Is Soccer a Sport? Yes, and Here’s the Reason Why

soccer is a sport - contact and popular

Knowing whether soccer is a sport or not is one of the most fundamental questions someone can have about the game. In many ways, it’s a crucial part of soccer’s identity.

Some people may be confused about whether soccer is a sport or if it’s simply an activity or hobby.

Thankfully, there is a clear answer to this question.

Soccer is a sport. The definition of a “sport” includes specific criteria, and soccer comprehensively meets each of these criteria. Based on the definition of sport, soccer qualifies as being a sport.

Not only is soccer a sport, but there are many different types of sports soccer. Categories such as a contact sport, an Olympic sport, and even a real sport all apply to the game of soccer.

In this article, we’ll look at the 5 different categories of sport that soccer falls into.

Now you know soccer is a sport, if you want a step-by-step guide on how to play soccer, then check out my guide here.

But first, let’s look at what the definition of a “sport” actually is and how well soccer fits that description.

Definition of “a Sport”

The only way to truly establish whether soccer is indeed a sport is to look at the definition of a sport and see if soccer meets that criteria.

And if in doubt about what a word means then the best place to go for a definition of something is a dictionary!

So let’s quickly look at 3 definitions of “sport” from three different dictionaries:


“Sport: any activity or experience that gives enjoyment or recreation; pastime; diversion”

Collins Dictionary


“Sport: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

Lexico by Oxford Dictionary


“Sport: an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”

These 3 dictionary definitions of “sport” give 8 different criteria between them as to what defines a sport.

If we look at each of them we’ll see that soccer fulfills every one of these criteria.

How Soccer Fulfills the Definition of Sport

  • An activity or experience” – soccer definitely involves activity and is an incredible experience to be a part of
  • “gives enjoyment or recreation” – billions of people around the world enjoy soccer and play it for recreation
  • “pastime” – people have enjoyed playing soccer as a pastime for well over 100 years.
  • “diversion” – Everyday people play or watch soccer as a diversion from the stresses of life
  • “activity involving physical exertion and skill” – Soccer requires huge amounts of skill and physical exertion to play well.
  • “an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment” – A soccer game requires two teams to compete against each other with each game being watched by thousands of people for entertainment
  • “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess” – Similar to a previous point, a high level of skill and physical prowess is needed to play soccer well
  • “often of a competitive nature” – The vast majority of soccer games are played in the context of a competition.

As you can clearly see from this, soccer easily fulfills all the common definitions of what is considered a sport and can be considered more than just an activity or hobby.

Soccer is a sport that:

  • Is an activity or experience
  • Gives enjoyment or recreation
  • Is a pastime
  • Is a diversion
  • Is an activity involving physical exertion and skill
  • Where an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment
  • Is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess
  • Is often of a competitive nature

Soccer Can Be Categorized Into 5 Types of Sport

Soccer is a contact and popular sport

Having shown beyond a reasonable doubt that soccer is indeed a sport, the question that is often asked next is- what type of sport is soccer?

There are 5 types of sport that soccer can be categorized into:

  1. Soccer is a contact sport
  2. Soccer is the most popular sport
  3. Soccer is a winter and summer sport
  4. Soccer is an Olympic Sport
  5. Soccer is a real sport

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Soccer is a Contact Sport

One question many people have about soccer is whether it is a contact sport or not.

They watch a game and see physical contact between some players and it seems ok, but then they also see some physical contact between players being punished by the referee.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how physical contact is punished in soccer then have a look at my guide to a Yellow Card in soccer or check out my guide to a red card.

So which is it? Is soccer a contact sport or not?

Soccer is a contact sport. The laws of the game of soccer permit “fair” physical contact. However, contact that a soccer referee considers “careless, reckless or using excessive force” is not permitted and may result in disciplinary action for the player involved.

The type of contact that is considered “careless, reckless or excessive” can vary, and if you are interested in finding out more click here to go to my easy-to-understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer where you can find out more details.

Soccer Is the Most Popular Sport in the World

There is no doubt that soccer is the most popular sport in the world.

It has been estimated that soccer has a worldwide following of approximately 4 Billion fans! [source]

That’s right, 4 Billion!

More than half the world’s population are soccer fans.

