Soccer, game played by two teams on a rectangular field, in which players attempt to knock a round ball through the opponents’ goal, using any part of the body except the hands. Generally, players use their feet and heads as they kick, dribble, and pass the ball toward the goal. One player on each team guards the goal. This player, the goalkeeper, is the only player allowed to touch the ball with the hands while it is in play.
Soccer is a free-flowing game that has relatively few rules and requires little equipment. All that is needed to play is an area of open space and a ball. Much of the world's soccer is played informally, without field markings or real goals. In many places, the game is played barefoot using rolled-up rags or newspapers as a ball. Soccer is the world's most popular sport, played by people of all ages in about 200 countries. The sport has millions of fans throughout the world.
Only in the United States is the game referred to as soccer. Outside the United States the sport is commonly called football, or fútbol in Spanish-speaking countries, where the game is particularly popular. The official name of the sport is association football. The word soccer is a slang corruption of the abbreviation assoc.
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the worldwide governing body of soccer. FIFA governs all levels of soccer, including professional play, Olympic competitions, and youth leagues. The organization also governs the sport’s premier event, the World Cup, an international competition held every four years pitting national teams from 32 countries against one another.