Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer,[a] is a team sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal.
Association football is one of a family of football codes which emerged from various ball games played worldwide since antiquity. The modern game traces its origins to 1863 when the Laws of the Game were originally codified in England by The Football Association.
Players are not allowed to touch the ball with hands or arms while it is in play, save for the goalkeepers within the penalty area. Other players mainly use their feet to strike or pass the ball, but may also use any other part of their body except the hands and the arms. The team that scores most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is level at the end of the game, either a draw is declared or the game goes into extra time or a penalty shootout depending on the format of the competition. Association football is governed internationally by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA; French: Fédération Internationale de Football Association), which organises World Cups for both men and women every four years.
The rules of association football were codified in England by the Football Association in 1863 and the name association football was coined to distinguish the game from the other forms of football played at the time, specifically rugby football. The first written "reference to the inflated ball used in the game" was in the mid-14th century: "Þe heued fro þe body went, Als it were a foteballe". The Online Etymology Dictionary states that the word "soccer" was "split off in 1863". According to Partha Mazumdar, the term soccer originated in England, first appearing in the 1880s as an Oxford "-er" abbreviation of the word "association".
Within the English-speaking world, association football is now usually called football in the United Kingdom and mainly soccer in Canada and the United States. People in Australia, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand use either or both terms, although national associations in Australia and New Zealand now primarily use "football" for the formal name.
According to FIFA, the Chinese competitive game cuju (蹴鞠, literally "kick ball") is the earliest form of football for which there is evidence. Cuju players could use any part of the body apart from hands and the intent was kicking a ball through an opening into a net. It was remarkably similar to modern football, though similarities to rugby occurred. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), cuju games were standardised and rules were established.