What Ball Game Is Played In More Countries Than Any Other?
Soccer, called football outside the United States, is played throughout the world. According to ancient manuscripts and drawings, the Chinese played a game called tsu-chu (means "kicking the ball with the feet") during the second century B.C. The Japanese played a similar game called kemari, in which teams tried to kick a ball through a goal staked out by trees. Soccer was played in England in the early centuries (1000–), but modern rules for soccer were not set until 1863. English people took soccer with them when they emigrated to the American colonies. Soccer was played at the second Olympic Games (1900), and in 1904 twelve European nations founded the Federation Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA). The role of the organization was to sponsor international soccer competitions.
By 1912 countries in South America, Africa, Asia, and North America had joined the FIFA. The first World Cup (the major international soccer tournament) took place in 1930. This tournament, held every four years, is considered to be the premier world sports event and attracts billions of fans worldwide. Soccer was slow to become a professional sport in the United States. Though there was a North American Soccer League from 1967 to 1984, soccer could not match the popularity of such sports as baseball, basketball, and football. In 1996, U.S. Major League Soccer began its first season with ten teams.
Further Information: Clark, Brooks. Kids' Book of Soccer. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1997; Federation Internationale de Football Association. FIFA.com. [Online] Available http://www.fifa2.com, October 23, 2000; LaBlanc, Michael L. The World Encyclopedia of Soccer. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1994; Stewart, Mark. Soccer: A History of the World's Most Popular Game. New York: Franklin Watts, 1998.