The much-anticipated return of FASQ! You might have already noticed, but soccer – if that's even its real name – has a whole language to itself, separate from many other sports. Here's a bit of a guide to help you decipher, so you won't always be asking What Do You Mean? Justin-Bieber style.
First, the basics. If you want to know all the rules of the game, Take a gander at this lovely PDF provided by FIFA. It will teach you everything you could possibly want to know. If you have any questions after reading that, email or tweet me, and I'll clear it up for you. Sorry to assign you homework.
Speaking of FIFA, though, brief rundown of how soccer works. FIFA, or Federation Internationale de Football Association, is the international governing body of the sport. The United States Soccer Federation, commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is the U.S.'s soccer governing body, which is a member of FIFA. MLS, or Major League Soccer (the league Minnesota United FC is about to play in), is the top division professional soccer league in the U.S./Canada, and U.S. Soccer sanctions it. See the levels?
OK, on to a glossary! (Not in alphabetical order because reasons.)
Soccer: Or football if you’re in the UK. Or futbol if you’re in a Spanish-speaking country. Or Calcio if you’re in Italy. Call “the beautiful game” whatever feels right to you. Don’t let Europeans shame you for being American and calling it soccer. And don’t let Americans shame you for being un-American by calling it anything else. Just do you, you unique little butterfly.
Pitch: Not to be confused with throwing a baseball, a pitch is a soccer field.
Kits: Not a baby fox nor a first aid box, but uniforms! Jerseys are also called “shirts” while cleats are called “boots.” Also. home and away jerseys are termed "primary and secondary kits." Sometimes, there is even a "third kit." Teams usually get one new kit a year, so the new kit becomes the primary kit with the former primary kit becoming the secondary kit.
Gaffer: Another name for the head coach. Can also be called a “manager.” The boss, essentially. For United, that's Adrian Heath.
Goalkeeper: Or keeper. The person in the goal who can use his/her hands to stop the opposing team from scoring. Try not to say goalie, like in hockey.
FC: Football Club. Many teams have “FC” at the end of their names, like Minnesota United FC. If it’s a Spanish-speaking club, it might have “CF” at the end, like Real Madrid CF. That’s the same thing but en espanol, Club de Futbol. Some teams, like Orlando City in MLS. have tacked on SC for “Soccer Club.” Not every team needs to have this in its name, it has just become a common theme.
Point: MLS, like many soccer leagues, is a point-based system. So, three points for a win, one point for a draw, a.k.a. tie, and zero for a loss. The most points at the end of the season wins the regular season title, called the Supporters’ Shield in MLS.
Table: The standings. "Minnesota United sits atop the table," means United is first in the standings.
Side: Another way to reference a team. Also, club. "Fellow MLS side D.C. United ..."
Friendly: An exhibition. A match that doesn’t mean anything in terms of official results.
Match: Speaking of, games are referred to as matches in soccer.
Caps: Appearances. If a player has been capped once by the U.S. national team, it means he or she has played for the team once. Not necessarily a start.
Stoppage time: While there are two 45-minute halves in soccer, with the clock counting up from zero and not resetting after the 15-minute halftime, the game won’t always end right at 45 minutes and 90 minutes. That’s because in soccer, the clock doesn’t stop for injuries, fouls, substitutions, etc. Therefore, at the end of each half, the referee can add stoppage time, usually between one and five minutes, to make up for some of those delays. It’s at the referee's discretion how much is added, but a minimum of the time announced must be played.
After extra time: Not to be confused with the above, after extra time, or A.E.T., happens if the game is still tied after regulation and a winner must be determined (like in the playoffs, for example). It's an extra two 15-minute periods played. If it's still tied after that, the match goes to a penalty shootout, which is best of five or sudden death after that.
Yellow card: Not to be confused with Yellowcard. Also known as a caution card. The referee will show a player a yellow card to officially warn him or her, usually after several fouls or some other naughty behavior. Two yellow cards in a game equals a red card, with the player immediately ejected from the current game and suspended the next. Players can also be suspended for a game on yellow card accumulation, starting when they reach five.
Red cards: Means an immediate ejection from the current game and suspension from the next. Straight red cards are used for something flagrant, like obstructing a goal-scoring opportunity or violent conduct. Once a player has been sent off, the team cannot replace him, meaning the team must play “a man down.” It's non-ideal.
Offside: Dun, dun DUNNNNN. The most daunting thing about soccer. What is the offside rule? Don’t panic. If Keira Knightley’s mom in Bend It Like Beckham can figure it out, you can, too. Essentially, a player is in an offside position if he or she is in the opposing team’s half of the field and is closer to that goal line than the ball and the second-to-last opponent (usually the last defender besides the goalkeeper). If that offside player then becomes involved in play, the assistant referee on the sideline will flag that player and give the opposing team an indirect free kick from the spot of the offside offense. That’s a lot of words, but basically, look for this. When a player passes the ball to a teammate, if that teammate is behind the opposing team’s back-line of defenders when the ball is passed, then he or she is offside and will be penalized as soon as he or she touches the ball after the pass. Offside stuff is hard to catch unless you’re looking at the right place at the right time, so don’t worry if it takes you some time to catch it. The rule is in place to prevent attacking players from just hanging out by an opponent’s goal and waiting for a pass to score. This video is helpful, too.
Free kicks: Can be direct and indirect. Are awarded after fouls committed by the opposing team as a way to restart play. A goal can be scored from a direct free kick – those usually occur close to the box, and you’ll see the opposing team line up in a wall to try and block it – as another player doesn't have to touch the ball before it goes to goal. Indirect free kicks have to be touched by another player and thus can’t score goals because they’re not … direct.
Tackle: Not like that other kind of football’s tackling. Soccer tackling is a way of winning the ball back from an opposing player using your feet. The most flashy kind is a slide tackle, where a player will slide in front of an opposing player to sweep the ball away with his feet. Here's Adrian Heath of the past explaining how soccer tackling works.
Dribble: The same thing as dribbling in basketball but done with the feet. A way to travel across the pitch while in possession with the ball. And here's Adrian Heath again.
And now, one random question that I wanted to address:
"What's up with the little kids walking onto the field with players?"
Soccer's prematch rituals are very interesting compared to other American sports. Both teams will walk out onto the field, usually holding the hands of small children also in soccer garb, and will stand in a straight line with the refs in the middle as the national anthem(s) play. The captains of the teams will be closest to the refs in the middle, as well. The kid mascots are usually youth soccer players from the area or academy players. I think it is mostly just a community outreach/PR thing. And I think FIFA might have started doing it back, like, 20 years ago, as a way to raise awareness for UNICEF and other charities? The origin story is a bit of a mystery.
OK, so, there you have it. Let me know if you're still confused about something. Hopefully, I'll have a more MLS-specific FASQ posted soon-ish. Otherwise, please check out the Star Tribune's special section for soccer running March 3! It will be chock-full of great content on Minnesota United and soccer in general. Also, thanks for bearing with me through the multiple pop-song references in this post.