History of soccer: The Great Game

History of soccer: When started, how, and Where

Are you interested in soccer? Think it’s the right sport for you? Well, you might just be right.

Soccer has quickly become one of the most widely played sports and an international sensation, with more than a quarter of a billion people actively playing the game.

But before you start anything, you should know a little about its origins and history, right? Similarly, you should learn a little about soccer too before you get into it.

This is where we come in.

To help you understand the actual history of soccer and its origins, we have written it all down here, so you don’t have to.

So read on to find out more about your favorite sport!

Where did the game of soccer originate?

According to the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), approximately 265 million people play soccer around the world. Soccer has long since stopped being a simple game of kicking a ball around and has now transformed into a World Cup sport.

Like everything else, there have been myths surrounding the origins of soccer too, such as the one that the first football ever used was the head of a brigand.

Though there is no exact answer to where the game began, there is some evidence which shows the origins of soccer to come from ancient China, Greece, and Rome.

Soccer in Ancient China:

History of soccer in Ancient China

According to FIFA, there are traces of a competitive game known as cuju which translates into “kick ball”. Paintings of children playing cuju, in which they can be seen kicking the ball around, have also been found.

Soccer in Ancient Greece and Rome:

Many different ball games have been found in these nations, but the most prominent is episkyros.

Episkyros has been written about by various Greek and Roman playwrights and politicians. It is even recognized by FIFA as an early form of soccer.

But it was Britain which is credited with transforming soccer into the great game we know it as today.

England and Soccer:

The English are said to be the first to set uniform rules for this sport. They are also the first ones to forbid tripping your opponents and touching the ball with your hands.

Ban against Soccer:

However, in the 14th and 15th centuries in Britain, soccer started being looked down upon and was even banned.

King James I of Scotland went so far as to deliver a famous line against soccer, saying "Na man play at the Fute-ball" (No man shall play football).

The game was thought to cause chaos and disruption. This was because soccer at that time did not have any set rules against ill practices such as shin-kicking, tripping the opponent, handling the ball, punching and biting.

Once, it was banned because of all the windows that had been smashed during soccer games. Another time the ban was because the military would indulge in the game and miss their training.

The game was said to destroy the peace of towns and was an unruly game which would not be tolerated in a civilized society. Anyone who saw it fit to go against the laws and continued playing soccer was considered to be violating the law and was imprisoned immediately.

Modern History of Soccer:

The immense love for soccer could not be kept at bay despite some bans against it. Eventually, the government gave in, and Britain went on to become the home of soccer.

history of modren soccer timeline

credit to soccer-academy.net

By the 19th century, the rules of soccer as we know today had been firmly established. These rules included ones such as banning tripping, shin kicking and any handling of the ball.

First World-Wide Soccer Club:

The first world-wide soccer club to be formed was Sheffield F.C. Founded in 1857;this is the oldest club playing soccer.

Though the club did not initially follow the FA rules, it did eventually adopt them in 1878, playing beforehand by using their own Sheffield rules.

Start of Modern Rules:

In the 1860s, there emerged the “scientific” team play: the art of working together as a team and soon, ball passing strategies started to form. Around this time, the founding members of The Football Association (FA) met to finalize formal rules of soccer.

cambridge Rules of soccer

These rules were the base of modern soccer and included some of the following ones:

  • Forward passing allowed
  • Winner of the toss gets to choose the goal.
  • Carrying the ball is not allowed
  • Tripping, hacking, pushing or using hands to hold a player is not allowed.

How Soccer was spread:

Then there came the rapid spread of the game. This was a result of all the British sailors and traders traveling to the British colonies. Wherever they went, they introduced the game of soccer to the natives of the land, who readily learned and accepted the game.

History of World Cup

After soccer had spread almost everywhere during the 19th century, there came the 20th century when great teams started arising from different countries. With this came the call for competition.

Competitions before the World Cup:

Many countries started holding their national soccer competitions and various soccer clubs were formed. Then the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in 1904in Paris, and it started trying to organize international competitions around 1906.

world cup posters

By 1908, FIFA had been able to make soccer a part of the Summer Olympics, giving more opportunity for growth to the sport. In 1906, it also tried holding an international soccer tournament in Switzerland.

Since this international tournament was outside the realm of the Olympics, it was therefore looked upon with a mark of suspicion and immaturity. This is why this and other such early international competitions organized by FIFA are deemed as failures.

Creation of the World Cup:

After football wasn’t included in the 1932 Summer Olympics, FIFA decided it was time to set up their very own international tournament, exclusively for soccer. This led to the organization of the FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930, mostly just known as World Cup.

The World Cup was designed to be held after every 4 years, with a new country hosting it every year.

First World Cup Tournament:

Uruguay was named a host of the first World Cup and selected nations were invited to send their teams to compete. But the destination meant a long and costly trip, which is why most countries backed out.

Therefore, only a total of 13 teams took part in the World Cup of 1930.Nonetheless, history was made as Uruguay won the first ever Cup, that too on their home ground, against Argentina in the final.

