Comparing different sports to work out which one is the hardest is an age-old game that fans of different sports love to play. In this article, I’m going to give you my answer to the question of whether soccer or football is harder and then explain my reasons by comparing the two sports.
Soccer is harder than football. Based on a comparison of skill, stamina, ability, and how often a team scores a point or goal, it is clear that soccer requires more of a player. Therefore soccer is a harder sport that football.
Although my conclusion is subjective and you may disagree with me, let me explain my reasons, and then you can decide what you think. You never know, I may convince you I’m right!
How to decide if soccer or football is harder
Every sport is different. Some sports are different in many ways, and others are only subtly different. Soccer and football are two sports that share a similar history, but the rules of the game and style differ significantly from each other.
To decide which sport is harder, I needed to decide on the areas where I would compare them. After doing some research to understand the areas where the two games are similar and what measures it would be fair to use as a comparison, I came up with these options:
- The average amount of points scored during a game
- How physically demanding soccer and football are
- The amount of skill involved to play the game
- Which game is more tiring to play
- Ability to read the game
Is It Harder to Score Points in Football or Goals in Soccer?
Winning games is the aim of every team in both football and soccer. And to win a game, a football team needs to score points, and a soccer team needs to score goals. Everything else a team does is structured around optimizing their player’s ability to score more points or goals than the opposing team.
Because of this priority, I wanted to start by looking at whether it is harder to score points in football or goals in soccer.
Let’s start with football. In football, there are two ways to score points. One way is by scoring a touchdown, and the other way is to kick a field goal. In soccer, there is only one way to score a goal: getting the ball into the opponent’s goal.
A soccer goal is also a much smaller target to aim at than the end zone or the posts at either end of a football field. In football, the players have a 160 foot wide by 10-yard deep end zone where a soccer player only has an 8 yard wide by an 8-foot high target to aim at. This requires much more accuracy.
Already we can see that it would be harder to score a goal in soccer than it is to score points in football. But the average amount of points or goals scored in a game back up this point.
That’s a big difference! But it does show how much harder it is to score a goal in soccer than it is to get points in football.
Soccer is much harder than football in the area of scoring points of goals for your team.
Although it is hard to score points in football, scoring a goal in soccer is harder as the target area for scoring a goal is much smaller in soccer than the target area for scoring points in football.
Is Soccer More Physically Demanding Than Football?
The next area I wanted to look at was which of the two sports was more physically demanding. When I say physically demanding, I mean – how much of an effect does the game have on a player’s body. This is different to stamina or endurance. We’ll look at that later.
Both soccer and football are contact sports. However, you only have to watch either sport for 5 minutes to see that there is considerably more physical contact in football than there is in soccer.
In soccer, the players will regularly come into contact with other players as they compete for the ball. Still, this contact is usually restricted to leaning into another player or getting your body between a player and the ball. Several rules in soccer restrict how forcefully one player can push another player.
In football, physical contact between players is very different than it is in soccer. Strength and power need to be a vital part of most football players’ skill sets.
During a football game, the players will position themselves a few short yards from their opponents time and time again. As soon as they can, they will run at full speed straight into the opponent in front of them.
There is no doubt that football is harder in this area.
The physical demands for football players are higher than the physical demands on a soccer player due to the regular high-impact contact between football players.
Does Soccer Require More Skill Than Football?
Whether soccer or football requires more skill is a tough one to answer as the skill sets for both sports are different. What one sportsperson can find hard another can achieve more easily.
But there is one significant area that we can still look at and compare.
One of the most significant differences between the two sports that means one requires a higher level of skill than the other, is that players mostly use their hands in football. In soccer, the players primarily use their feet.
The majority of us have been using our hands since we were toddlers to pick objects up, hold them, control them, and move them around. Most of us don’t do that with our feet very often at all.
Because football is a game that involves a significant amount of ball-handling, the fact that most people are already comfortable using there hands in this way means there is a smaller learning curve to be able to use their hands in a football game.
