Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies making it the world's most popular sport.The game is played on a rectangular field with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by getting the ball into the opposing goal.
Players are not allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms while it is in play, unless they are goalkeepers (and then only when within their penalty area). Other players mainly use their feet to strike or pass the ball, but may also use their head or torso. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is level at the end of the game, either a draw is declared or the game goes into extra time or a penalty shootout depending on the format of the competition. The Laws of the Game were originally codified in England by The Football Association in 1863. Soccer is governed internationally by the International Federation of Association Football, which organises World Cups for both men and women every four years.
The governing bodies in each country operate league systems in a domestic season, normally comprising 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, in a round-robin tournament. At the end of a season, the top team is declared the champion. 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 major international competition in soccer is the World Cup, organised by FIFA. This competition takes place every four years. Approximately 190–200 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, involves 32 national teams competing over a four-week period. The most recent edition of the tournament was the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
There has been a soccer tournament at every Summer Olympic Games since 1900, except at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Before 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, professional players have been permitted, albeit with certain restrictions which prevent countries from fielding their strongest sides. 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. A women's tournament was added in 1996; in contrast to the men's event, full international sides without age restrictions play the women's Olympic tournament.