Cancellation during World War II:

Due to growing hostilities during the Second World War, the World Cup of 1942 could not be held.

And in 1945 when the danger died down, FIFA did not have any financial support to be able to organize a tournament in just a year of peacetime. This led to the World Cup of 1946 not being held either.

After the War (1950):

By 1950, FIFA was again able to organize another World Cup, this time, hosted by Brazil. This World Cup was also the first one in which British teams decided to participate.

Till Date:

Ever since its creation and the small setback during World War II, the FIFA World Cup tournament has been functioning smoothly without any major hiccups.

The last World Cup was held in 2014, hosted by Brazil for the second time and was won by Germany, for the fourth time. The next Cup is set to be held in 2019, hosted by Russia for the first time.

History of soccer in US

Introduction of Soccer:

The introduction of soccer into the United States is said to have come from many different roots. Some believe that the native tribes played a sport known as pasuckuakohowog, which translates into “kicking ball sport”.

Others believe that a game similar to modern-day soccer was played by the pilgrims as part of the Thanksgiving festivities.

But the modern-day game, played in accordance with the modern English rules, is thought to have originated in the 1850s in New Orleans, when British and German immigrants settled in and introduced the natives to the game. The first organized soccer games were also played in New Orleans.

Creation of Soccer Clubs:

Soon, the sport had progressed so much that the first organized soccer club even opened up in 1862, “The Oneidas of Boston”. Soon, other clubs and soccer societies began to emerge.

Local soccer competitions started, and matches were held for different soccer clubs to compete. The growth of the game was so immense; it led to clashes with the popular sport of baseball, which was thought to be the favorite American past time.

Soccer’s Introduction in College:

American colleges are known to take sports very seriously. Soccer was initiated as one of these organized college sports after 1865, marking the growth of soccer as a game in the US.

Creation of USFA:

Soccer in the USA took a drastic turn when FIFA failed to accept an American application for membership in 1912.There was also the point that FIFA was a part of the International Board and therefore, had a say in the interpretation of the rules, whereas the US remained without any representation.

These facts brought about the creation of USA's football organization, United States Football Association (USFA).

The main objective of creating USFA was to

  • Achieve a harmony between the amateur and professional soccer organizations.
  • Succeed in setting up national competitions such as the American Cup and National Challenge Cup.
  • Help US create a presence in the International Board so as to also have a say in matters such as rules of the game.

UFSA included in FIFA:

Taking into account the growing influence of the UFSA, FIFA soon granted full membership to UFSA in 1914, after previously having the US of the same membership.

First UFSA Team:

Soon after, things in US Soccer kicked off. The first ever UFSA’s men’s national team toured to Norway and Sweden, where they played six matches.

There were other American professional teams as well which began playing in Europe. And soon enough, when the first FIFA World Cup tournament was held, America was one of the 13 teams to participate in it.

Not only did the USA participate in the soccer World Cup, but one of the team members was even the third-leading scorer throughout the entire tournament.

Summer Olympics 1932:

Despite the immense growth and support for the game of soccer, it was still not enough. And when it was USA’s turn to host the Summer Olympics in 1932, soccer was not included, due to its said unpopularity amongst the citizens.

U.S. Soccer Football Association:

In 1945, the USFA was named the U.S. Soccer Football Association (USSFA) instead, so as to clearly differentiate between the two sports being played nationwide.

1994 World Cup:

Way before 1994, intercollegiate soccer had started, there were matches being held at state level. Colleges had started accepting students based on their skills in the sport.

The US national soccer team even came across newfound glory in the 1950 FIFA World Cup, when they won against England by one goal.

The 1970s still saw the growth of soccer, as more and more of the youth got involved in the sport. But by the 1980s, soccer in the US was facing its downfall; due to the decline of the North American Soccer League and the end of the United Soccer League.

But US soccer took a turn for the better in 1994, when America was granted the right to host the FIFA World Cup tournament. This moment is considered as the revival of soccer in the US, and a big moment for American soccer's history.

Women’s Soccer:

With the US men’s soccer teams already well-established, there came the motivation to progress in women’s soccer as well.

In both, local and international matches, USA’s women team had continued to play impressively and show their credibility time and again. Then, in 1999, USA was awarded the right to host the Women’s World Cup tournament.

It was this same World Cup that the US women’s national soccer team won on their home ground.

1999 turned out to be a superb year for the US women’s soccer team, as the U-18 women continued to go on and win gold in the 1999 Pan American Games. Also, the U-21 women’s soccer team claimed the 1999 Nordic Cup title.

All in all, the late 20th century was a great time in the history of US women’s soccer, with the men’s soccer team already having achieved experience and progress.


History of soccer and soccer, its origins to the very formation of modern soccer, has gone through great changes and has stood the test of time; emerging victorious every time. The game has grown too; though most of the modern rules are still in use, there have been many changes in them. The game still continues changing, growing and spreading.

About the Author Moha

Hardcore fun of the beautiful game. Played soccer for different clubs in my country before hanging up my boots. Now writer for My Soccer HQ

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