Is It Called a Soccer Game or a Match?

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. As such, fans around the globe love playing and watching soccer. But have you ever noticed that there are different ways people refer to soccer events?

As you may have already realized, some people call those events soccer matches, but others call them soccer games. So what is the difference between the two? And is there any difference?

Many soccer fans use game and match as synonyms when describing the event of two teams playing against each other. These two phrases have the same meaning for many people. However, things are not so simple. And that is what we’ll be looking into in this article. While the two terms can be used interchangeably, there are differences – a soccer game and a soccer match are not the same things.

In general terms, a soccer game is a term used for non-competitive soccer events. In contrast, a soccer match is usually used to describe competitive soccer events. If that sounds somewhat confusing, we got you covered!

What is a soccer game?

A soccer game is any unofficial game of soccer. Such games can be played in various forms and without the strict rules that come with competitive soccer. Soccer games can be played 11v11, just like a standard game, but they don’t have to.

There are two most common types of soccer games that fall into this category:

  • Friendly soccer game
  • Pickup soccer game

What is a friendly soccer game?

A friendly soccer game is any game of soccer that is played without the usual competitive aspect. A friendly match is usually played under the official soccer rules with slight differences – there is no league or cup that a team can win when playing friendly games.

Such games are often during the preparation stages of teams getting ready for the official soccer season or a big tournament. Friendly soccer games are meant to give the team the chance to test out their tactics and players. Also, they are meant to keep the team sharp, all while trying not to lose any players to injuries.

In soccer games, the result is most often not as important, as soccer coaches are looking for other aspects of the game to see the overall progress of their team.

What is a pickup soccer game?

A pickup soccer game is different from a friendly game. Casual pickup soccer games can be played in any number of ways, with different rules and without strict organization. Pickup soccer games are a major part of a soccer player’s life, especially during their formative years.

Also, a pickup game keeps amateurs interested in soccer, as anyone can play such a soccer game. So what makes a pickup soccer game?

A pickup soccer game can be played in a smaller format than a FIFA-regulated game. That means the number of players per team doesn’t have to be exactly 11. The field can be smaller and doesn’t even have to be played on grass, natural or artificial. There are usually no official referees and even the goals can be improvised.

This means pickup soccer games are mostly played for the fun of the participating players – they can be played almost anywhere and with any set of rules. All of these things make soccer games different from soccer matches.

What is a soccer match?

A soccer match, however, is a term used to describe official events which bear with them a competitive edge. Soccer matches are games played in official leagues, and cup competitions. They are supervised by FIFA officials.

soccer fans in stadium

While soccer games don’t have to, soccer matches need to follow the official rules. Soccer matches have to fulfill many demands to be considered a proper match. According to the Laws of the Game, these are the most important rules that must be followed:

  • The field of play needs to be suitable for FIFA matches
  • The ball needs to be FIFA certified
  • The players and their equipment must meet the official requirements
  • The referee and other match officials need to be present and certified
  • All of the other rules of the game need to be followed

Because of the above statements, a soccer match is a more serious sporting event than a soccer game. It also means there are many more ways for a soccer match to accidentally break the rules, which is not the case with a soccer game.

An official soccer match must have 11 players on each team and a certain number of substitutes, which depends on the competition. Such matches can only be played on natural or artificial grass as a playing surface, and the size of the field also needs to follow the rules.

All players playing in a soccer match must be dressed according to the rules and equipped with mandatory protective gear, such as shin pads. And then ultimately, the referee and his assistants must be present during these matches certified by FIFA or the national body that governs the specific league.

The list of other, more detailed rules goes on and on. But with these most important ones, we can see the difference between a soccer game and a soccer match.

Differences between a soccer game and a soccer match

While we have explained the different aspects of a soccer game and a soccer match, we realize some still may have issues seeing a clear difference between the two phrases. For such reasons, a summary of the main differences between a game and a match is here.

A soccer game is different to a soccer match because it follows these aspects:

  • Most commonly, a soccer game has no competitive value.
  • A soccer game can have its own set of rules, as it doesn’t have to follow the official FIFA rules, the Laws of the Game.
  • A soccer game can be played in any type of environment – amateur, semi-professional, or professional.
  • There is no set surface or number of players per team which must be followed – a soccer game can be played anywhere and with any size of the team.

A soccer match is different to a soccer game because it follows these aspects:

  • Most commonly, a soccer match has a competitive value.
  • A soccer match must be played following the official FIFA rules and there are no exceptions.
  • A soccer match is usually played in a professional environment. However, such a professional environment can be replicated in semi-professional or amateur competitions, as long as those competitions are governed by a national soccer body.
  • Finally, a soccer match must follow the official rules related to the field of play, players, match officials etc.

Differences between American and British English

While there are clear differences between a soccer game and a soccer match from a practical point of view, those are not the only differences. There are differences in American and British English or the way people in the two different countries use the term.

In the United States, any soccer match is often called a soccer game, whether it has a competitive edge or not. However, in the United Kingdom, the accepted soccer terminology is that a soccer competition is referred to as ‘a football match’ since it follows their usual lexicon for sporting terms.

The bottom line is that these differences between a soccer game and a soccer match can also vary in which country you happen to be. But that doesn’t mean there are no differences between the two terms.


Ultimately, a soccer game and a soccer match are two different terms. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they do bear clearly stated different meanings.

A soccer game is any unofficial soccer event which can vary from a friendly game following most soccer rules, to a pickup game which doesn’t have to follow any of the official rules.

A soccer match is a much more serious sporting event which follows the FIFA rules. Soccer matches are strictly organized, and they can bring teams glory as they win big competitions and leagues. But whether you play a soccer match or a soccer game, you are still expected to have a lot of fun!