What Does FC Mean In Soccer?

The letters ‘FC’ are very often found in the official titles of a soccer team – along with a few other variants. FC stands for “Football Club”. It is used by many soccer clubs in Europe, and even some American clubs that use FC in their club names even though the sport is known as Soccer in the USA.

In this article, we will explain the origins of the acronym, give some high-profile examples of its use, and also show a few other variants which are common in other languages around the world.

Alongside looking into the question of what does FC stands for, we will also show that there are a number of reasons why it is used by many of the world’s best-known teams – and a few which, although not so prominent, are important in the history of soccer.

There is no provision in the rules of soccer to dictate what name can be given to a club, so this has led to club owners and officials being able to exercise some creativity in naming their teams. However, a series of common acronyms has also grown up surrounding clubs’ official names, mainly as a way of marking them out as having the playing and promotion of soccer as their prime purpose. 

soccer stadium at night

What Does FC Stand For In A Soccer Club’s Name?

Quite simply, the answer to the question ‘what does FC mean?’ is that it is usually an abbreviation of ‘Football Club’. They are often officially attached to a soccer club’s name so as not to cause confusion with the town or city of the same name.

A number of soccer clubs use the letters as an official part of their name for this simple reason, and this is most often when the team’s name does not have another word preceding or following it so that it is clear that it is the club which is being referred to, and not simply the town/city bearing the name.

Examples in the U.K. where the abbreviation is nearly always used for this purpose include:

Everton – a team from the district in the city of Liverpool carrying the same name. The ‘FC’ suffix is often added to denote that the reference is to the football club, and not just the suburb known as Everton.

Blackpool – while this is the name of a large seaside town in Lancashire, in which the football club is also based, the club itself officially calls itself ‘Blackpool FC’ to make this distinction clear, but also to distinguish itself from another long-established sports team based there, rugby league team Blackpool Borough.

Sheffield – although there is no team simply called this which plays in the senior ranks of English football, Sheffield FC is in fact the official name of the oldest soccer club in the world, and named after the city in which it was founded and in which it has been based for most of its history. Founded in 1857, the club is still in existence, and competes in the eighth tier of English soccer, four levels below the bottom tier of the official Football League. Strangely, the club no longer plays in the city of Sheffield, but in the town of Dronfield in neighboring Derbyshire – although its ground is less than three miles outside the city boundary.

Another common reason for a club adding ‘FC’ to its name, either as a prefix or a suffix, is to make clear that the team in question is the football/soccer team, rather than another team based in the same town or city, but playing a different sport. 

There are also instances where ‘FC’ is used to refer to a soccer club which, over the years, has grown to encompass several other sports teams. These teams may also be referred to as ‘FC’, even though this is not strictly correct. This is a common practice in Europe in particular, where the football team was the original organization, but it has grown to encompass other sports. Examples here include:

  • FC Bayern München (Bayern Munich). The ‘FC denotes ‘fussball (football) club’, and because this club is so well-known, the name is also used by affiliated teams playing a wide range of sports, including basketball, handball, table tennis – and even chess! Bayern is simply the German word for Bavaria, the region in which Munich is located.
  • FC Barcelona. Again, while the soccer team is known worldwide, the supporter-owned and run club also encompasses teams playing rugby union, rugby league (this 13-man variant of rugby is very popular in Catalonia, the region in which Barcelona is located), basketball, handball and ice hockey, among others.
  • There have also been instances where a new club has been formed to replace one which has gone out of existence, and the prefix or suffix ‘FC’ has been given to the new club so that it is not confused with any previous entity coming from the same town or city, and possibly even, playing in the same stadium. Two examples of where this has happened in the U.K. are Bury FC and Chester FC In both cases, these are new clubs, which came into existence after the previous clubs based in these places in the north-west of England – went out of business.

Are The Letters FC Only Used For English/British Clubs?

No, as the examples of Bayern Munich and Barcelona above show. Quite often, though, it is adopted by clubs which have a high profile not just in their own country, but in others, to make it clear to people with little or no interest in soccer that the reference is to the soccer club as an entity distinct from the town or city after which the soccer club is named.

Another factor that has influenced the growth in a wide variety of identifying names attached to individual clubs is the sheer popularity of soccer around the world. So you often find that the first team to be formed in a town will have simply called itself ‘FC’ – but a newer team will have had to find a different name, to make it clear that it has no links with that original team. 

The use of the initials FC also saw a new lease of life with the start of America’s Major League Soccer, or MLS. Founded in 1993, the game had to work hard to win fans over in a huge nation where other sports’ national competitions, such as the MLB. in baseball and ice hockey’s NHL.

The franchise-holders of the M.L.S. teams initially faced a real battle to get fans interested in the face of the massive coverage given to these long-established leagues. So several turned to tradition, and added the FC abbreviation to their team’s names to emphasize that they were playing a sport with a long tradition and history elsewhere in the world. So even though they often have typically American team names, the likes of Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps all have ‘FC’ as an official suffix to their name.

FC is not, however, the only abbreviation used in the title of a football club – although many are intended to reflect the club’s broader range of activities beyond that of merely playing and promoting soccer in the local community – as we explain in detail below.

What Are Some Of The Main Abbreviations In Addition To FC Which Are Used?

There is a wide range of abbreviations used in different countries and regarded as integral to the name of various soccer teams. Many of these names share a similar derivation, but 

Here we give a small sample of some of the most common abbreviations you’ll find, and their respective meanings:

AC – e.g. Milan. The initials stand for ‘Associazione Calcio’, or roughly translated, simply ‘Football Club’ – an easy one to explain!

AFC – This abbreviation is considered old-fashioned these days, but it means ‘Association Football Club’. In many cases, this has been altered over time to the more informal ‘FC’, but in rare instances, modern clubs still include the title in their official name, e.g. A.FC Bournemouth of the English Premier League.

AS – e.g. Roma. ‘Associazione Sportiva’, or ‘Sports Club’. In this instance, the club was the result of an amalgamation of three older soccer clubs based in Rome, in order to give the capital city a team strong enough to compete at a national level.

ASK – e.g. Linzer A.S.K, Austria. ‘Athletik-Sport-Klub’ in German, the club was founded in 1908, and in 1965 became the first Austrian club from outside Vienna to win the country’s national league championship.

BVB – ‘Ballspiel-Verein Borussia’, or Borussia ball-sports club. Borussia comes from the Latin name for Prussia, the name given to much of Germany before 1871. It has been adopted as a prefix by Borussia Dortmund, winners of the Champions’ League in 1996-97. Like many German soccer clubs, it is owned by its members, and with 145,000 of them, it is Germany’s largest sports club by membership.

CSKA – translated from several Slavic languages, this means ‘Central Sports Club of the Army’. There are still active – and reasonably prominent – soccer clubs with this prefix in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, and Moscow. As you would expect, originally these teams comprised army personnel – but these restrictions are no longer in place, and the teams comprise only a minority of military personnel.

HJK – Uniquely, the acronym attached to the main soccer club in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. It comes from Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi – literally, ‘The Football Club of Helsinki’.

KV – Attached to teams from Bruges, Belgium and Kortrijk in the Netherlands, these initials stand for ‘Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging’, or ‘Royal football association’. The names date from the days when Royal patronage, in any aspect of business, including sport, was considered highly prestigious.

OL – e.g. Olympique de Marseille, France. Ten-time winners of the French Cup, and Ligue 1 champions nine times, Marseille are to date the only French team to win the Champions’ League. The club adopted the name ‘Olympique de Marseille’ in 1899 in honour of the anniversary of Marseille’s founding by Greeks from Phocaea some 25 centuries earlier, with the name Olympique coming from the ancient Olympic Games.

PAOK – Standing for the Panthessalonian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans. The club used to also carry the name ‘Thessaloniki’ or Salonika, and is based in Macedonia, a region of Greece – and not to be confused with the independent country of Northern Macedonia.

PSV – One which is very well known around the world, for its association with a single soccer team. The first part of the name of P.S.V. Eindhoven, a top team in the Netherlands for many years, and a regular competitor in the Champions’ League, stands for ‘Philips Sport Vereniging’. In other words, it was born out of the official works team at the Philips electricals company factory in Eindhoven. The close ties between the business and the soccer team remain to this day, although they are now considerably less. P.S.V. holds the distinction of having played in one of the major European competitions every year since 1974; only Barcelona (since 1959) and Anderlecht (since 1964) having longer continuous runs of appearances.  

RC – e.g. Racing Club de Lens. The origins of why the club adopted the ‘Racing’ element of its name are unclear, but it’s believed the prefix may have been ‘borrowed’ from a couple of other French soccer clubs which were prominent in the early 20th century, when R.C. Lens was formed, Racing Club de Roubaix, and Racing Club de France. And since neither of these clubs exists any longer, Lens has claimed the right to use the prefix.

RKC – e.g. R.K.C. Waalwijk, the Netherlands. This is a unique title, in its Dutch native language standing for ‘Rooms Katholieke Combinatie’, or ‘Roman Catholic Combination’. The initials were adopted when three teams amalgamated to form the present team, which competes in the Eredivisie, the top division of Dutch soccer.

SC – e.g.  S.C. Freiburg, Germany. This again is typically used to denote a club which is involved in a variety of different sports, and is an abbreviation of ‘Sports Club’ or the local language equivalent.

SV – e.g. Hamburg, Werder Bremen. Abbreviated from the German ‘Sport Verein’, a common phrase to describe a club, which could, in reality, be involved in any sport.

TSV e.g. Hoffenheim. ‘Turn und Sport Verein’ – a gymnastics and sports club, as distinct from a mere sports club!

VVV – e.g. Venlo, the Netherlands. Here’s an odd one, in that the acronym repeats the name of the club! It stands for ‘Venlose Voetbal Vereniging’, which translates as ‘Venlo Football Association’ – so the town’s name actually appears twice in its soccer club’s official title!

But the final word has to be the explanation of the full name of another team from the top soccer league in the Netherlands, N.A.C. Breda. As Nick den Uijl explained to The Guardian newspaper: “[It] comes from Noad Advendo Combinatie. Noad stands for ‘Nooit Ophouden Altijd Doorzetten’ (Dutch for ‘Never Quit Always Persevere’) and Advendo stands for ‘Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning’ (Pleasant by Enjoyment and Useful by means of Relaxation). Noad and Advendo were two football clubs in Breda (the Netherlands) which merged in 1912.” So, no wonder ‘Never Quit Always Persevere Pleasant by Enjoyment and Useful by means of Relaxation’ Breda ended up as simply N.A.C.!