Of course, some people are not very well coordinated and struggle to catch or throw a ball, but most of us have some level of competence in this area.
In soccer, things are different. As a sport, soccer relies on a player being able to comfortably control the soccer ball with their feet. A soccer player needs to be able to kick the ball accurately, pass it carefully, and control in when it arrives at their feet. This is a skill that many of us are not used to and can be hard to develop.
To progress to a high level of ability in this area is much harder than mastering the skill of throwing and catching the ball. (Don’t worry! I realize there’s much more to football than just throwing and catching a ball! I just want to bring the skill set needed down to a basic level.)
Soccer skills are harder to master than football skills.
The requirement of using your feet to control the ball is soccer is a harder skill to develop than the ability to throw and catch a ball in football meaning soccer requires more skill than football.
Which Is More Tiring Soccer or Football?
When it comes to the question of which sport is more tiring, it makes sense to start by looking at what is required of football and soccer players.
Let’s start by looking at football.
A football game lasts for a total of 60 minutes of playing time. If the game is tied at the end of the 60 minutes, an extra 15 minutes may be played. These 60 minutes are split into four 15 minute quarters with a halftime break. Football players are also permitted three timeouts per half.
Although there are 60 minutes of playing time for the players, most of the players don’t play the full 60 minutes. A completely different set of players will often be on the field, depending on whether their team is attacking or defending. Football allows for unlimited substitutions meaning the players come on and off the field often.
Soccer is very different in this area.
A soccer game is 90 minutes long with a 15-minute break at half time.
For more info on halftime in soccer, have a look at this article I wrote.
At the end of the 90 minutes, additional time may be added to compensate for any injuries or delays that occurred during the game. If a soccer game ends in a tie, then an extra 30 minutes of playing time may be added onto the end of a game to allow time to find a winner. If there is no winner at the end of this time, then a penalty shoot-out may take place.
Soccer only allows three substitutions from either team for the game’s duration, and there are no timeouts in soccer. This means that the majority of players on a soccer team will play at full intensity for the full 90 minutes with only one break.
It is clear from comparing the two sports that soccer is harder as it requires more stamina and endurance from a player than football does.
Soccer is more tiring than football because the players need to keep performing at a higher level for longer than a football player does. They are also permitted far fewer breaks during a game and must keep going for longer.
A Player’s Ability to Read the Game
The last area where I want to compare whether soccer and football are harder concerns a player’s mentality.
In any sport, a player must be fully aware of what they are expected to do and then complete that task. But what is required of a player can vary depending on the sport.
In football players often operate play by play. The coach will tell them what play to use, and then when that is completed, they will use another play from the playbook. The teams keep going like this throughout the game, and the play that is used will depend on the stage of the game and what is happening.
In soccer, it’s more complicated.
A coach will brief the team before a game starts. They will convey the tactics they want the team to use and explain how they expect the players to perform throughout the game. Once the game begins, there is minimal opportunity for the coach or coaching staff to adjust or change any of their instructions. The 15 minute half time slot is the only chance they have to do this.
A good soccer player will need to be an expert at reading the game, understanding what is happening, and adjusting their play or tactics to respond to the reality of what is happening on the soccer field because of this.
There are many times that a game doesn’t go the way the coach or players expect, and the team has to adjust accordingly. This takes experience, awareness, and focused mental ability from the player.
Soccer is harder than football in this area.
A football player has to be good at following instructions. Still, a soccer player needs to be good at following directions and be effective at adjusting to the situation of a game as it changes without relying on the coach to tell them what to do.
So there you have it. Having compared these five areas, it is clear that soccer is harder than football. Although football is the more physically demanding of the two sports, there are four reasons soccer is harder than football:
- It’s harder to score a goal in soccer than it is to get points in football
- It requires more skill to play soccer than football
- Soccer requires more stamina and endurance than football
- And soccer requires a higher level of tactical awareness and ability to read the game effectively.
If you want to go further comparing soccer and football, check out these two other posts I’ve written: