Are Soccer and Hockey Similar?

fully hockey players in the dressing room as fans ask Are Soccer and Hockey Similar?

Soccer and hockey are two of the most popular sports in North America and while their differences could seem wide, there are several similarities as well. No wonder many soccer fans also enjoy watching field and ice hockey.

This article answers the question “Are Soccer and Hockey Similar?” by revealing characteristics that are common in both sports. We also uncover a couple of areas where soccer and hockey contrast each other.

Are Soccer and Hockey Similar?

Soccer and hockey are team-focused sports that demand players look out for each other. Both sports require teams to wear jerseys and goals are scored by putting the ball or puck in the opponent’s net. Differences include 90-minute and 60-minute durations for soccer and hockey respectively as well as 11 players in a soccer team against 6 players in hockey teams.

Soccer and hockey have a huge list of similarities that show that they’re not too different from each other. However, the contrasts between both sports can also be wide. We dive deep into the similarities and differences between the two sports to help you stay well-informed.

Similarities Between Soccer and Hockey

Drawing parallels between soccer and hockey is easy since they have many similarities including playing rules and sanctions for breaking them. Shall we delve into a few of them?

Team Sport 

Soccer and hockey are both team-oriented sports that require players to coordinate with teammates during offensive and defensive play. Failure by a single player to pull his or her weight can be detrimental to the whole team’s chances of success.

Attack and Defense

Soccer and hockey are similar in an attacking and defending sense during game time. Players typically move from their positions to help others when attacks are in motion to increase their chances of scoring. It is not uncommon for purely offensive players to track back to help the defense when necessary in the bid to stave off attacks from the opposing team.


Soccer and hockey teams both wear uniforms in the form of jerseys. Each team wears a color different from the opponent’s to make identification by teammates, officials, and fans easier. Since the 2003 season, NHL teams typically wear dark-colored jerseys at home and white jerseys on the road. (Source)

In soccer, the home team always wears the designated home jersey and the Away team may wear their Away jersey unless there’s a clash with the home team’s colors which can force the Away team to play with their Home jersey instead.


Portugal soccer team captain Cristiano Ronaldo with armband

Both soccer and hockey teams have captains who are the designated leaders on the field of play. Captains typically speak to referees for interpretation of the rules of the game and make complaints when necessary.

A team’s coach usually selects the captain after consultations with other players and officials in both sports. Captains command respect among teammates on and off the field or rink and may be assisted by 2-3 deputies who serve as temporary replacements during the captain’s absence due to injuries or other situations.

Captains in soccer are identified by the wearing of armbands on the playing field while hockey team captains typically have the letter “C” on their sweaters. Both captains engage in pre-game ceremonies on their team’s behalf including coin flipping and selection of which side of the goal to defend from.


Soccer and hockey are both possession-based and being able to keep the ball longer often allows teams to make the necessary moves to score. Quick possession losses often result in being forced to defend more which can increase the probability of losing games.

Maintaining possession is a key aspect of dominating and scoring in soccer and hockey. Holding up the ball or puck is a good way to outwit the opposing team to create more scoring chances. However, possession does not always equal dominating the game since the opposing team’s tactics be based on swift counterattacks.

They essentially allow the opposing team to keep more of the ball and put up a solid defense while relying on hitting them on quick breaks when the right opportunities pop up.

Putting the Ball in the Goal 

Scoring a goal in soccer or hockey simply involves legally putting the ball or puck into the opposing goalie’s net. Goals may be ruled out in instances where the attacking team commits fouls in the run-up to scoring as interpreted by the referees or umpires.

Placing the ball or puck on the side net does not constitute a goal in both sports. The opponent team is awarded a goal when players accidentally or intentionally put the ball or puck in their own net.


hockey goalie fully kitted in his goal

Both ice hockey and soccer teams have players designated in the goal to prevent the ball or puck from entering the net. Known as goalkeepers in soccer and goaltenders in hockey, these players typically need to have excellent reflexes with other vital skills to prevent the balls or hockey pucks from entering their nets.

Coin Flips

FIFA rules require a coin flip before the game starts to determine which team gets the opening kickoff and who gets to choose the preferred side of the field to play from. The team captains choose Heads and Tails for the referee to flip the coin. The winning team selects their preferred goalposts to defend from while the loser gets the opening kick-off.

NHL rules also demand a coin flip between the home and away teams. The home team gets to choose their preferred side of the coin before the toss and the winning team selects the preferred side of the field to defend from or whether to get opening possession of the puck.


A wide range of fouls is frowned upon in both soccer and hockey with each one having a designated punishment like free kicks and powerplays in soccer and hockey respectively. Referees or umpires determine what is a foul and the corresponding punishment for it.

Players may be given a wide range of punishments including cards and penalties based on the gravity of the offense.

Central Midfielders/ Centermen

Soccer and hockey rely on Central Midfielders and Centermen to transition play between defense and attack. These players are positioned in the center of the field but may join the attack or defense when required.

The best Midfielders and Centermen in soccer and hockey often have a great reading of the game and are able to anticipate their team’s needs to make the right calls.

Skills and Tricks 

Skills and tricks are critical in soccer just as much as in ice or field hockey. These tricks are aimed at throwing off the opponent player to get a clear path for scoring chances or smart passes to teammates to score.

Skillful players in both sports are usually the focal point of attack due to their ability to deceive opponents to create goal-scoring opportunities for themselves or teammates.


Wingers play an active role in advancing the team’s tactics in both sports since they are able to attack corners to create offensive opportunities for themselves or their teammates. Wingers are required to be skillful to pull off this huge responsibility during play.

Player Lineup Selections

female soccer team lineup with referee before a game

Coaches are responsible for choosing the lineup for each game in both soccer and hockey. Decisions are made based on the player’s form at any point as well as the opposing team’s characteristics and other factors.

Coaches may also select lineups and substitutes based on the tactics employed for specific games. For instance, a team may adopt its strategies based on the availability of certain players with desired core attributes as well as the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Showing Up To Help a Teammate 

Passing is a core component in both sports and whenever a player is in possession, other teammates often show up to receive a pass as a form of support. This minimizes the risks of losing possession to opponents who may have crowded the player holding the ball or puck.

Red Cards 

Players may be given red cards for certain serious offenses resulting in dismissal from the game. Referees or umpires can issue red cards at their discretion which could also carry additional bans for future games.


The MLS SuperDraft and NHL Drafts are annual both that allow teams to select the best players from collegiate tournaments, junior teams, and other sources. Both events are a player’s main gateway to playing professional soccer and Hockey.

How Are Soccer and Hockey Different?

Soccer and hockey feature many differences despite the multiple similarities. A few of the variances are uncovered below.

Feet vs Hockey Sticks 

Soccer is played with the feet, unlike field or ice hockey which requires a stick to control and move the puck. The type of cleats worn can influence performance, unlike hockey where less emphasis is laid on the ice skates.

Field vs Ice Rink 

ice rink with hockey players

Soccer is played on a field covered with natural grass or astroturf, unlike ice hockey games which come off on a rink. Field hockey may also be played on grass or artificial turf with stark contrasts to soccer fields. 

Large Surface vs Small Surface 

Soccer is played on a large surface compared to hockey. Fifa rules state that the standard soccer field should have a length of 90-120 meters (100-131 yards) and a width of 45-90 meters (49 to 100 yards).

Hockey rinks and fields have standard dimensions of 100 yards by 60 yards and this explains why hockey games feature a smaller number of players on each team.

High-Speed Hockey Puck vs Low-Speed Soccer Balls 

Ice hockey is a swift game played on skates while soccer involves some running. Thus, the playing pace in hockey is quicker than in soccer. Hockey also requires hitting the puck in a speedy manner, unlike the soccer ball which is typically hit much slower.

