Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

REID | Soccer Is Fundamentally Different From Other Sports

In this installment of “Between the Lines,” Owen Reid (CAS ’26) discusses the fundamental differences between soccer and other beloved, fast-paced American sports.
Audi Field | What sets soccer apart from other fast-paced, generally-American sports is its lack of designated stoppages.

In the eyes of many, soccer is a boring, monotonous, slow game that involves little action. Low scores and the emphasis on build-up play simply disinterest many sports lovers, particularly Americans — and, frankly, I don’t blame them. Americans are used to the fast-paced, high-scoring nature that sports like basketball and lacrosse provide. 

But this disinterest highlights the underlying reasons why the beautiful game is so beautiful. In comparison to other sports, soccer is based on a different set of rules, which lends itself to different tactics and strategies. This framework is what makes the game seemingly uninteresting for some, but beautiful for others. 

Soccer’s basic principles are the same as most other ball-and-goal sports: Get the ball in the other team’s goal, and prevent the other team from getting the ball in your goal. At its foundation, this is no different from lacrosse, hockey, basketball or even American football. Nonetheless, there are some key differences in the structure of matches that are the basis of soccer’s unique tactics and strategies. 

The timing and structure of play of a soccer game is crucial. Unlike many other sports, soccer has an extended 45- to 50-minute half. Teams do not have timeouts to interrupt the continuous flow of the game and cannot substitute players in and out of games as fluidly as other sports. These elements together combine to foster one of the lowest-scoring environments in athletics. 

Due to these differences in structure, soccer tactics are simply different. In basketball, lacrosse or hockey, for example, the substitutions and breaks in the game allow coaches and players to strategize on the sidelines before reentry. In American football, a whole defensive or offensive unit can regroup and strategize after each individual play. 

However, in soccer, this is simply not possible. A team is given only a 15-minute break at halftime to regroup. 

As a result, soccer’s pregame preparations are fundamentally different from other sports. In lacrosse or basketball, preparation for a game includes creating strategies designed for specific situations, also known as scouting. Lacrosse teams will often compartmentalize their training to specifically address how they will clear the ball from one side of the field to the other or how they will run a certain play on offense. The timeouts and substitutions lacrosse affords also allow coaches to adjust their plans and players to adjust their tactics mid-game. 

Soccer does not have this element of strategy. Compartmentalization is difficult because everyone does everything on a soccer field. As a result, training is both a whole team venture and a less specialized process. Soccer teams do not draw up specific plays, but rather emphasize patterns of attack or defensive mechanisms. Since soccer does not have designated stoppages and because the field is so large, rehearsed plays are often difficult to replicate in-game. 

These characteristics simply make soccer difficult to watch for a lot of sports fans in the United States who are used to the fast-paced nature of a game like basketball. 

Imagine if the Golden State Warriors just passed the ball around for 47 of the 48 minutes of a basketball game, with Steph Curry only burying one 3-point shot during the entirety of the game. American basketball fans would quickly lose interest. In my opinion, that’s exactly what people can’t get past with soccer, and that’s what makes the sport unique. 

In my view, one of two things will happen moving forward: Either Americans will maintain their traditional perspective that sports should be fast-paced, high-scoring and intense, and soccer will subsequently fall by the wayside; or Americans will shift their conceptions of what sport should be, and soccer will move into that new palette. 

With soccer rising in popularity in the United States over the last few decades, it seems that the beautiful game is finally beginning to reveal itself — and I’m all here for it.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *