Soccer (or football, as it’s known outside of the United States) is one of the most popular sports in the world. It’s played by all ages in most every country in the world. Soccer fans often refer to their field as a “pitch.” The average soccer field for adult play is 81,000 square feet, or 1.86 acres, but the sizes of soccer fields vary based on the level and age of players and where the field is located.
Youth and Student Soccer Field Sizes
Youth soccer fields are different sizes based on the age of the kids playing. For 7 and 8-year-olds, fields are in the range of 5,400-13,500 square feet, or 0.12-0.31 acres. Nine- and 10-year olds play on fields that range from 13,500 to 21,600 square feet, or 0.31 to 0.5 acres.
Typically, high school students play on fields that are between 49,500 and 86,400 square feet, or 1.14 and 1.98 acres. The NCAA mandates that college soccer fields range between 72,450 and 81,000 square feet, or 1.66 and 1.98 acres.
Adult Soccer Fields
The governing body for international soccer, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA) has set its standard range for soccer field dimensions at 69,300-86,400 square feet, or 1.59-1.98 acres. This is the range for field sizes for competitions like the World Cup. Their optimum field size is 76,590 square feet, which equals 1.77 acres.
For Major League Soccer, or MLS, America’s professional soccer league, there’s no set standard for field sizes. However, MLS does stipulate that its soccer fields be no smaller than 69,300 square feet, which is 1.59 acres.
A Little Perspective on Soccer Field Sizes
For a fun perspective of how FIFA-standard soccer fields shape up compared to other large spaces, let’s do some comparison. A standard private airport hangar is about 38,000 square feet, which is equivalent to 0.87 acres. It could easily fit inside a minimum-sized FIFA soccer field, which is 1.59 acres.
A minimum FIFA soccer field would also dwarf an American football field, which is 57,600 square feet, or 1.32 acres. An average professional baseball field is slightly larger than even the largest FIFA soccer fields at 90,000 square feet, or 2.07 acres.
A History of Soccer
The game Americans now call soccer originated in China around 2,000 years ago. Similar sports originated in Greece, Rome and pre-Columbian America, but the Chinese game is closest to the modern version. Archaeologists found the oldest known soccer ball inside a wall of Scotland’s Stirling Castle, and they dated it to the 15th century.
The English and Scots developed the sport into what it generally is today, with rules dating back to the end of the 19th century. Professional soccer clubs began in 1824 in Scotland, and they continued to grow throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Today, FIFA claims that 240 million people play soccer throughout the world.
Soccer in the United States
Soccer has had a longer history in the United States than many people would believe. There are records of the colonists at Jamestown playing an early form of the sport, and Harvard began intramural soccer competition as early as 1827. Soccer grew in popularity after the Civil War, with several Ivy League colleges fielding teams. In the 1870s, professional teams emerged playing a hybrid of soccer and rugby.
FIFA initially didn’t allow the United States to join its ranks in 1912, but they finally relented a year later. In the 1920s, professional leagues that played a pure form of the game cropped up, and the United States fielded its first World Cup team in 1930. American soccer continued to rise in prestige, with the United States hosting its first World Cup in 1994. Major League Soccer began play in 1996, and by 2019, it had become the world’s largest professional soccer league.