Which is the more correct: soccer game or soccer match? Are they both equally valid?

  • Soccer teams play matches. – user6951 Jun 23 '14 at 3:29
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    Football match! Not that I like football, but still. – Cerberus Jun 23 '14 at 4:02
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    @Cerberus Soccer seems to have been accepted in Britain until the 1980s or so, when, ironically, the rising popularity of the sport in the U.S. led soccer to be labeled as an American usage and thus an affront. – choster Jun 23 '14 at 16:41
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    @Cerberus Antipus, please. Don't you understand Greek singulars? – Dawood ibn Kareem Jun 24 '14 at 2:04
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    @DavidWallace: What? Mormons use antipus? By the way: 1398 Trevisa Barth. De P.R. xv. lii. (1495) 506 Yonde in Ethiopia ben the Antipodes, men that haue theyr fete ayenst our fete. – Cerberus Jun 24 '14 at 2:14

Note that in some sports, notably tennis, there is a division in which "match" occupies a higher place. For instance in tennis, the players engage in a match, which consists of multiple sets, which consist of games.

Game and match mean the same thing when this hierarchy doesn't apply: when a single game is considered to be a match.

Which one is used depends on the region: both the region where the sport originates, and the region from which the speaker comes from who describes it as either a game or match. One-game-match sports from Britain tend to attract the "match" terminology.

See also: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/34105/what-determines-whether-a-sporting-event-is-a-game-match-contest-or-something


Something of a generalization, but if you're calling it soccer then you're most likely in the USA, or a place whose English is influenced by American English (since the USA is by far the most populous English-speaking region in which "football" means something else). So team sporting events are generally called "games", soccer included. But MLS does use "match" at least sometimes, so I suspect US soccer fans do likewise sometimes.

If you're speaking British English then formally it's pretty much always a "match", even if for some reason you're calling it "soccer" rather than "football". Football itself is "a game" ("the game of football", "the beautiful game"), but a particular fixture is "a match" ("did you see the match?", "I'm going to the match").

The word "game" is also used when talking about the event in a less formal way ("he had a great game") and for variety. Quoting a BBC news report that I'm watching that just reminded me of this question: "A capacity of 79 thousand people will be in there, watching the game, but around the world would you believe something like a billion people all over the planet will watch this match on television".

By the way, it's not exactly incorrect to call it "soccer" in British English (AFAIK the term was coined in England meaning "asSOCiation football", as distinct from rugby football). But it's unnecessary to specify, and "football" is preferred by almost everyone. Calling it "soccer" suggests that you refer to something else as just "football", which means you're either some kind of foreigner or really devoted to rugby.

I don't know what happens in Australia, where "soccer" would often be used to distinguish from Aussie rules football. If I had to guess, they would call it a "soccer match" there.

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    I agree with your game/match distinction in British English, but people do, in my experience, sometimes also talk about "playing a game of football". To me, at least, "a football game" suggests something slightly more informal than "a football match". A game might just be a bunch of friends in the park on a Saturday morning but a match would probably be part of a league or other formal competition. – David Richerby Jun 23 '14 at 8:29
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    @DavidRicherby: good point, that matches my experience too. A "match" suggests a formal fixture. "Formal" isn't necessarily under FA auspices, but held between named teams where the result might be recorded. Annual staff vs. managers could probably just about qualify as a match, but could also be called merely a game. – Steve Jessop Jun 23 '14 at 11:34
  • "Soccer" was indeed coined in England (in Oxford, to be specific) and might well be used to distinguish soccer from rugger (rugby football). – David Richerby Jun 23 '14 at 12:06
  • The name soccer is used anywhere where (a) another football code is popular and (b) that football code is commonly called football. So in NZ, Rugby football is popular, but it's always called rugby, not football, so Association football is still called football there. However, Gaelic football is popular in Ireland, and though it's often just called "Gaelic", it's called "football" often enough that we call Assn fball "soccer". Ditto Australia (Aussie Rules), USA (Am Football), and Canada (Canadian Rules Football). – TRiG Jun 23 '14 at 15:17
  • Just for reference, the word "Rugby" is a place name, not the name of a sport. Football was played at Rugby School as early as the 1750s. Soccer was invented in 1863. – Dawood ibn Kareem Jun 24 '14 at 1:23

Either is valid, although I'm sure you will notice regional differences as to which is used. In the Midwest of the US, I almost always hear game rather than match.

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    Also on the West Coast, I usually hear game, not match (other than tennis, golf or other non-team sports). – user3169 Jun 23 '14 at 4:29

I think that match is used in sports in general like in wrestling (no game), but game is more like with friends or with sports with several players. Also note that the FIFA games use match like the official page.but at the end they are equally intercheable.


For what it's worth, FIFA's Laws of the Games, Law 7 refers to 'The Duration of the Match'.

  • This is pertinent, but doesn't really answer the question and would be better as a comment. – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 23 '14 at 14:45
  • Law 1: "A match is played between two sides, each of eleven players, one of whom shall be captain." – Sydney Jun 23 '14 at 20:33

Game or match? This depends on what you mean. I hope this adds a bit on your understanding of the two words...

When you say game, it could mean the game itself, not necessarily played, being played or about to be played. It is simply the sports with the rules/regulations/etc.

When you say match, it means a game that was played, being played or about to be played by competing teams.


  • I love playing the soccer game in my PS Vita. - The game itself
  • I love the soccer match between the X and the Y in my PS Vita. - Here the game was played

  • The soccer game was played by the X and the Y. - Here the game was played so now you could say it is a match.

  • The soccer match between the two teams was great! - Again, this means the game was played

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