For new football fans, it can be a bit of a challenge to master all the jargon. Even for longtime fans of the sport in the US, watching games from across the pond may find you scratching your head trying to understand some of the local terminology used. That’s why we’ve put together an English football dictionary for Americans for some of the language you’re likely to encounter.
Time added – noun
The amount of time added at the end of a half, determined by the refereeing team to make up the time the ball was not in play. Also called “stop time”.
Administration – noun
A club can “go into administration” when it cannot pay off outstanding debts. This is often accompanied by points deduction in the standings and can result in relegation. Often assets and membership in the league are transferred to a new legal company for a club to play after this process has begun. Some notable clubs that have recently gone into administration include Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Derby County and the largest, the Scottish Rangers in 2012.
Merge (Score) – adjective
In a two-legged match, the total combined score from both games is used to determine a winner.
Association football – noun
What Americans (and Canadians, Australians, South Africans and areas where other forms of football have historically been more popular) call the sport football. Usually abbreviated to just “football.” The word “soccer” actually comes from the “association” part of the name. At the end of the 19th century, the slang term staff member originated in England, which was then shortened to ‘football’.
Away goals rule – noun
Tie-breaking rule applied in some competitions for two-legged matches. If the teams are tied after both matches, the team that has scored the most goals away from home is declared the winner.
stunner – noun
- A very good goal, often a hard shot from distance. (e.g.: “Another bang from Kane!”)
- A sausage, often served as part of a “full English” breakfast, which can be enjoyed in many pubs across the US in the early hours of the morning while watching English football.
Banter / Bantz – noun
Mocking, teasing or similar comments exchanged with a rival team or supporters; talk garbage.
dental braces – noun
The act of scoring two goals in one match (ex: “Silva scored his third brace of the season on Saturday.”)
Byline – noun
The back line on the field, the shorter side running from corner to corner. Also called the goal line.
Cheeky – adjective
Something clever, sometimes unconventional (e.g. “cheeky pass right there, right between the defender’s legs!”)
Squatter – noun
- A very exciting match
- A highly anticipated upcoming match
- A great goal (e.g., “Henderson’s second goal was a cracker!”)
Cup tie – noun
Informal expression for a match between two clubs in a cup competition
Cup bound – adjective
If a player appears for a club during a cup competition, that player is said to be “cup tied” to that club. If that player moves to another club before the end of that same competition, he cannot play for his new club because he is “tied” to his previous one.
Double – noun
A club winning the national championship and first cup competition in the same season would have “done double”. In addition, a treble wins three trophies in one season. Winning a treble in one season is incredibly rare.
Draw – noun
A match that ends when both teams have scored an equal number of goals. A draw.
Extra time – noun
Similar to overtime in American sports. Only used in knockout games where a winner is required if a match is tied after 90 minutes. Played as two 15 minute halves for a total of 30 minutes.
FA cup – noun
The primary domestic cup competition for teams playing in the England league system. It is the oldest national football competition in the world and is open to every club from the ninth tier of the English pyramid up to and including the Premier League. A record 763 clubs took part in the 2011–12 edition of the FA Cup.
Firm – noun
An organized group of supporters of a club historically associated with hooliganism in the UK. Called “Ultras” throughout Europe and known as “Barra Bravas” in parts of Latin America. The American equivalent, and much less associated with hooliganism, are supporters groups such as the Timber’s army or Northern Guard.
First time – adjective
When a player hits a shot or pass without checking the ball first. Similar to the North American ice hockey terms ‘one-timer’ or ‘one touch pass’.
Luminaire – noun
A specific match mentioned on the schedule. Or “schedules” would be a list of scheduled matches.
Tap – verb
When a ball is played quickly without checking it first, usually with the head.
Football – noun
- The sport we call football – see Association football
- The ball itself, used to play the sport
football league, the – noun
Officially known since 2016-2017 as the English Football League (EFL), the Football League was founded in 1888 and is the oldest football league in the world. It was the top division for English football until 1992 when the top 22 teams of the First Division broke away to form the Premier League we know today. The current EFL is divided into the Championship (Division 2), League One (Division 3) and League Two (Division 4).
foot – noun
Abbreviation for football (the sport).
Gaffer, the – noun
Slang term for the manager/head coach of a team.
Ground – noun
A football stadium.
In touch – preposition
When the ball goes out of bounds, beyond the touchline or sideline (e.g.: “…and the ball goes into touch and that’s a throw-in”) – see Sideline
A soccer uniform. It can also be used in the term full kit wankerie someone who wears socks, shorts and a shirt.
cup – noun
Steep stands in terraces behind the goals. The most famous, for example, is The Kop behind one of the goal mouths at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool. A Kop is named after a hill in South Africa where the Battle of Spion Kop took place.
League Cup – noun
The secondary cup competition in England (after the FA Cup), only open to clubs in the four top divisions (Premier League, EFL Championship, League One and League Two). Since 1981, it has often been officially known by a company-sponsored name, such as the Carling Cup, Capital One Cup, or its current name, the Carabao Cup.
Matching – noun
Another word for game
Nutmeg – verb
Kicking the ball between the legs of a defender.
Phoenix club – noun
A club formed to replace a previous club that has folded. These clubs usually adopt the same colors and names as their processors. Examples include AFC Wimbledon, Hereford FC, Bury AFC and many others over the years.
Pitch – noun
Premier League – noun
The top division of English football and arguably the best professional league in the world. Founded in 1992, the Premier League is an escape from the existing structure of the Football League. See also our Premier League beginners guide.
Promotion – noun
Win a place in a higher league based on results at the end of a season. A team can be promoted automatically, or participate in a play-off based on positioning to determine who deserves a promotion spot. Two teams are automatically promoted from the EFL Championship to the Premier League and from League One to the Championship. Three League Two clubs are automatically promoted to League One and one National League club is automatically promoted to League Two. At each of these levels, an additional team is promoted by winning a promotion playoff tournament.
Teams cannot be promoted on the pitch in the North American football pyramid. However, many have bought their way up the league by purchasing an expansion franchise – such as the Portland Timbers (USL->MLS), Minnesota United FC (NASL->MLS), Detroit City FC (NISA->USL), The Miami FC (NISA->USL), and the first team to do so, the Seattle Sounders (USL->MLS) in 2009.
degradation – noun
Being sent down to a lower division based on results at the end of a season. In England, teams are automatically relegated and do not participate in a play-off like in some other countries. The bottom three teams are relegated from the Premier League to the EFL Championship, three from the Championship to League One, four from League One to League Two and two from League Two to the National League. You can’t get relegated through results in American football (or sports in general), but sometimes teams voluntarily move to a lower tier to cut costs or reduce travel costs. The Richmond Kickers, Charleston Battery, Rochester NY FC (formerly the Rhinos), among others, have done this in the past.
Supporter – noun
Fan of a club, often but not always referring to the hardcore, more rambunctious type of fan.
Table – noun
League standings, ranked in descending order with the team with the most points at the top. Three points are awarded for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss.
Terrace(s) – noun
The standing area of the stadium where fans stand atop concrete steps. Dating from days gone by when many of the spectator areas in stadiums were really just terraced standing areas with no seats. Many smaller grounds still have standing terracing, but these have been banned in the higher tiers of English football since the late 1980s following the Hillsborough disaster.
Sideline – noun
The sideline on the field, the entire length of the field.
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