Whether you refer to it as soccer or football, there’s no dispute about its popularity. Soccer, as it’s known in the United States, is the most watched sport in the world, with an estimated 5 billion fans. If you’re not yet among them, this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup is a great place to start—along with this collection of phenomenal photos from the Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest.

two opposing soccer players battle for the ball
The moves these two young players display are as bold as their brightly colored soccer gear. Janice Kohout, Oregon, 2013

children play with a soccer ball on a grassy hill
Children high in the mountains play with a homemade soccer ball, jumping into the air to compete for it. David Lazar, Lesotho, 2011
a soccer match is played in a hilly desert setting
Desert hills surround a dirt soccer field, where stones delineate the borders and boys play with a ball that is wrapped in adhesive tape. Hamid Jamshidian, Iran, 2019

a black and white photo shows a family playing soccer
Under the shadows of palm trees, a family plays soccer just a few yards from the beach. Andrae Steed, California, 2017
a group of people play soccer on the beach
Grassy soccer fields are fine, but the game is just as enjoyable on a wet, sandy beach. Louis Charpentier, Sierra Leone, 2017

two women in dresses play soccer
Two women from Vietnam’s San Chay ethnic minority play in a tournament, wearing traditional soccer dresses rather than numbered uniforms. Tran Tuan Viet, Vietnam, 2020
the reflection of young soccer players is captured in a puddle of rainwater
Beneath Indonesia’s National Monument, the reflection of young soccer players is captured in a puddle of rainwater. Derry Nurmansyah, Indonesia, 2020

two soccer players battle for possession of the ball
Student athletes at Lynchburg College and Meredith College make contact—with each other and the ball—on the soccer field. Natalie LeDonne, Virginia, 2015
a soccer field surrounded by trees in the fall season
An aerial view reveals a soccer field, almost hidden, among trees turning golden yellow during the fall season. Vitaly Golovatyuk, Russia, 2021

a child plays soccer in the streets
The soccer ball may be a bit deflated, but the player is full to the brim with anticipation as he prepares to return kick during a street game. Tom Furcillo, Cuba, 2019
a black and white photo of a girl kicking a soccer ball in a Mexican city
It may be the Day of the Dead, but this young player’s love of the game is alive and well. Tad Philipp, Mexico, 2019

soccer players in a game at sunset
Construction workers take a break to enjoy a game of soccer as the sun sets. James Kobacker, Botswana, 2019
two soccer players run after the ball
Competitors give it their all in this NCAA women’s soccer game between SUNY Oswego and SUNY Plattsburgh, which are longtime rivals. Oswego won. Dori Gronich, New York, 2015
a soccer team jumps for joy after receiving medals
Young soccer players show off their vertical leaps with glee after receiving their championship medals. Elliot Grossman, Ohio, 2019

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