Billions of people around the world enjoy the sport of soccer every year. It has a history that you can trace back almost 3,000 years!
In all that time, there has been a lot of interesting and surprising facts that have appeared.
I’ve been involved in soccer for over 20 years and have probably heard thousands of facts and statistics in that time. But for this list, I’ve picked my top 101 soccer facts for you.
I wanted to share this list of facts and information with you because it is fascinating to see all these details laid out, but also when I look for facts myself, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of “facts” out there that are simply not true!
I’ve done my best to fact-check this list to make sure you’re getting an accurate, interesting, and often surprising list of true facts.
I’ve also put a link to more information next to some of them if you’re interested.
So, let’s get into it! Here are 101 soccer facts:
Soccer Facts: 1-10
1. Soccer is the most popular game in the world. Over 265 million people regularly play the game.
2. The first soccer game shown on TV was between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves at Highbury Stadium, London in 1937.
3. The FA Cup is the world’s oldest soccer competition. Still played in England every year, this competition began all the way back in 1872.
4. Women started playing soccer around the same time as men did in England in the 1800s. And the women’s game was popular up until the 1930s. However, women’s soccer declined in popularity after the governing body in England banned women from playing.
5. Around 3.5 billion people consider themselves soccer fans.
7. Referees were not included in soccer games until 1891. Up until this point, the team captains would resolve any dispute during a game.
8. A soccer field is also known as a pitch. This name derives from the fact that the first soccer games were often played on cricket pitches. (Find out why here)
9. The oldest professional soccer club in the world still in existence today is Sheffield FC. Founded in 1857, they have played in multiple different tiers in England.
10. The country of Greenland has never had a FIFA-recognized team because Greenland is an autonomous part of Denmark and not an independent nation. It is therefore not allowed to participate according to FIFA statutes.
Soccer Facts: 11-20
11. The first FIFA World Cup tournament was hosted by the South American country Uruguay.
12. Neymar Jr’s move from FC Barcelona to Paris St. Germain for a sum of $263 million is the most expensive transfer in soccer history.
13. The Football Association in England wrote the first official rules of the game in 1863. Representatives from eleven different clubs around the nation gathered to agree on a set of common rules that would be accepted across the entire country.
14. The word soccer was first used in England. The word soccer derives from a shortened version of the word “Association” which was part of the name of the governing body for soccer in England in the 1800s.
15. The highest scoring soccer match in history was AS Adema 149–0 SO l’Emyrne. On October 31, 2002, these two teams played each other in Antananarivo, Madagascar. SO l’Emyrne scored 149 own goals as a protest against a previous referee’s decision. (Find out more here)
17. The winners of the last women’s FIFA World Cup were awarded $4 million in prize money.
18. The fastest red card in World Cup history came after 56 seconds during a Scotland v Uruguay game in 1986. Uruguay player Batista was sent off for a poorly timed tackle on Scottish player Gordon Strachan within the first minute of the game.
19. The fastest red card in soccer history was shown to Lee Todd who was sent off after being on the soccer field for just two seconds in October 2000. Cross Farm Park Celtic striker, Lee Todd was dismissed for use of “foul language”.
20. The most own goals scored in a single soccer game was 149 by Madagascar’s Stade Olympique de L’Emyrne in October 2002 as a protest against the referee’s decision.
Soccer Facts: 21-30
21. The word soccer is used in the US to differentiate this sport from the more popular game of football. (Find out more here)
22. Soccer is played in over 200 countries around the world.
23. Only 9 countries in the world use the word “soccer” rather than “football” as the primary term for the game.
25. The first soccer game in the USA was played between Princeton and Rutgers Universities on November 6, 1876, in New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers University beat Princeton 6-4.
26. Goalies did not wear different colored shirts from the other players on the field until 1913. (Find out more here)
27. With a capacity of 114,000, the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in North Korea is the biggest soccer stadium in the world.
28. A European team has reached the final of the FIFA World Cup in every tournament except for the finals in 1930 and 1950.
29. At 40 years old, Dino Zoff became the oldest player to win the FIFA World Cup when Italy beat West Germany 3-1 at the 1982 World Cup finals.
30. In 2018, Essam El-Hadary became the oldest player to ever compete in a FIFA World Cup. He appeared for Egypt at the age of 45.
Soccer Facts: 31-40
31. The largest soccer tournament to ever take place was the Bangkok League Seven-a-Side Competition in 1999. At least 5,098 teams took part in the tournament and more than 35,000 players participated.
32. Stephan Stanis has the record for the most goals scored in a single game of soccer. In 1942 he scored 16 goals in one game for his team Racing Club de Lens.
33. Dutch soccer club – Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorzetten Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning Combinatie Breda – holds the record for the soccer team with the most letters in their name. Most people refer to them by the shorter name: NAC Breda.
34. Throughout a game soccer players run an average of 5 miles. Goalies run less than other players and midfielders often run the most. The maximum distance a soccer player runs in a game is 8.5 miles. (Find out more here)
36. Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player to have scored a goal in every minute of a soccer game. Throughout his career, he has registered a goal in every minute from 1 through 90.
37. Brazilian goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni holds the record for scoring more goals throughout his career than any other goalie to play the game. While playing for Sao Paulo FC he registered a total of 131 goals.
38. The rules of soccer consist of 17 individual laws that cover everything from the weight of the ball to who can take a goal kick.
39. The fastest hat-trick in a soccer game was scored by Sadio Mane in 2015. He scored 3 goals in 2 minutes 56 seconds while appearing for Southampton against Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
40. Wales soccer player, Mark Hughes once played two competitive games in one day. On November 11, 1987, he appeared for Wales against Czechoslovakia in Prague before appearing as a substitute for Bayern against Borussia Mönchengladbach later in the day.
Soccer Facts: 41-50
41. A goalkeeper can only hold a soccer ball for a maximum of 6 seconds at a time. (Find out more here)
42. Kazuyoshi Miura from Japan is the oldest professional soccer player to play the game. At 53 years old he plays for Yokohama FC in the Japanese League and has been playing since he was only 15 years old.
43. The result of the 1968 European Championship Semi-final between Italy and the Soviet Union was decided by a coin toss. At this point in soccer history, penalty shootouts had not been introduced and a tied game was often decided by a toss of a coin.
44. The US men’s soccer team won both bronze and silver medals at the 1904 Olympics. Although FIFA doesn’t;t recognize these results the International Olympic Committee does.
46. USA goalkeeper Jimmy Douglas was the first player to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup game. In a game against Belgium in 1930 the US won 3-0.
47. A soccer game lasts for a total of 90 minutes. The game is split into two 45 minutes periods with a 15-minute break between them.
48. A soccer player can score a goal from the first kick of the game. The kick-off is a direct kick which means the ball can be kicked straight into the opposition’s goal. (Find out more here)
49. A goalkeeper can score a goal for their team. Goalies rarely score in soccer and when they do it is often from a free-kick, penalty kick, or corner. (Find out more here)
50. The USA beat England 1-0 in 1950 and the US player that scored wasn’t even a US Citizen. Joe Gaetjens who worked in New York City as a dishwasher was from Haiti and never received US citizenship.
Soccer Facts: 51-60
51. Most soccer balls are made from layers of synthetic leather on the outside and bladders inside the ball are made from latex or butyl.
52. The maximum number of players permitted to appear on a soccer team at one time is 11. (Find out why here)
53. A soccer field is rectangular in shape and must be between 100 and 130 yards long and 50 to 100 yards wide. (Find out more here)
55. Most participants in men’s Olympic soccer are limited to being 23 years old or younger. Only 3 players in each team can be over the age of 23. (Find out why here)
56. The most fans to ever attend one soccer game was 199,854 people who watched Brazil play Uruguay in 1950 in Rio de Janeiro.
57. Norway is the only international team to have never lost against Brazil. They have won twice and drawn two times.
58. There are over 5000 teams in the English soccer system. Each team can move up or down the leagues depending on how they perform each season. The Premier League is the top division.
59. The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be the first world cup to be played in a Northern Hemisphere winter.
60. The United States Women’s Soccer Team has won the women’s World Cup four times since it began in 1991.
Soccer Facts: 61-70
61. American Charles Goodyear created the first modern soccer ball in 1855. (Find out more here)
62. László Kubala is the only soccer player to have played for three different countries. During his career, he played for Argentina, Spain, and Columbia.
63. The longest penalty shootout on record consisted of 48 penalty kicks and took place at the end of a game between KK Palace and Civics in the Namibian Cup.
64. The earliest versions of soccer can be traced back almost 3,000 years to a game known as Cuju in China. (Find out more here)
66. The MLS is the only professional soccer league in the world that enforces a salary cap. Every other professional league is free to compensate their players however they like. (Find out why here)
67. Soccer and football share a common history. In the 1800s when soccer first appeared in the US some people didn’t like the way the game was developing and started playing “Gridiron Football” instead. (Find out more here)
68. If a player scores three goals in a single game they can take the match ball home with them as a memento of their achievement.
69. Soccer doesn’t use timeouts. The only stoppages in a game are for a halftime break, when the referee stops the game for an infraction of the rules, or when the ball goes out of play. (Find out why here)
70. Unlike hockey, you can’t pull the goalie in soccer. The rules state that there must always be a goalie on the field for each team. (Find out why here)
Soccer Facts: 71-80
71. The record for scoring the fastest goal in soccer belongs to Nawaf Al-Abed who scored after just 2.4 seconds.
72. Archie Thompson has the record for the most goals scored in a single game when he scored 13 goals for Australia when they beat American Samoa 31-0.
73. Andrew Watson was the first black professional soccer player. He played regularly in the 1880s including three times at international level for Scotland.
74. Historically soccer players were given a cap each time they played in an international soccer game. This was to commemorate their appearance and is why international appearances by soccer players are still referred to as caps. (Find out more here)
75. British referee came up with the idea of using red and yellow cards in soccer while sitting at a stoplight. He figured that yellow was a warning and the meaning of red was to play no more.
76. In soccer, if a player is shown a red card by a referee they must leave the field of play immediately and can no longer contribute to the game in any way.
78. According to Forbes, soccer clubs are some of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.
79. The longest goal ever scored traveled 97.5 yards before ending in the goal net. Asmir Begovich scored this goal for Stoke City against Southampton in the English Premier League in 2013.
80. On September 25, 2011, Jone Samuelsen scored the longest-headed goal ever. He headed the ball a total of 190 ft 8.58 in (58.13 m) while playing for ODD Grenland vs Tromsø Idrettslag in Norway.
Soccer Facts: 81-90
81. In 2011 in Argentina, referee Damian Rubino gave out 36 red cards in a single game between Claypole and Victoriano Arenas. The referee sent off all 22 players and every substitute and some technical staff after a mass brawl broke out.
82. Lionel Messi holds the record for the most goals scored in a calendar year after scoring 91 goals throughout 2012.
83. The fastest shot ever recorded was Sporting Lisbon defender Ronny’s kick against Associacao Naval de Maio. His shot was recorded as traveling at 211km/hr (137mph).
85. Soccer balls are traditionally black and white so they are easy to see on a black and white TV. When this type of ball was introduced in the 1970 many people were watching soccer on black and white TVs. (Find out more here)
86. Soccer players wear long socks throughout a game to cover their shin guards. Shin guards are mandatory for players but so is keeping them covered at all times. (Find out why here)
87. More than 10,000 spectators watched the first-ever women’s soccer game when it was played on March 23, 1895, at Crouch End Athletic Ground, London, England. In this game, a team called North beat a team called South 7-1.
88. Soccer jersey numbers were first introduced in 1928 when the English team’s Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday wore them on the back of their jerseys during a competitive game against each other.
89. Substitutions were not permitted during a soccer game until 1965. And at that point, only one substitution was allowed for each team. (Find out more here)
90. Former USA goalkeeper Tim Howard holds the record for the most saves in a single World Cup game. In 2014 he made 16 saves as the USA lost a game to Belgium 2-1 after extra time.
Soccer Facts: 91-101
91. France, Uruguay, Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Germany, Spain, and England are the only eight countries to have won the World Cup.
92. Every nation that has won the FIFA World Cup and every runner-up is located in Europe or South America.
93. The size and weight of a soccer ball are the same in every professional soccer game. The ball must have a circumference of between 27 ins (68 cm) and 28 ins (70 cm) and weigh between 410 g (14 oz) and 450 g (16 oz).
94. There are 11 main positions in soccer: goalkeeper, center-back, sweeper, fullback, wingback, center-midfielder, defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder, winger, forward, and striker. (Find out more here)
95. Canadian forward Christine Sinclair is the all-time leading goalscorer in women’s international soccer. At the time of writing, she had scored an incredible 188 international goals.
96. The majority of countries around the world call the game football or a variation of that word, such as Fútbol.
98. The largest floating soccer stadium in the world can be found in Singapore. With a capacity of 27,000, the stadium was officially opened in April 2007.
99. The first soccer player to be transferred between teams was Jack Southworth in 1893 who was sold from Blackburn Rovers to Everton for $500.
100. Brazilian Pelé is the only soccer player to have won the World Cup three times.
101. Penalty shoot-outs weren’t introduced into soccer until 1970.
As soccer great Pelé once said, soccer is a “beautiful game”.
If you want some more interesting soccer information, check out one of my following articles: