The Atlantic

Why Americans Call Soccer 'Soccer'

The British started it.
Source: Library of Congress

New Zealand's largest newspaper is deeply conflicted. With the World Cup underway in Brazil, should The New Zealand Herald refer to the "global round-ball game" as "soccer" or "football"? The question has been put to readers, and the readers have spoken. It's "football"—by a wide margin.

We in the U.S., of course, would disagree. And now we have a clearer understanding of why. In May, Stefan Szymanski, a sports economist at the University of Michigan, debunking the notion that "soccer" is a American invention. In fact, it's a British import. And the Brits used it often—until, that is, it became too much of an Americanism for British English to bear.

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