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. According to FIFA, the Chinese competitive game cuju (蹴鞠, literally « kick ball ») is the earliest form of football for which there is scientific evidence. The goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms while it is in play and only in their penalty area. Cuju players could use any part of the body apart from hands and the intent was kicking a ball through an opening into a net. It was remarkably similar to modern football, though similarities to rugby occurred. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC — 220 AD), cuju games were standardised and rules were established.
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.
According to Partha Mazumdar, the term soccer originated in England, first appearing in the 1880s as an Oxford « -er » abbreviation of the word « association ».
Within the English-speaking world, association football is now usually called football in the United Kingdom and mainly soccer in Canada and the United States.