50 yards (45m) and maximum of 100 yards (90m).
Natural grass or artificial turf
Natural grass or artificial turf
2 end zones
1-yard hash marks
5-yard yard lines
1-yard long scrimmage line
Numerals in multiples of 10
2 penalty areas
2 goal areas
a halfway line
a center circle
4 corner arcs
a penalty spot
and a center spot
Located at the center of the goal line
Crossbar: 10 feet (3m) above ground
– 18 feet 6 inches (5.6m) apart
– 35 feet (10.7m) long
Located at the center of the goal line
Crossbar: 8 ft (2.44 m) above ground
Vertical posts: 8 yards (7.32 m) between posts
Shape and Length
Both the soccer and football field are rectangular in shape, so they have lengths longer than the width.
They also roughly measure the same length.
On a football field, there are 100 yards (91.5m) between the goal lines, which measure 120 yards (109.7m) when you include the two 10-yard end zones.
These measurements are standardized and a requirement of the game, so regardless of the location, an official football field will always measure 120 yards in length.
On the other hand, there’s a little more flexibility when it comes to soccer fields as these have a minimum and maximum requirement they’re required to fit within, including a maximum length of 130 yards (120m) and a minimum length of 100 yards (90m).
So you might find some minor differences between soccer fields; for example, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to Atlanta FC, measures 120 yards in length, while the Yankee Stadium, which is home to New York City FC, measures just 110 yards.
The two fields might be similar in length and shape, but they vary more when it comes to width.
A football field is required to be a specific width of 160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m), whereas soccer fields have minimum and maximum requirements for width, as they do with the length.
Soccer fields need to be between 50 yards (45m) and 100 yards (90m) wide.
However, despite a minimum requirement of 50 yards (45m), most soccer fields are closer to 75 yards (68.5m) in width. Again, Atlanta United FC’s field is 75 yards wide, while New York City FC’s field at Yankee Stadium and Minnesota United FC’s field at TCF Bank Stadium both have a smaller width of only 70 yards (64 m).
So, due to the wider width, a soccer field is bigger than a football field as it is nearly twice as wide as the latter. While both are similar in length, the extra width of the soccer field makes it bigger overall.
Both sports can be played on natural grass or artificial turf, so they are similar in this respect. Generally though, NFL teams are more likely to play on artificial turf than MLS teams. In 2019, 12 NFL teams played on artificial turf, while 19 played on natural grass.
On the other hand, only 6 MLS teams played on artificial turf rather than natural grass.
Interestingly, the two teams are moving in opposite directions when it comes to playing surface: with NFL moving towards turf thanks to new high-tech artificial surfaces ending a trend of playing on natural grass, and MLS moving towards exactly that, as more soccer-specific, natural grass stadiums are built across the US.
Sometimes turf is favored due to certain climates making natural grass hard to maintain, whereas some players prefer natural grass for its greater forgiveness which means it’s less likely to cause injury.
There are pros and cons to both surfaces.
Generally, many soccer and football players prefer natural grass as stress on the ACL and other joints increases by 45% when playing on turf. Alongside the increased risk of injury, playing on turf is also associated with excessive heat, unnatural bounce and ball movement, and an exaggerated pace to the ball.
Both games feature goalposts, although there are differences in the requirements for the goalposts in each sport.
In soccer, the goalposts should be positioned at the center of the goal line at both ends of the field. The crossbar is required to be 8 ft (2.44 m) above ground at the lowest point, whereas the vertical posts below the crossbar must be 8 yards (7.32 m) apart.
In football, the goalposts must be positioned at the center of the goal line at both ends of the field. The crossbar must be 10 feet (3m) above ground, whereas the vertical uprights, which are above the crossbar, must measure 18 feet 6 inches (5.6m) apart and 35 feet (10.7m) long.
Not only do these goalposts look different, but they’re also used differently.
In soccer, the players are aiming to get the ball between the vertical posts and below the crossbar, whereas, in football, the players are attempting to get the ball between the vertical posts but above the crossbar.
Other than the fact that both football and soccer markings are white, the markings on each of these fields are where you’ll find the biggest difference between a football and soccer field.
This isn’t surprising seen as these are two different games that have different rules and objectives.
The markings on a football field are:
- 10-yard intervals
- 2 end zones
- 1-yard hash marks
- 5-yard yard lines
- 1-yard long scrimmage line
- Numerals in multiples of 10
The markings on a soccer field are:
- 2 penalty areas
- 2 goal areas
- a halfway line
- a center circle
- 4 corner arcs
- a penalty spot
- and a center spot
So, what all in all, how do the two compare?
Main differences between soccer and football field
- Field size: a soccer field is wider than a football field and bigger overall. Football fields have fixed measurements to abide by, whereas soccer fields can differ slightly but must be between the minimum and maximum requirements.
- Markings: The markings on each field are also completely different.
- Goalposts: Football and soccer goalposts differ in appearance, but also in where the players aim to score the goal: in soccer, players are aiming below the crossbar, whereas in football, they’re aiming above the crossbar.
Similarities between soccer and football field
- Shape: both fields are rectangular in shape.
- Length: both are roughly the same length.
- Surface: both can be played on turf or real grass.
- Markings: both sets of markings are white.
Playing Soccer on a Football Field
It’s possible to play soccer on a football field, and in the US, it’s common for high schools and colleges to have specifically-designed fields that accommodate both sports. Because football and soccer fields are the same length, a 120-yard football field perfectly fits within a soccer field.
However, the width is a little more challenging, as the soccer field is usually wider than the football field. While soccer fields can be as narrow as 50 yards across, realistically most are closer to 75 yards wide, whereas a football field is required to be 160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m) wide.
Some schools and colleges remedy this and create extra width by using the team areas that would be used during a football game so that they can still play football on a soccer field and vice versa.
Soccer and football are two completely different games, with varying rules and objectives, and as a result, different fields, too.
While there are some similarities in the length and shape of the two fields, the main differences concern the widths, markings, and goalposts, which differ significantly between football and soccer.