World Cup Soccer: History in the World and United States

About the world cup soccer tournament, history of the game of football in the world and soccer in the United States.

The World Cup


The 1st soccer player was probably a prehistoric figure. Somewhere, somehow, at the close of a day of hunting he found a strange amusement in watching a roughly round object, perhaps a tangled bundle of weeds, roll where he kicked it. This sportive Everyman has never died. As an ancient Greek or Roman, he devised simple rules for this game. As an Eskimo, he used a leather ball filled with moss. As a Polynesian native, he kicked a football made of bamboo fibers. His present incarnation is in the thousands who play, and the millions all over the world who watch soccer games. For a few weeks every 4 years, these people turn their eyes toward the event which determines who will be the world soccer champions. That event is the World Cup competition, the most widely viewed sport event on earth.

The sport played at the World Cup is formally known as association football, and its principal center of development was England. Although several times outlawed in that country because the monarchs felt it took interest away from the military sport of archery, it stubbornly and steadily grew in popularity. By the early 19th century, several variations of the game were being played at the prestigious public schools of Eton, Harrow, and Rugby. At 1st, kicking was the only allowed method of propelling the ball, but a variation also permitting the ball to be carried was introduced by Rugby in 1823.

Eventually, it became apparent that some uniformity of rules would be necessary if the game was to be played competitively. In 1863, a number of the clubs devoted to the kicking game banded together as the London Football Association and adopted a set of uniform rules. This was the beginning of association football, later referred to as "assoc.," which was further corrupted into the term "soccer." Groups devoted to the ball-carrying game organized themselves into the Rugby Football Union in 1871, adopting the rules then in use at Rugby School, and that game has henceforth been known as rugby football.


The 1st year that a football-like game was recorded as having been played in the U.S. was 1609. In Colonial days, it was not an uncommon sight to see youths practicing kicking an inflated bladder on the village greens or in the fields. The sport attained collegiate recognition in the 1830s, being played at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. It became such a rough-and-tumble game that it was temporarily banned at the latter 2 institutions. In 1876, the aforementioned colleges, plus Rutgers and Columbia, formed the American Intercollegiate Football Association and adopted the Rugby rules, making American football a carrying as well as a kicking game. In the century or so since, the rules have continually changed, blending soccer and rugby rules, and adding strictly American features as well. The result is a sport that has over-shadowed U.S. participation in soccer and, with a couple of exceptions, American teams have fared poorly at the World Cup competitions in which they have participated.

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