Soccer game or match: Which is the correct term and are there any differences between the two?

Soccer game or match: Which is the correct term and are there any differences between the two?

Lenah Ann
updated at February 11, 2024 at 8:10 AM

Over the years, soccer has risen in popularity to become the world's most famous sport. It has amassed a massive fan base from every corner of the globe, and since it is an easy sport to play, most people have taken an interest in it. Insight into the sport has revealed that most football fans refer to football events as soccer games or matches. Ever wondered if there was a distinction between a soccer match and a game? Let us find out.

FC Bayern München players celebrate after scoring during a Bundesliga match against Borussia Mönchengladbach
FC Bayern München players celebrate after scoring during the Bundesliga match against Borussia Mönchengladbach on February 03, 2024, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Sebastian Widmann (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

When describing the occurrence of two teams playing against each other, most soccer fans use the terms "game" and "match" interchangeably. For most individuals, these two expressions are used to refer to the same thing. However, things are not as easy as they seem. Find more explanations in the article and determine which is correct and if there are any differences between the two phrases.

What is a soccer game?

It is an unofficial soccer game that is played in various ways and does not have restrictions that come with the sport's competitiveness.

It is played on a field by two teams of 11 players each, with the purpose of propelling a ball into the opposing goal by kicking or hitting it with any part of the body except the hands and arms. The most common types of soccer games are:

  • Friendly
  • Pickup

What is a friendly soccer game?

Any football contest that is played without the customary competitive element is considered friendly. There are minor variations to the official soccer regulations when playing a friendly match, but generally speaking, no league or cup can be won by a team.

These contests often take place while teams get ready for a significant event. Its purpose is to allow various teams to try new players and strategies. They aim to prevent player injuries while keeping the squad at peak performance.

What is a pickup soccer game?

Newcastle United players celebrate after scoring a goal during a Premier League match
Newcastle United players celebrate after scoring the third goal during the Premier League match against Luton Town at St James Park on 3 February 2024 in England. Photo: George Wood
Source: Getty Images

Contrary to the friendly one, a pickup football contest can be played using various methods with loose regulations and no rigid structure. A player's life revolves around it, particularly in their early years, and since it's accessible to everybody, it keeps armatures passionate about the sport.

What is a soccer match?

It refers to formal activities with a competitive edge that must follow football rules and regulations. It is played in cup events and standard leagues and is overseen by FIFA representatives.

For the contest to be regarded as valid and up to the standards, it must satisfy specific requirements. The following are the most crucial guidelines that need to be adhered to according to the Laws of the Game:

  • The ball must be FIFA-certified
  • The athletes and their gear need to adhere to the specified specifications
  • The playing ground must be fit for FIFA competitions
  • The match officials, including the referee, must be present and certified
  • All rules must be followed

Is a soccer game called a match?

According to their definitions, both phrases have different meanings, and thus, a football game can only be called a match if the rules and regulations governing it are introduced.

Is there a difference between a soccer game and a soccer match?

Leicester City players celebrate after scoring their third goal during a Sky Bet Championship match
Leicester City players celebrate after scoring their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship match against Stoke City on 3 February 2024 in Stoke on Trent, England. Photo: Nathan Stirk
Source: Getty Images

Yes, there are several differences between the two terms. Here is a summary of the two phrases highlighting their main differences.

A soccer match

A soccer game

Has a competitive value

Has no competitive value

Must be played following the official FIFA rules

Can have its own set of rules

Usually played in a professional environment

Can be played in any type of environment

Must abide by the official regulations pertaining to the players, tournament’s officials, and the playing ground.

No set surface or number of players required per team

Is it called a soccer game or a match?

According to the difference highlighted above, the match's scope extends beyond a competition between two sides. It is a formal event comprising competitive games between two or more teams. But a football match refers to a contest between two teams.

Soccer game vs soccer match in American and British English

Although clear definitions show the differences between the two phrases from a practical point of view, those are not the only differences when it comes to British and American English, as well as how the phrases are used in the two nations.

In the United States of America, any football contest can be referred to as a soccer game. It is referred to as a football contest in Britain, so the differences between the two terms can change depending on the nation.

What sports are called matches?

Most tremendous and famous sports worldwide are called matches due to their competitive nature. Here is a list of some of the examples.

  • Wrestling
  • Tennis
  • Boxing
  • Golf
  • Cricket

Frequently asked questions

AVS celebrate after scoring a goal during Liga Portugal 2
AVS celebrate after scoring a goal during the Liga Portugal 2 match against SCU Torreense at Estadio Manuel Marques on 3 February 2024 in Torres Vedras, Portugal. Photo: Gualter Fatia
Source: Getty Images

Football contests are professionally planned and can offer clubs recognition by winning major awards and titles. Whether you play a soccer game or a match, you should have fun. Here are some frequently asked questions about the two terminologies.

Do you say football match or game?

The term football match is mainly used in the United Kingdom and other British English-speaking nations, while American English-speaking nations largely use the term football game.

Is a football match a game?

Football, commonly known as association football, is a team sport in which two sides of eleven players compete to outshine each other by moving the ball into the opponent's goal without using their hands or arms. Whichever side scores the most goals wins.

What is the difference between a match and a game?

A game is an activity where players follow the set rules and regulations, and a winner is declared. A match is defined as a competition between two or more opponents or teams to play a certain game.

Final word

The debate about whether it is soccer games or matches has been around for years, and most sports pundits from the United States of America and the United Kingdom have often used them interchangeably despite the two terms having different meanings. Now that we have cleared up the enigma around the two phrases, you must know that all the terminologies are correct. The only case in which it would appear incorrect is if you used it in front of someone who is already familiar with the other phrase.

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Lenah Ann
Lenah Ann is a Kenyan-based content creator with 2 years of experience. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media and Communication from Dedan Kimathi, Kenya in 2021.