As the Timbers hoist the top prize yesterday, the MLS Cup Trophy, Portland has cemented its position as Soccer City USA. Liam Ridgewell, Timber’s center back from England, calls the sport “football.” Why do us Americans use a different name?
Actually, the British were the first to use the word “soccer.” An Oxford student, Charles Wredford Brown, is credited with coining the name in 1863. British schoolboys liked to nickname everything and often added an “er” to such names. At the time, soccer and rugby were both commonly known as “association football” and “rugby football,” respectively. “Association football” became “soccer.” The “soc” was taken from “association” and an “er” was added. “Rugby” became “rugger.” Charles was asked if he would like to play a game of “rugger” and responded that he preferred “soccer.”
Rugby and soccer were originally sports for gentlemen, primarily played by the upper echelons of society. As they spread to the masses, “association rugby” did not catch-on and “association football” became known as just “football.” Other countries, such as the US, had meanwhile developed other popular sports that were being called “football,” and kept the prior name of “soccer” to avoid any confusion.
Congratulations Association Football City USA.