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What Is A Pitch In Soccer?

What Is A Pitch In Soccer?

You could fill a book with the differences between British English and American English — the two countries might share a language, but there are plenty of points of disagreement on it. Many of these can be found within the world of sport, perhaps the most significant being the football vs soccer debate. The term 'soccer' was first invented in the 19th century as an abbreviation for "association football" (the traditional name of the sport in England) and exported across the world by the British, but these days it has mostly been rejected by people in the UK, and you'll regularly see fans of the game on either side of the pond clashing about what to call it.

Another key term that's regularly disputed within the world of soccer (or football) relates to the field of play. Each professional game might take place on an almost-identical rectangle of crisp green grass, but don't expect people to agree on what to call it. In this article, we'll be focusing on this aspect of the beautiful game, explaining what people mean when they talk about a pitch in soccer, and detailing where this part of our soccer vocabulary first came from.

What Is A Pitch In Soccer?

In soccer, "pitch" is the word that is used to describe the field of play, which many American fans would call the "soccer field".

Given the popularity of baseball and the widespread use of the term "pitch" meaning to throw a ball toward home plate in baseball, this name can be a little confusing to some supporters in the US. However, there is a simple explanation for the difference, which we'll get into shortly.

In professional 11-a-side soccer, a pitch is a large rectangle space delineated by various white markings; there are the outline markings of the pitch, the two penalty areas and six yard boxes, the centre circle, the halfway line, the centre spot and the corners of the pitch, all marked out in white to make key zones of the field clearly visible and help referees enforce the laws of the game. There needs to be consistency across the board when it comes to soccer pitches and their markings, otherwise the sport would soon be reduced to chaos.

Why Is A Soccer Field Called A Pitch?

The term 'pitch' can be traced back to the early days of association football. The sport was first formalised in 1861 when the Laws of the Game were founded at the English Football Association's inaugural meeting. And back then, one of the primary reasons for associations football's existence was to provide cricket players with a form of exercise and entertainment during the winter months when it was too wet and muddy to play their favoured bat and ball sport. 

This is where the word "pitch" comes from; traditionally, the verb "pitch" in English mean "to fit firmly in place", so when cricket was invented the action of putting stumps into the ground to set up a game was referred to as "pitching".

The outdoor space used for these early cricket matches was dubbed a "pitch" and when association football first became widespread as cricketers tried to keep fit during winter, they would often use the same fields of play as the cricketers, meaning that they camae to call the football field of play a "pitch" too.

How Long Is A Soccer Pitch?

The size of pitches in professional soccer is dictated by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), whose official regulations state that "a field must be rectangular and marked with continuous lines." According to IFAB, a full-size soccer pitch must be between "100-130 yards in length." As well as the length, width is also accounted for, with the regulations stating that pitches "may be anywhere from 50-100 yards in width". These rules are in place for club soccer, but in international football the standard pitch length is 110-120 yards long (and 70 to 80 yards wide).

The level of variation when it comes to pitch sizes reflects the different geographical locations and financial restrictions that must be taken into account at each football ground across the world. While Manchester United may have a large pitch at their 74,000-capacity stadium Old Trafford, you can't expect the same size field of play at a League Two team with a small ground squeezed into residential backstreets.

Soccer Pitch Dimensions: More Information

Pitch length and width aren't the only things that there are regulations in place for; despite the fact that the size of different soccer fields can vary across the world, there are some things that need to remain consistent. For example, it's thought by many that the ideal soccer pitch is 120 yards (360 ft) by 75 yards (225 ft), and this will be the target for a lot of clubs.

Other important considerations are shape and structure, with IFAB stating that "the field of play must be rectangular and marked with continuous lines which must not be dangerous". As well as centre circle markings and touchlines, there also have to be goal lines which "must be of the same width as the goalposts and the crossbar", and an arc on the edge of the penalty area that shows players where they can stand in the event of a penalty kick.

The average size for an adult soccer field is around 81,000 square feet, or 1.86 acres. It's a large space, and if players aren't cut out to deal with the physical demands of covering this field of play, they'll struggle! If stamina and fitness concerns put you off playing on a full-size 11-a-side soccer pitch, there are also various other smaller-sided football games you can play, from 7v7 games (typically played on artificial 3G pitches) to the hugely popular global sport of futsal, played with five players per team on a small indoor court.

If you'd like to find out more about the exact size and shape of different soccer fields or pitch, head over to our in-depth guide to the dimensions of a soccer field.