It has almost double the number of fans of what is considered to be the second most popular sport in the world: Cricket. With a following of 2.5 Billion fans, cricket doesn’t even come close.

Top 10 Most Popular Sports in the World

If you are interested, here is the list of the top 10 most popular sports worldwide.

  1. Soccer (Association Football) – 4 Billion fans
  2. Cricket – 2.5 Billion fans
  3. Field Hockey – 2 Billion Fans
  4. Tennis – 1 Billion Fans
  5. Volleyball – 900 Million Fans
  6. Table Tennis (Ping Pong) – 875 Million Fans
  7. Basketball – 825 Million Fans
  8. Baseball – 500 Million Fans
  9. Rugby – 475 Million Fans
  10. Golf – 450 Million Fans

Soccer is the most popular sport partly because it’s the easiest sport to play or to learn.

Soccer Is a Winter and Summer Sport

Many people want to know what season of the year soccer is played. The answer to that depends on where in the world it is being played.

In the United States, soccer is a summer sport. Although the season does start in the spring and go through the fall, the summer is when it is predominately played.

The reason soccer is a summer sport in the United States and not a winter sport is primarily because of TV schedules.

With the other popular American sports being mostly played at other times of the year, the soccer season was designed to be mostly played through the summer. Although there is clearly some overlap, it doesn’t have to spend the entire season competing with other sports such as Football, basketball, hockey, or baseball.

In most of the rest of the world, however, the soccer season doesn’t begin until the fall and runs through until the following spring.

As an example of this, here are the start and end dates of 6 of the world’s top soccer leagues.

Soccer LeagueDates Season Begins and Ends
Major League Soccer (MLS)March to October
English Premier LeagueAugust to May
Argentine Primera DivisiónAugust to April
La Liga (Spain)August to May
Serie A (Italy)August to May
BundesligaAugust to May

As you can see from the table above, soccer is a winter sport in the majority of the world except for the USA, where it is a summer sport.

Soccer Is an Olympic Sport

One of the biggest sporting events in the world is the Olympic Games, and soccer has been a full Olympic sport since 1908. [source]

Although it was included as an exhibition in the two Olympics before that, 1908 was the year it became a fully-fledged part of the games.

However, until 1996, it was only men’s soccer that was involved. The sport of women’s soccer took part for the first time at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Although some of the best players from around the world are represented at the games every four years, the men’s competition limits participants to an age limit of 23, apart from a few exceptions.

If you want to find out more about why there is an age limit in men’s Olympic soccer check out this article I wrote which explains the reasons.

Soccer is a Real Sport

Another question that some people ask about soccer is whether it’s a real sport.

Soccer is a real sport. It is not only the most popular sport, followed and played by billions of people around the world, but it also meets the criteria of any commonly accepted definition of what a real sport is.

As we’ve already seen, soccer is not only considered a real sport but considered the best sport by billions of people worldwide.

This question of whether it’s a real sport is really only asked by those raised in the United States, where soccer is not embraced in the same way as it is in the rest of the world.

Why Some People Think It’s Not a Real Sport

The main reason Americans have a hard time accepting that soccer is a real sport is because many Americans are culturally conditioned to consider the big four sports – Football, Basketball, Baseball, and hockey – as the only real sports.

So much of American culture and media promote these four as the pinnacle of the sport that, in many people’s minds, every other activity falls short of the label of being a “real” sport.

Accepting the game of soccer as an equal game to the “big four” will take both a cultural and mental shift for many people.

If more Americans and media outlets would give soccer a chance, they may come to know and understand why the rest of the world loves the real sport of soccer so much!

If this section has left you wondering how soccer and the big four American sports compare click on this link to go straight to an article I wrote comparing everything in soccer and football. I’m sure you’ll discover something you didn’t know.

Recommendations to Enjoy the Sport of Soccer

Now I’ve hopefully convinced you that soccer is indeed a sport you may be looking for ways to get out and enjoy the sport.

If you’re looking for recommendations on what equipment to buy then feel free to head on over to my recommended equipment page to see my personal recommendations for items such as the best soccer cleats to the best goalie gloves.

Or click here to go to my post outlining the 15 pieces of equipment used in every soccer game.

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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