Soccer VS American Football

Soccer and football are two names that confuse many across the world. Some use them interchangeably without knowing that they could be meaning two different sports. However, the answer depends on your viewpoint and more so where you live. 

So, what are the major differences between soccer and American football? Well, many things set the two sports apart. In this soccer vs football guide, we have put together some of the main differences between these two sports. 

Ball Holding 

In soccer, only the goalkeeper is allowed to hold the ball with hands. However, there are limitations on where he or she can use hand and for how long. The goalkeeper is only allowed to hold the ball with his penalty box and not for more than 6 seconds.  

The other players can other parts of the body to control the ball other than hands. In American football, it is a bit different when it comes to holding the ball. All the 11 players are allowed to hold the ball in their hands.  


In soccer, tackling is treated a foul if it was not aimed at the ball. The team from the player committed a foul losses possession of the ball to the opposing team. If the tackle is deemed bad and aimed at the player, the player could be warned with a yellow card or red-carded and expelled for the rest of the match.  

American football, however, tackling is the part of the game. It is one of the techniques that is used by the opposing team to get the upper hand in the game control. However, dangerous tackles are discouraged and could cost the team a penalty, where they lose ground. 

three football players at the stadium

Fouls and Penalties 

Fouls committed during a soccer match are penalised by a penalty shot, yellow card (warning), expulsion (red card) or a free-kick. Another foul that is penalised in soccer is offside. This is where a player passes the ball to the teammate that is behind the last defender of the opposing team. Offside fouls result in the team losing possession to the opposing side. 

Foul plays in the American football are penalised by a loss of yards against the opposing team. In case the tackling team is the offence, the penalty could be losing the first down. But in extreme cases where the foul could lead to suspensions. 

Instant Replay 

Instant replay is where the decision of the coach is double-checked ensure fail play for both teams. In soccer, the decision of the referee is final in most cases. However, some of the big soccer tournaments are now using Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology whenever there is a dispute.  

In American football, they use technology to maintain fairness in the field. That’s because many tries and touchdowns are difficult to spot using a naked eye. That’s why technology continues to be used double referee’s decision throughout the game. 


In soccer, the scoring is pretty simple. What the player need is for the ball to cross the goal line and between the goalposts of the opposing team. The team with majority goals at the end of the game wins the match and is awarded 3 points. If the score is even, every team gets 1 point. 

In American football, there two different ways to score. One way of scoring is running with the ball to the end of the field of the opposing side and score a touchdown of 6 points, which is then followed by a field goal that earns a point if successful. The second way is kicking the through the goalposts, and this earns the team 3 points. 

Time Limit and Game Length 

soccer field practice

In soccer, time rules are pretty simple. The match last for 90 minutes, which is split into two 45 minutes halves. Each half if separated by a 15 minutes breaks. During both halves, any stoppage time because counts as the injury time in the end.  

In the American football, a match each game is split into 15-minute quarters with a 15-minute break half-time break. However, the half-time break could be extended if it is a Superbowl. The clock always halts in football whenever the ball is not in play. So, there is no injury time. In football, three timeouts of 5 minutes per game are allowed. 


In both sports, substitutions are allowed. In soccer, the substitution rules are very strict. The coach is only allowed to change three players per game. But once the player is substituted, they cannot go back to the field for the remainder of the match. 

In American football, substitution rules are a bit lenient. The coach is not limited to how many times he can switch a player. Therefore, substituted players can go back to the game after resting. The coach can also play around with more players for substitution than in soccer. 

These are some of the major differences between soccer and American football. However, there are also many other similarities between the two games.