I know, bold claim.
First, let me state that as an international citizen, I am fully aware that my opinion is bound to prickle some pigskins. However, from growing up in Europe until the age of 18 to spending the last 5 years integrating myself into U.S. culture… I can definitively say soccer is better than football.
Hear me out: As a European, I grew up with soccer, so I’ve been kicking that ball around for a while. I played soccer for over 13 years, including clubs such as Atletico de Madrid (despite being a Real Madrid fan) and Getafe. I’ve attended over 500 Real Madrid matches at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (yes, really). I’ve traveled to 3 different Champions League Finals (Lisbon 2014 vs Atletico, Cardiff 2017 vs Juventus, and Paris 2021 vs Liverpool).
Suffice to say, I’m a big fan of the sport. And I’m not anti-football either. Since coming to America, I’ve done my best to understand it and watch with the same joy I have for soccer. I’ll give you this—American sports are entertaining. After the insistence of friends and teammates, I ended up watching several Eagles games, which I certainly enjoyed, and now happily consider myself a Birds fan.
Still, you just can’t beat soccer.
1. It’s the World’s Game
There’s no arguing it—football reigns king in America. But for the rest of the world? Even as we see the sport start to branch out, its popularity is “meh” at best. Soccer, on the other hand…
No matter where you go, you’ll find soccer fans all over the world. From my home country, Spain, to any European, South American, Asian, or Oceanic nation, soccer is everywhere! Comparing all lists of the most followed sports worldwide, soccer stands clearly in first place while football falls to seventh.
Football consists of only the NFL (the National Football League, “National” referring to America), while soccer has 5 major leagues: the Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy), and Ligue 1 (France). Soccer also has major international club tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League (Europe) or Copa Libertadores (South America), where the best teams from each nation face each other. Then, of course, we have the FIFA World Cup, where the best countries in the world face each other. For most people, the World Cup is the best sporting competition in the world, only competing with the Olympics for this recognition. (Which, by the way, soccer has been part of the Olympics since 1990. Football was only ever played once, in 1932, as a demonstration.)
So while soccer players have numerous competitions at varying levels, creating a wider spectrum of achievements to compete for and a lot more excitement and opportunity for fans to watch year-round… football just has the Super Bowl. There are only 17 games in a season per team. I know, there’s also college football, and I’ve heard arguments that the novelty of the game is what makes its culmination so exciting, which I guess is fair. But honestly, if you had the choice to watch the Eagles all year instead of just a few short months, wouldn’t you take it?
2. The World Cup Kicks the Super Bowl’s Butt (In Viewership)
Let’s talk a little more about the Super Bowl, though. After all, it’s occurring in just a few days. In soccer, the comparable event is the World Cup Final. (By the way, you’d be smart to start getting hype for soccer now if you’re not already, because the 2026 World Cup is going to be right here in Philly!)
As Philadelphia Soccer 2026 CEO Meg Kane recently said, “the total worldwide viewers of the NFL Super Bowl is somewhere between 97 and 105M people, which is a huge amount of people. However, the average World Cup match (not the final or semi-final) nearly doubles that audience.”
In fact, the World Cup final had 26 million viewers in the U.S. alone, where soccer is only the fourth most popular sport. FIFA has revealed Argentina’s shootout win over France in the final of the Qatar 2022 World Cup reached a global audience of 1.5 billion viewers. Soccer’s global governing body also stated that “around five billion people” engaged with the World Cup overall. Without defining that metric, FIFA said the figure was based off fans following tournament content across an array of platforms and devices.
It’s valid to say that the World Cup’s popularity is so high because the event only happens once every four years, plus there’s a component of national pride, as viewers who might not follow soccer closely throughout the season will still tune in to cheer for their country. However, the most watched standalone annual competition in the world remains in the soccer stands as well, as the 2021 UEFA Champions League Final had an estimated global reach of 275 million.
3. Soccer is More Accessible
As fans of a sport, people tend to imitate professional athletes and try to repeat their heroic moments. Hundreds of millions of people in the world practice amateur sports every day, and there’s a reason little league soccer (in America!) far outweighs any sort of youth football groups: soccer is cheap.
You won’t need to spend large amounts of money on equipment. All you need is a ball, boots, and some friends to play with. Sometimes you can even play on your own. I can’t count the number of times I’ve practiced alone with just a field or even a wall.
On the other hand, in amateur football, helmets, cleats, shoulder/chest protectors, upper leg padding, and mouthguards are all rightfully required. Currently, a helmet can cost around $300, including decals (the absolute cheapest I’ve seen on Amazon being about $130). The shoulder pads can reach $350, depending on the position the player plays. Overall, playing football is a lot less affordable than playing soccer, thus naturally less inclusive to anyone who might want to play.
4. Soccer is Safer
The last reason I believe soccer is better than football comes down to safety. Football is a much more physically taxing sport—hence all the expensive gear mentioned above—and players get injured more often (something we’re all more aware after Damar Hamlin, a whole other conversation in itself). Professional players know this, and are willing to take the risk of personal, potentially life-long injuries if it means getting to a championship. Dangerous plays occur without hesitation, and it’s part of what makes football so thrilling.
However, in soccer, players are more conscious of the risks involved, and less willing to take them. While still not the safest sport, studies show that soccer students are more than three times less likely to get injured than football student-athletes. Football tops the stats for most injuries per 1000 athletes in both practice and games while men’s and women’s soccer fall 5th and 4th at practice, and 3rd and 4rth in games, respectively. (Now, imagine how many less injuries soccer might have if they wore hefty gear like football players.)
Ball may be life, but it shouldn’t take yours away.
To conclude, the U.S. is a country where multiple sports coexist together, and most people support their local teams across the spectrum. In fact, 2023 was a huge year for Philly in the sports realm, managing to push the underdog Phillies into the World Series, the Philadelphia Union to the MLS Final, and our beloved Eagles to the Super Bowl!
It makes me imagine how soccer could exist side-by-side with the other sports in this country, and how the American public could benefit from the camaraderie (and profits) as the rest of the world does. So why do we keep comparing these two sports (myself included), when we, football and soccer fans alike, could all be living in harmony together? I hope to see it someday.
But with that said: it’s futbol, not soccer. So if we’re talking futbol vs. football… well, there’s only one true title.