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Have you ever wondered whether there’s a difference between a soccer game and a soccer match? If you have, you’re probably one of the millions of soccer fans around the world who get confused by these two phrases. Fear not, as we’re about to make things a lot clearer:
While the terms can be used interchangeably, there is a small difference that can be recognized between a soccer game and a soccer match. Speaking generally, the term soccer game is used for soccer events that are played non-competitively. On the other hand, the term soccer match is commonly used to refer to competitive soccer events.
In case this all still seems confusing, we’ve decided to dedicate this short article to all of the ins and outs of these similar soccer terms that get thrown out a lot. Enjoy the reading!
What is a Soccer game?
A soccer game can be any unofficial game of soccer. These games can be played 11v11, just like a standard game, or in any other form as the official rules of the game don’t apply to these games. Any game of soccer that is officiated by a certified referee or played under a trademark tournament can be considered casual or for fun.
There are a few types of soccer games, but we would like to underline the two most common ones:
- Friendly soccer game
- Pickup soccer game
A friendly soccer game is any game of soccer that is played without the competitive aspect that we’re used to in soccer. These are common in preparation stages before the official soccer season or a big tournament starts. Friendly soccer games are played to keep the team sharp, yet not get any of the players in danger of getting hurt. While there is an element of competitiveness in them, friendly soccer games are primarily used to test out tactics, players, and conduct various experiments on the field with no risk of losing any points or any other major drawbacks. Friendly games are a commonly utilized method to get the team ready for the season without using all of the competitive edge.
Pickup soccer games are another major part of every soccer player’s life. They are what keeps amateurs interested in soccer and what drives professionals to advance their skills even further. Most commonly, casual soccer pickup games are played in a smaller format than a FIFA-regulated game. This includes a potential reduction in team size, field size, as well as an absence of an official referee. This means that they bring no significance to the participating players’ life, other than being a source of fun.
What is a Soccer match?
A soccer match, on the other hand, is the term we typically use for official matches that have more of a competitive value. These games are played in official leagues and tournaments and they are supervised by FIFA officials.
Soccer matches, contrary to soccer games, need to follow the official rules of the game. This means that in order for a soccer event to be considered a proper match it needs to fulfill the following demands:
- The field of play needs to be suitable for FIFA matches.
- The ball needs to be certified by FIFA.
- The players and their equipment must fulfill all of the official requirements.
- The referee and other match officials need to be present and certified.
- All other rules of the game need to be followed.
This leads us to conclude that a soccer match is a much more serious sporting event than a regular game, which should come as no surprise. While a game can be played on any surface, with no goals, and with a few players on each side, a match must be played on a surface that is approved by FIFA. This means that only real and artificial grass can be considered as a playing surface. The size of the field also needs to follow the rule book, as well as all of the gear used by players. An official match must have 11 players on each team, as well as a certain number of substitutes (this depends on the competition). All of the participating players need to be dressed according to the rules, as well as equipped with mandatory protective gear (shin guards, etc.). Finally, the referee, as well as their assistants, need to be certified by FIFA or the national body that governs their league.
To conclude this section of the text, we must mention that the term match can also be used in some instances where it might be more suitable to use game instead: We tend to refer to important friendly games as matches, especially when they have a high personal meaning. This is especially noticeable in the European soccer culture where soccer rivalries are not commonly put aside in favor of enjoyment in the game. For example, a friendly game between two bitter rivals such as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will almost always be referred to as a match.
Differences between a soccer game and soccer match
For those who are still having issues with differentiating among these two soccer phrases, here’s a short summary of the main differences between a game and a match:
A soccer game is characterized by the following elements:
- A soccer game most commonly has no competitive value.
- A soccer game doesn’t have to abide by the official FIFA rules.
- A soccer game can be played in an amateur, semi-professional, or professional environment.
- A soccer game can be played on any surface, with any number of players.
A soccer match is characterized by the following elements:
- A soccer match most commonly has a competitive value.
- A soccer match must be played according to the official FIFA rules.
- A soccer match is most commonly played in a professional environment.
- A soccer match must follow all of the official rules related to the field of play, players, etc.
As apparent from everything listed above, a game and a match can be two wildly different things. Still, we continuously use the terms one instead of the other, causing confusion among millions of soccer fans.