Olympics Primer: How to Watch Soccer - NBC 7 San Diego
London 2012

London 2012

Full coverage on NBC through August 12

Olympics Primer: How to Watch Soccer

Your cheat sheet for watching soccer (football) at the Olympics



    Olympics Primer: How to Watch Soccer
    Getty Images
    Olympian Heather Mitts - Soccer
    Three-time Olympian has hinted London will be her final Games. When she retires she says her and her husband, former Eagles QB A.J. Feeley, plan on settling in the Delaware Valley. (Cool photo alert)

    When it happens:
    July 25 through Aug. 11

    How it became a sport:
    People have been kicking round things at goals for as long as they’ve had feet, with something akin to soccer being played for centuries all around the world. But the game as we know it didn’t take shape until the 1800s on the British Isles, with the size and weight of the ball being standardized in 1863. Nine years later the first Federation Cup was won by the Wanderers, who defeated the Royal Engineers, 1-0.

    What it takes:
    Quick feet and incredible stamina are key. The ability to pretend to be hurt, "flopping," is also a big help, as it's weirdly easier to trick referees into granting time out or calling penalties by simply rolling around on the ground clutching your knee and howling.

    How you win:
    Teams of 11 players to a side play two 45-minutes halves, running up and down a large field ("pitch") trying to kick a ball—only goalies can use their hands—into their opponents' net. In the later rounds, two 15-minutes overtime periods are played as a tiebreaker, after which each team shoots five penalty kicks. If it's still tied they go to sudden death penalty kicks.

    The lingo?
    Stoppage time: Throughout the game the officials keep track of time lost to injuries and other down times; once the game clock runs down to zero, the stoppage time is played—so you never know for sure how much time is left to play.

    U-23: In Olympic soccer, the teams are comprised of 15 players age 23 and under, "U-23," as well as three more players of any age.

    Football: What the rest of the world calls soccer. The word "soccer" is a derivation of "Association Football," the sport's proper name, that was coned by British papers in the late 1900s so they could abbreviate it as SOC, rather than ASS.

    More information: