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soccer ball Soccer, also known as "football" worldwide, is an 11-a-side game where the object is to score the most goals.  It is the world's most popular sport, played in roughly 200 countries.  Modern soccer originated in England during the mid-nineteenth century, but evidence suggests that soccer-like games were played in China over 2,000 years ago.

soccer player The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) governs soccer worldwide, including Olympic competitions and the World Cup in which teams from 32 countries compete.  FIFA has specific rules for field size and markings.

The soccer field must be rectangular and between 50-100 yards wide and 100-130 yards long.  Sidelines and end lines define the areas of play.  There is a goal at each end, surrounded by netting.  The goal is 8 feet high and 24 feet wide.  Standard soccer balls are leather with a black and white pattern, although they may be any color; the circumference of a soccer ball is 27-28 inches.

soccer game The four main positions are goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and attacker.  Three or four defenders, known as fullbacks, are the last line of defense before the goal.  Midfield is comprised of three or four halfbacks, which must defend the goal and be on the offensive.  Attacking positions are called forwards, and teams usually employ two, three or four forward players.

The game is preceded with a coin toss.  The team winning the coin toss chooses whether they want to kick-off or defend.  Play is started with a kick-off, and the player starting the kick-off may not kick the ball again until another player has touched it.  The players of one team attempt to pass the ball to each other by kicking or dribbling it until one of them is in a position to score, by kicking or heading the ball into the goal.  Only the goalkeeper may touch the ball with his hands.  When the ball has gone out of bounds by crossing the sidelines, it is restarted by a throw-in.  When it has crossed the goal line without entering the goal, play is restarted by a goal kick or a corner kick.  Penalties are awarded for offenses such as being "offside," which occurs if a member of the offense is closer to the opponent's goal than the ball at any given moment.  An indirect free kick is then awarded to the opposing team.  After a goal has been scored, play is restarted by a kick-off from the team who was scored against.  The game is also restarted in this way after half time, which occurs 45 minutes into the game.

In amateur league games and professional games, the players wear matching shorts and jerseys featuring their individual numbers.  The goalkeeper wears a different colored jersey to distinguish himself, and gloves to protect his hands.  Shin pads are required and shoes with cleats (rubber or plastic studs) are worn.

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