Soccer and American football are obviously two different sports. However, they do have some similarities. One of those similarities is a similar shaped field on which the games are played.
But although the fields are a similar shape it is quite clear that there are differences between the two as well.
In this article, we’ll look at the soccer field and the football field and see how they compare.
If you are interested in a broader comparison of how soccer and football compare overall, click this link and it will take you to a post I wrote that compares all aspects of the two sports.
To start with, this table below clearly lays out the differences and similarities between a soccer field and a football field.
How They Compare:
|Soccer Field||Football Field|
|Length||Max: 130 yards (120m)|
Min: 100 yards (90m)
|100 yards(91.5m) between goal lines|
120 yards (109.7m) including end zones
|Width||Max: 100 yards (90m)|
Min: 50 yards (45m)
|160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m)|
|Surface||Natural grass and artificial turf or a hybrid of both||Natural grass and artificial turf|
|Markings||2 penalty areas |
2 goal areas
a halfway line
a center circle
4 corner arcs
a penalty spot
and a center spot
2 end zones
1-yard hash marks
5-yard yard lines
1-yard long scrimmage line
Numerals in multiples of 10
|Goalposts||Located at the center of the goal line|
Crossbar: 8 ft (2.44 m) above ground
Vertical posts: 8 yards (7.32 m) between posts
|Located at the center of the goal line|
Crossbar: 10 feet (3m) above ground
– 18 feet 6 inches (5.6m) apart
– 35 feet (10.7m) long
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Shape of Soccer Field Vs Football Field
The shape of a soccer field and a football field are the same. They are both rectangular with the ends of both fields shorter than the length of the field
Although a soccer field can vary slightly in length and width (as we’ll look at below) it is still a requirement that the touchline, or sideline, is longer than the goal line at either end.
You may also have heard a soccer field referred to as a “pitch.” If you want to know why check out this article I wrote explaining why people use this word and where it originated.
Length of Soccer Field Vs Football Field
Soccer and football fields are usually the same lengths as each other.
Between the goal lines of a football field, there are 100 yards(91.5m) and when you include the two 10-yard end zones the length comes to 120 yards (109.7m). These measurements are a requirement and no football field should be a different length to this.
Soccer fields are a little different in that the length has minimum and maximum requirements that it has to fit within. A maximum length of 130 yards (120m) and a minimum length of 100 yards (90m).
This means that there is often a small variation between the lengths of different soccer fields but that variation is fairly minor.
For an example of this, in the image below is a list of the lengths of 5 MLS team’s soccer fields.
As you can see from the above images although there is often some variation between the lengths of the field there are only a few yards in it.
The smallest length of any MLS soccer field is the Yankee Stadium where New York City FC plays. The length of their field is only 110 yards (110.6m).
Did you know soccer used to be called football, even in America? Find out why this changed, as well as the reason behind the US calling it soccer while most of the world calls it football, in this article I recently wrote.
Width of Soccer Field Vs Football Field
The width of a soccer field compared to a football field is often where there is the biggest variation in size.
As with the length, a football field has a set requirement that the width has to be. That width requirement is 160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m).
Soccer fields have minimum and maximum requirements that the width has to be between. Those requirements are a maximum of 100 yards (90m) and a minimum of 50 yards (45m).
Although the soccer field has a minimum requirement of 50 yards (45m) most soccer fields are around 75 yards (68.5m) in width.
As an example of this, the image below lists the width of the fields of 5 MLS team’s fields.
In this dimension, New York City FC’s field at Yankee Stadium comes in joint last place with Minnesota United FC’s field at TCF Bank Stadium with a width of only 70 yards (64 m).
A soccer field is bigger than a football field
A soccer field is bigger than a football field due to the soccer field’s width being almost twice that of a football field. Although the length of the two fields is similar, a soccer field’s extra width means that a soccer field has a greater surface area and is bigger than a football field.
Because a football field is restricted to being only 160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m) wide, whereas a soccer field can be up to 100 yards (90m) wide, a soccer field has a much greater surface area than a football field and is, therefore, bigger.
If you’re interested in more details about a soccer field’s size and dimensions, click here to go to a post a wrote covering everything you need to know about it. And if you want my opinion about whether soccer is harder than football, have a look at this article I wrote giving you the 5 reasons for what I think.
Surface of Soccer Field Vs Football Field
The surfaces on which a soccer game or football game can be played are similar. Both games can be played on natural grass or artificial turf.
However, it is far more common for NFL teams to play on artificial grass than MLS teams to play on it.
A review in 2019 found that 12 NFL teams play on artificial turf and 19 play on natural grass.
Whereas in the MLS only 6 teams play on artificial turf rather than natural grass.
It is also interesting to note that in the NFL there is a move towards playing on more artificial surfaces while in the MLS there is a move towards playing on natural grass.
This is mostly due to the different requirements of both sports.
Markings on a Soccer Field Vs Football Field
The markings on both a soccer field and football field are where the fields really do differ from each other.
And this makes sense as they are two different games with different rules and objectives.
The markings on a soccer field are:
- 2 penalty areas
- 2 goal areas
- a halfway line
- a center circle
- 4 corner arcs
- a penalty spot
- and a center spot
The markings on a football field are:
- 10-yard intervals
- 2 end zones
- 1-yard hash marks
- 5-yard yard lines
- 1-yard long scrimmage line
- Numerals in multiples of 10
One similarity between the two is that all the markings are in white.
Goalposts on a Soccer Field Vs Football Field
The goalposts in both soccer and football are also very different from each other as you can see in the image below.
In soccer, the goalposts are required:
- To be positioned at the center of the goal line at both ends of the field.
- The crossbar must be 8 ft (2.44 m) above ground at the lowest point
- The vertical posts, which are below the crossbar, must be 8 yards (7.32 m) apart
In football the goalposts are required:
- To be positioned at the center of the goal line at both ends of the field
- The crossbar must be 10 feet (3m) above ground
- The vertical uprights, which are above the crossbar, must be 18 feet 6 inches (5.6m) apart and 35 feet (10.7m) long
A significant difference between the goalposts in both these sports, apart from how they look, is where the players are trying to get the ball.
In soccer, the players are trying to get the ball between the vertical posts below the crossbar. In football, the players are trying to get the ball between the vertical posts above the crossbar.
The main difference between a soccer and football field
Having now gone through the differences and similarities you will have noticed that there are 3 significant differences between a soccer and football field.
- The width of the field
- The markings on the field
- The goalposts
These three factors are what make each sport’s field unique and allow the games to be played as they should be played.
Playing soccer on a football field
This does raise the question of whether it’s possible to play soccer on a football field.
Soccer can be played on a football field. In fact, all through the United States high schools and colleges have specifically designed their sports fields to be able to do just this. I put together a comparison of a high school Vs professional soccer field here if you’re interested.
This works because both a soccer and football field are the same length as each other. With a requirement to be 120 yards long, a football field fits perfectly within a soccer field.
The challenge is how to find the width for the soccer field.
Although the minimum requirement for a soccer field is 50 yards, the reality is that few are that narrow and as we have seen above most are nearer 75 yards (68.5m) wide. With a football field being only 160 feet/ 53 1⁄3 yards (48.8 m) wide this can be an issue.
What most sports fields who combine the two fields do are create this extra width by using the team areas that would be used during a football game.
This way it’s possible to fit 1 football field within a soccer field and play soccer on a football field.
Another area where you may have questions about the difference between soccer and football is around the question of salary caps. Click on this link to go to a post I wrote answering the question of whether soccer has a salary cap.