Besides, hockey pucks are much lighter and are able to travel at a relatively high speed compared to soccer balls.

Physical Strength vs Athleticism 

Soccer requires high athleticism, unlike ice hockey which relies more on skill since players move on skates. The average soccer player covers over 10km per game meaning the importance of physical stamina cannot be overemphasized.

11 Soccer Players vs 6 Hockey Players

A soccer team requires a total of 11 players i.e. 10 outfield players and a goalkeeper while hockey only fields 6 players i.e. 5 outfield players and a goaltender. Soccer rules demand forfeiture of games where players are reduced to less than 8.

Hockey games are also forfeited when a team is reduced to less than 4 players at any given point.

One Referee and 2 Linesmen vs 2 Umpires and 2 Linesmen

linesmen officiating a game

Soccer games are officiated by a referee and two linesmen with each positioned on one flank of the field. Hockey games require 2 umpires and 2 linesmen who are allowed on the field or rink at any given point.

Referees and umpires are responsible for officiating and making sure that players adhere to the rules

Limited vs Unlimited Substitutions 

Fifa rules allow up to 3 substitutions per team in a soccer game but substitutions are unlimited in field and ice hockey. Once a player is substituted in soccer, re-entry into the field of play is illegal but substituted hockey players can re-enter the field or rink without limits. 

90 Minutes vs 60 Minutes 

A standard soccer game requires 90 minutes of play divided into two 45-minute halves. Hockey games are played for a total of 60 minutes divided into three 20-minute periods with 15-minute intermissions after the first and second periods.

No Player Equipment vs Equipment 

Soccer games require no equipment apart from a ball, unlike hockey or lacrosse where a player needs to wear gear like crash helmets and sticks to facilitate play.

No Commercial Breaks vs Commercial Breaks 

Soccer games are allowed to flow from the first minute of the referee’s whistle until the end unless there are unforeseen circumstances like excessive rain or medical emergencies.

Hockey may feature commercial breaks that require games to be stopped temporarily for some time, unlike soccer where there are no commercial breaks.

Global vs North American Following 

soccer fans waving flags before kickoff

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world with a global following that encompasses Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The worldwide soccer fan population stands at 3.5 billion making it the most popular sport in the world.

Field and ice hockey on the other hand has 2 billion fans across the planet which may be impressive but pales in comparison to the soccer figures.

Large Goal vs Tiny Goal

The standard dimensions of a professional soccer goal are 8 feet tall (2.4 mm) and 8 yards wide (7.32m). In contrast, hockey goals feature dimensions of 72 inches (tall) by 48 inches wide which is noticeably smaller.

Going Behind the Goal: Legal vs Illegal 

Soccer fields have line markings that make going behind the goalposts illegal, unlike hockey rinks where players can go behind the goal without crossing any lines. Hockey is relatively more flexible in that sense because the puck could be played behind the goalposts without a referee’s intervention.

Different Goalie Jersey vs Same Goalie Jersey

Have you noticed that goalkeepers wear a distinct jersey color and design from their teammates during soccer games? The opposite is true in hockey where goalies wear the same jersey color and design as other teammates.

Conclusion: Are Soccer and Hockey Similar? 

Soccer and hockey are two global sports with billions of fans around the world. Both sports have a lot of similarities including the use of outfield players and goalies, coin flips before games, and the designation of specific players as team captains.

Scoring goals in hockey and soccer require putting a puck or ball in the opponent’s net respectively and Centermen or midfielders play an active role in games. There is a range of fouls players may commit in both sports and each one often comes with some form of punishment.

However, the differences in soccer and hockey include the use of ball vs puck respectively as well as the fielding of 11 players in soccer vs 6 players in hockey. The standard duration of soccer is 90 minutes compared to hockey which features a 60-minute duration.

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