Scoring a hat-trick in a soccer game is an incredible moment for any player. But understanding what a hat-trick is and why it’s called a hat-trick is not something everybody knows the answer to.
In this article, I’m going to answer both these questions and help you understand what you need to know about a hat-trick.
So, let’s start by answering the question:
What is a hat-trick?
A hat-trick in soccer is when one player scores three goals in a single soccer game. These three goals don’t have to be scored consecutively or in the same style. Any player can score a hat-trick at any point during a game.
This definition of a hat-trick explains what it is, but the term “hat-trick” can seem like a bizarre expression to use to describe scoring goals. Thankfully, I’ll explain how it came to be referred to as that below.
What Defines a Hat-Trick
As with many sports, the sport of soccer uses various terms and expressions to describe something that is happening or has happened. When it comes to the number of goals scored, two of the most common words you will hear is a player having scored a “brace” or a “hat-trick”.
The term “hat-trick” in soccer is used when a single player scores three goals in one game. These three goals don’t have to be scored consecutively or in the same style. The phrase “hat-trick” originated in the sport of cricket.
To discover what a “brace” is in soccer, check out my article – A Brace in Soccer: What does it mean? – explaining the definition of that term; otherwise, keep reading to find more out about a hat-trick.
As you just read, there are three factors that make up a hat-trick:
- It has to be 3 goals
- All scored by the same player
- And all goals scored in a single game
As long as the set of goals fulfills these criteria, the set of goals is called a hat-trick. Anything else about the goals or the way they were scored doesn’t matter.
For instance, the goals don’t have to be scored consecutively. A set of goals is still a hat-trick whether a player has scored each goal one after another in a game or whether there were 1, 2, or even 3 goals between each goal scored by the individual player.
How quickly the goals are scored is also irrelevant to whether a set of goals is called a hat-trick or not. A player can score all three goals in one 15-minute period or spread over the entire length of the game.
It also doesn’t matter how a player scores the goals. A player can score all three goals with their head or each goal may be scored using a different body part to the one used when scoring the previous goal.
What matters is that 3 goals are scored by the same player in one game. This is all that is needed to count as a hat-trick.
The only time it does matter how the 3 goals are scored is if a player is attempting to score what is known as a “Perfect Hat-trick.”
In soccer, a perfect hat-trick is a term used to describe the action of one player scoring three specific types of goals in a single soccer game: One goal must be scored with the player’s right foot, one with the player’s left foot, and one goal with the player’s head. [source]
A perfect hat-trick is considered to be a level above a normal hat-trick as the player has showcased a variety of different skills by scoring each goal in a different way.
Check out this video below of 10 of the best perfect hat-tricks scored.
Why It’s Called a Hat-Trick
Now we’ve defined what a hat-trick is, the bigger question for many people is: why is it called a hat-trick?
Scoring three goals in a game of soccer is called a hat-trick because of a game of cricket in 1858 when a player was awarded a hat following the achievement of getting 3 players out with 3 consecutive throws of the ball. This feat became known as a “hat-trick” and in the following years soccer adopted this term for when a player had scored 3 goals. [source]
Now, there’s a high chance many of you reading this don’t fully understand the game of cricket. I know I don’t! But let me briefly explain the part that is important to understanding why scoring 3 goals is known as a hat-trick.
In cricket, a player on one team throws a cricket ball towards 3 wooden stakes in the ground hoping to knock 2 smaller pieces of wood, known as the bails, off the top of the 2 stakes.
As this player throws the ball, a player from the opposing team stands in front of the stakes defending them with a cricket bat.
If the player throwing the ball knocks the bails off the stakes, then the player defending them is out and is replaced by another player from the opposing team.
In cricket, it is exceptionally rare for one player to hit the stakes in the ground with three consecutive throws. Far rarer than it is for a soccer player to score 3 goals in a game. So when this happened in a game of cricket in England in 1858, this was considered a significant event.
As was the custom at the time, a collection was held by all the spectators at the game to honor this great achievement by the cricket player Heathman Harman Stephenson. With the money collected from this, a hat was purchased for the player, and from then on the term hat-trick was used to refer to any time this feat was repeated.[source]
From its use in cricket, the term hat-trick began to be used for other situations where 3 goals, points, or 3 feats of any sort was achieved.
One of these situations was in soccer. Soon after the term began being used in cricket, players and fans began to use the term hat-trick to refer to a player scoring 3 goals in a soccer game, and the use of that term still carries on to this day.
Is There a Prize for a Hat-Trick?
There is no official prize for scoring a hat-trick in a soccer game. However, it is a tradition for a player who has scored a hat-trick to keep the soccer ball used in that game as a reward or reminder of their success on the soccer field that day.
Who Has Scored the Most and the Fastest Hat-Tricks
There are few things more exciting in soccer than watching a player score a hat-trick, but do you know which player has scored the most hat-tricks and which player has scored the fastest hat-tricks?
Most Hat-Tricks in Soccer
The player who has scored the most hat-tricks in world soccer is Pele.
Although he retired in 1977, he is still far ahead of any other player, having scored an incredible 92 hat-tricks!
Cristiano Ronaldo comes in second place, having scored 56 hat-tricks so far throughout his career, and Lionel Messi has scored an impressive 53 hat-tricks.
Fastest Hat-Tricks in soccer
The Guinness World Record has the fastest hat-trick ever scored as being by Tommy Ross in 1964, who scored a hat-trick in an unbelievable 90 seconds!
In the modern era, Sadio Mané is often credited with scoring one of the fastest hat-tricks. It took him a total of 2 minutes and 56 seconds!
Check out this video below of the 7 of the fastest hat-tricks in soccer, including the one by Sadio Mané!
I hope you now feel you understand what a hat-trick is and how it got its name.
To find more out about other important terms used in soccer, check out one of my other articles below.
What is a friendly in soccer, and why are they played?
What Is a Cap in Soccer? the Meaning and History of the Term
First Touch in Soccer: What It Means and How to Improve