In order to help the casual American sports fan understand the wild world of European soccer, I have tried to break it down in a more simplified and diluted version. This series “Learning Soccer” will break down various competitions, leagues, terms and rules that exist in an attempt to work through them. I normally have to do this while watching a game and then end up missing some crucial moment. So, if I can save some explanation for the next guy, I’ve done my job.

To start, let’s go over some basic terms and cover some basic questions that might be out there:

  • The game is played primarily with your feet and it uses a ball. So most countries call it football. The field is called the pitch, and the coach is the manager.
  • There are 11 players on the field per team. Each team gets 3 subs. If a team uses all their subs and a player gets hurt and can’t continue, sucks – they play a man down.
  • The game is 90 minutes with two 45-minute halves. There is stoppage time added on at the end of each half to recover precious seconds back from goal celebrations, fouls, and streakers.
  • A yellow card is a warning. This is given for, but not limited to, many fouls or a dangerous play. Also, this is awarded given when you take your shirt off after scoring. Two yellow cards equals a red card.
  • A red card means the player is no longer allowed to play and the team now plays a man down. These are given for, but not limited to, a terrible foul, denying a clear goal scoring opportunity or (again) two yellows.
  • Moving up in the standings, commonly called the table, you accumulate points. A win gives you 3 points, a tie 1 point, a loss nothing.
  • Teams are often referred to as Clubs. FC stands for Football Club, U is United, C is City. CFC = Chelsea Football Club. Man U = Manchester United. MCFC = Manchester City Football Club.
  • The main leagues the people care about are the Premier League (England), Bundesliga (Germany), La Liga (Spain) and Serie A (Italy). Every other league is pretty much irrelevant.
  • The white spray the ref uses is not shaving cream.
  • Ties exist, get over it, they happen in the NFL too. Players dive to get a call just like in the NBA.
  • Soccer coaches dress up for games because they are being respectful to the fans and understand their role in the club. They don’t pull that Belichick garbage.
  • Teams don’t retire numbers because certain numbers go to a specific player (normally).
  • Arsenal will always finish 4th, Liverpool fans talk about their history, Manchester City is essentially the Cowboys.
  • FIFA which is the governing body of Global soccer and is the most corrupt organization in the world. Picture 45 Roger Goodell’s calling the shots.

That should be enough basic facts for you to seem semi-intelligent the next time you’re at the local sports bar making small talk. Leave comments below if you still need things cleared up or just want “a bit of banter” (you know – the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks).

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