In the next segment of our six-part Sports in America free English class series, we will take a closer look at America’s role in the single most popular sport in the world: Soccer!
Approximately 15 minutes
We Call It Soccer, You Call It Football!
Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.
There are approximately 3.5 billion soccer fans in the world (though many of them call it “football”), making it the most popular sport on Earth. Despite its popularity, soccer has never garnered as much attention in the United States, a country that prides itself on being a sports powerhouse.
The Basics of Soccer
If you’re unfamiliar with the rules of soccer, it’s a relatively easy game to learn. There are two teams who compete to score the most goals over the course of a 45-minute period and, after a short break, a second 45-minute period (known as the first and second half, respectively). Each team can have 11 players on the field at one time.
The goalie stays near the goal and tries to prevent the other team from scoring, while the remaining 10 players generally consist of forwards (offense), defenders (defense), and midfielders (a mix of offense and defense). A soccer field is about 100 meters long and shaped like a rectangle, with a goal on each end.
Soccer resembles many other team sports (like basketball or field hockey) insofar as one team must try to score by getting the ball into the other team’s goal. However, there’s one catch in soccer: you can’t use your arms or hands! Soccer players (except for the goalie) can only pass, dribble, and shoot the ball using their feet, legs, torso, and head.
Soccer in the United States
In the United States, thousands of children and teenagers play recreational soccer in school or community leagues. However, it took a long time for professional soccer to gain a significant following in America. This is partly due to the fact that U.S. teams struggled on the international stage for many years.
The American team didn’t always have as much talent as countries like Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany, or England. And, at the end of the day, Americans don’t like to watch their teams lose!
The MLS (Major League Soccer) and NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) are the two professional soccer leagues in North America. 26 MLS teams currently compete to earn the Supporters’ Shield and win the MLS cup every year, while NWSL teams compete to earn the NWSL Shield and become the NWSL Champion.
In recent years, increased investments in MLS soccer teams have allowed them to attract some of the world’s top players, including Wayne Rooney (England), Diego Rossi (Uruguay), and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden).
Even though the U.S. women’s soccer team is one of the best in the world, the U.S. men’s soccer team usually gets more attention during the World Cup. So far, the U.S. women’s team has won four FIFA World Cups (most recently in 2019), while the U.S. men’s team hasn’t won any!
In any case, more and more fans come out to cheer on their favorite American soccer teams every year, giving hope to a new generation of American soccer players (both male and female) that the sport will continue expanding in America.
This video explains the rules of soccer:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage:
Grammar Center: Using “Respectively” to Represent Order
Let’s look at the following sentence from the passage:
There are two teams who compete to score the most goals over the course of a 45-minute period and, after a short break, a second 45-minute period (known as the first and second half, respectively).
When you need to add qualifying information to more than one thing in a sentence, the word “respectively” can be extremely useful. Respectively means “for each separately, in the same order.” This may sound a little confusing, so let’s look at another example:
The coach selected Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan for the midfielder and forward positions, respectively.
As you can see, there is a formula at work when you need to add “respectively” to the end of a sentence. You must have two parallel lists with parts that correspond to one another. Let’s reevaluate the sentence above to breakdown this formula:
The coach selected (1A) and (1B) for the (2A) and (2B), respectively.
In this sentence, the item 1A in the first list corresponds with item 2A in the second list, while item 1B in the first list corresponds with item 2B in the second list. We know this is true because the word “respectively” tells us so!
If you took “respectively” out of the equation, it might be a little confusing, because we wouldn’t be 100% sure how the positions were assigned. Thankfully, “respectively” lets us know that Michael Bradley is the midfielder and Landon Donovan is the forward.