Why Is a Soccer Field Called a Pitch?

Many people around the world, especially in North America, will be used to using the word field to describe the playing area for a soccer match and various other sports. However, those that have been exposed to commentary from the United Kingdom, or perhaps read the books of Harry Potter, will have encountered the word pitch used in relation to soccer or even Quidditch. In this article, we will look at the reason that a playing field is also known as a pitch.

Why is it called a pitch and not a field?

One of the dictionary definitions of the word pitch is "the amount of slope". Knowing this, your first theory might be that the usage of the word pitch could be associated with any natural slope of the playing area i.e 'pitched at an angle'. It is true that many fields in the amateur game can be sloped, and I have certainly played on a few, however, this is not the reason they are called pitches.

An alternate definition is "to thrust (something) in, drive (a stake), pierce with a sharp point", much like the term pitching a tent, and it is this definition that is more relevant to the modern naming of a soccer pitch. In the sport of cricket, two sets of stumps (wooden poles) are required to be knocked into the ground in order to mark out a section of the playing area. From the end of the seventeenth century, this process was known as pitching the stumps.

A cricketer standing next to the
A cricketer standing next to the 'stumps' which have been pitched into the ground.

This phrase gradually evolved, and by the 1870s, it was used as a noun to describe the playing area for cricket. Eventually, it migrated to the sport of soccer, and by the 1900s, people in England were using the word pitch to describe the playing area.

An important distinction to make is that the cricket pitch is the area between the stumps, but the whole playing area, including the outfield, can be called a cricket field.

Relationship between soccer and cricket

The history of soccer has a strong connection with cricket, and the usage of the word pitch is not the only thing that was shared. Other terms used in soccer (e.g hat trick) have derived from cricket, and teams have even shared stadiums. The most famous example is the first-ever international match, which took place between England and Scotland in 1872 and was played at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground. The reason for this is that the game of cricket pre-dates soccer by a number of centuries, and during the initial rise in the popularity of soccer in the 1800s, there were many cricket pitches already available, but very few available for soccer. The dimensions of the cricket pitch are also large enough to accommodate a soccer field.


What is the difference between a soccer field and a soccer pitch?

There is no difference. Both terms are used to describe the playing area in soccer. 'Field' is commonly used in North America, while 'pitch' is used in the United Kingdom. In British English, the word 'field' is more closely associated with an area of land for farming.