In France, they call it football; in Latin America and Spain they call it fútbol. The Germans use a slight variation: Fußball or fooseball.
But in the United States, the game played almost exclusively with hands is called football, and the game played almost exclusively with feet is called soccer. (NPR)
When it got its start in the Islands, it was called ‘Socker.’
“There will probably be a good deal of football played here this fall both under the Association and inter-collegiate codes. The former game especially promises to become very popular here …”
“… as both the Honolulu Cricket Club and ʻIolani College intend organizing ‘socker’ teams.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, September 1, 1900)
“The meeting to be held to-day at Punahou under the auspices of the Young Men’s Christian Association will marl an epoch on the history of athletics in these Islands. …”
“Next week, full attention will again be given to the game and it is expected that the first match will played next Saturday at Makiki … The first game, however, will be little more than a ‘dress rehearsal’ and great importance will not be attached to the result.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, October 13, 1900)
“The ʻIolani College Association Football Club plays its first match of the season this afternoon on the cricket ground at Makiki at 4 o’clock. … Today’s game will be the first time the full eleven has worked together and the complete combination is to be tested.”
”As the season advances it is confidently expected that many players – both old and new – will be attracted to the ‘Socker’ standard, as the game is quickly acquired and is far more suitable to the climate than other games of so-called football.”
“As a matter of fact, Association is the only game which has any right to the term ‘football,’ the other developments have long made the appellation a misnomer.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, October 20, 1900)
By December, Honolulu had a three-team league of association football clubs consisting of ʻIolani, Scotland and England. The first league championship was played at Makiki in January 1901, Scotland won the round-robin competition. (Cisco)
Both soccer and American football come from the same set of precursor sports, which became popular in upper-class English schools in the early 19th century and spread across the Atlantic.
The history of football goes back hundreds of years, but the modern variety can be traced to the English boarding-school athletics craze.
All these games involved advancing a ball through an opponent’s territory and scoring at the far end, but the rules varied from place to place.
Every school played its own version of ‘football,’ which led to confusion when players from one school met players from another.
As the game spread, there were numerous attempts to devise a set of rules that everyone could follow. These tended to be hampered by acrimony between the schools and by anxiety about the fate of English masculinity.
At least one impassioned advocate asserted that if English players were not allowed to hack one another in the shins, they might as well surrender to the French.
Finally, in October 1863, a group of representatives from 11 old boys’ clubs convened at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London to iron out a compromise. Calling themselves the Football Association, they held meetings for two months, then published The Book of Rules of Association Football, by a Group of Former English Public School Men.
At the final meeting, however, the representative from Blackheath dramatically withdrew when the group voted to disallow shin-hacking and carrying the ball, longstanding traditions of the game as played at the Rugby School. Thus, English football split into two codes, with one heading to rugby.
Ultimately, the version adopted as standard in the United Kingdom came to be known as association football, while another set of rules won out in the United States. The Americans took to calling their gridiron variety football.
The gridiron style that now holds sway in America evolved in the later 19th century, from versions of rugby and association football that had been imported to the US from Britain. For many years, the gridiron game was only one of many forms of football played in America
Around the world, the Football Association’s version of the game continued to be called association football to distinguish it from the rest. In the 1880s, popular British slang took the ‘soc’ from ‘association’ and turned it into soccer.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, soccer, football, and soccer football were used more or less interchangeably throughout the English-speaking world.
After a while, however, football began to prevail in countries where the Football Association’s rules were most popular, while soccer rose to the fore in countries (the United States, Canada, Australia) where a different version of the game predominated.
The current United States Soccer Federation was founded in 1913 as the United States of America Foot Ball Association. It was renamed the United States Soccer Football Association in 1945. The organization finally dropped the word football from its name in 1974. (Phillips; Slate)