The recognised international governing body of football (and associated games, such as futsal and beach soccer) is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The FIFA headquarters are located in Zurich, Switzerland.
Six regional confederations are associated with FIFA; these are:
Asia: Asian Football Confederation (AFC)
Africa: Confederation of African Football (CAF)
Central/North America & Caribbean: Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF; also known as The Football Confederation)
Europe: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
Oceania: Oceania Football Confederation (OFC)
South America: Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (South American Football Confederation; CONMEBOL)
The recognised various national associations oversee football within their jurisdictions. These are affiliated both with FIFA directly and also with their respective continental confederations.
The Laws of the Game are not maintained by FIFA itself; rather they are maintained by the International Football Association Board, as discussed in the history and development section above.
Major international competitions
The major international competition in football is the World Cup, organised by FIFA. This competition takes place over a four-year period. More than 190 national teams compete in qualifying tournaments within the scope of continental confederations for a place in the finals. The finals tournament, which is held every four years, now involves 32 national teams (increased in 1998 from the 24 of 1994) competing over a four-week period. The 2006 FIFA World Cup is currently taking place in Germany; in 2010 it will be held in South Africa.
There has been a football tournament at the Summer Olympic Games since 1900, except at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Prior to the inception of the World Cup, the Olympics (especially during the 1920s) had the same status as the World Cup. Originally, the event was for amateurs only, however, since the 1984 Summer Olympics professionals have been permitted as well, albeit with certain restrictions which effectively prevent countries from fielding their strongest sides. Currently, the Olympic men’s tournament is played at Under-23 level. In the past the Olympics have allowed a restricted number of over-age players per team; but that practice will cease in the 2008 Olympics. The Olympic competition is not generally considered to carry the same international significance and prestige as the World Cup. A women’s tournament was added in 1996; in contrast to the men’s event, the women’s Olympic tournament is played by full international sides without age restrictions. It thus carries international prestige considered comparable to that of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
After the World Cup, the most important football competitions are the continental championships, which are organised by each continental confederation and contested between national teams. These are the European Championship (UEFA), the Copa América (CONMEBOL), African Cup of Nations (CAF), the Asian Cup (AFC), the CONCACAF Gold Cup (CONCACAF) and the OFC Nations Cup (OFC). The most prestigious competitions in club football are the respective continental championships, which are generally contested between national champions, for example the UEFA Champions League in Europe and the Copa Libertadores in South America.
The governing bodies in each country operate leagues, themselves normally comprised of several divisions, in which the teams gain points throughout the season depending on results. Teams are placed into tables, placing them in order according to points accrued. Most commonly, each team plays every other team in its league at home and away in each season. At the end of a season, the top team are declared to be the champions, and the top few teams may be promoted to a higher division; and one or more of the teams finishing at the bottom are relegated to a lower division. The teams finishing at the top of a country’s league may be eligible also to play in international club competitions in the following season. The main exceptions to this system occur in some South American leagues, which divide football championships into two sections named Apertura and Clausura, awarding a champion for each.
In addition to a league system, most countries operate one or more cup competitions during the season. These are organised on a knock-out basis, the winner of each match proceeding to the next round; the loser takes no further part in the competition. For a full list of the most important football competitions in each country.
Names of the game
The rules of football were codified in England by the Football Association in 1863, and the name association football was coined to distinguish the game from the other forms of football played at the time, specifically rugby football. The term soccer first appeared in the 1880s as a slang abbreviation of Association football, often credited to Charles Wreford-Brown.
Today the sport is known by a number of names throughout the English-speaking world, the most common being football and soccer. The term used depends largely on the need to differentiate the sport from other codes of football followed in a community. Football is the term used by FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, and the International Olympic Committee. For more details of naming throughout the world, please refer to the main articles above.