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The GIST's Guide to Soccer

Mostly thanks to two early 2000s hit movies, “Bend it Like Beckham” and “She’s the Man”, the majority of you are probably familiar with the beautiful game of soccer. 


Soccer is played on a field with nets on either end. Each team has 11 players (including a goalkeeper). The object of the game is to score goals by kicking or heading the ball into the other team’s’ net. Soccer is made up of 45 minute halves for a total of a 90 minute game. FYI, the soccer ball cannot be touched with hands/arms unless you’re the goalkeeper or completing a throw-in. Consequently, the game is known as “football” overseas. This name, of course, makes so much more sense in comparison to North American football, which is a sport that primarily uses hands. SMH at whoever came up w/ that name.

How is it organized?

Soccer is an insanely global sport mostly due to how easily accessible it is worldwide - you literally just need a ball. As a result, almost every single continent has its own professional soccer league which gets a little confusing. The most popular leagues are the English Premier League (EPL), Spanish La Liga, and Major League Soccer (MLS). MLS is played in North America. Unlike other sports with a regular season and playoffs, soccer is a little bit different. Teams collect points for wins at home or away, and goals home or away, so that at the end of the season a champion can be named. Playoffs start after the league champ is determined. On top of that, because soccer is a world-wide sport, there are huge tournaments called the World Cup (played every 4 years) and the European Cup (played every 2 years). Soccer fans, who are already notoriously rambunctious, get next level rowdy at these tournaments to cheer on their fellow countrymen and women.

The Best of the Best

Okay. Because of the zillion leagues, we’re gonna do our best to break it down right quick. The most recent champions are: Manchester City in the EPL, FC Barcelona in La Liga, and (drum roll please) the Toronto FC in MLS!! Toronto FC came 2nd last year, losing in the finals to the Seattle Sounders. This year was a rematch and a time for redemption, with TFC taking it in regulation 2-0. The last World Cup Winner was Germany in 2014 with the 2018 World Cup going on from mid-June to mid-July. Check out our Guide to the World Cup here. Portugal, led by babe Cristiano Ronaldo, won the most recent Euro Cup. The best players in the world are Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) and Luis Suarez (Barcelona and Uruguay).

Women in Soccer

Unlike men’s soccer, which is well established in Europe, women’s soccer is most popular in North America. The best league in the world is the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with all teams based in the US. Women’s soccer is even more important on the international stage in tournaments like the Olympics and the World Cup. Here at The GIST, we are obsessed with our Canadian Women’s team. Most recently they are two-time bronze medalists in back-to-back Olympics and have climbed the rankings to the 6th best team in the world. Our fearless leader, Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC), is Canada’s all-time top scorer and 2nd in the world for international goals. #getitgirl

Stuff to Know About Soccer

  • Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, being played in over 200 countries!! It’s also the fastest growing sport in Canada.

  • Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II was quite the athlete in her youth and used to dress in disguise to play in pick-up matches near Buckingham Palace in her teenage years in the 1930’s & 40’s. As if we needed another reason to love Lizzie. <3 <3

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Soccer is made up of two 45 minute halves.


If the game is tied there is an overtime period of play. This is sudden death (aka last goal wins). The length of overtime depends on the league/tournament. OT is pretty freakin’ scary.

Shoot Out:

If the game is STILL tied after OT,  the game will go into shoot-outs. Each team selects 5 players to take “penalty shots”. These shots are taken between the 6 and the 18 yard box. You would think that being so close to the net would be easy but LET US TELL YOU there is so much pressure on these players it’s easy to mess up.

Penalty Shot:

If a foul or handball (i.e. someone touches the ball with their hand, which btw is very not allowed in soccer) occurs within the 18 yard box, then a penalty kick is awarded. The team that was fouled gets to select a player to take a penalty shot. Think winning goal scene in “She’s the Man” - Amanda Bynes vs. her @$$hole goalie ex-boyfriend. AMANDA FTW!!!

Free kick:

Soccer is NOT a full contact sport (i.e. no body checking!), but sometimes in can get aggressive. When a player is fouled (think pushed with excessive force, tripped, held, punched, kicked, hair pulled, curb stomped - you name it), a free kick is given to the opposing team.

These kicks can be indirect - meaning someone else besides the original kicker needs to touch the ball before there can be a goal. Or, these can be direct, meaning the kicker can score a goal directly off the free kick (think winning goal scene in “Bend it like Beckham”).


Soccer has a rule that stops offensive players from hanging out near the net and waiting for the ball to come to them (aka cherry picking). Unlike hockey, offside does not have a defined line. The line that creates the offside is the last player on defence. Basically how it works is when an offensive player on one team is PAST the last defender on the opposing team before the ball is kicked, they are OFFSIDE. Watch this clip to help you understand offside a lil’ more.


This is the one time players outside of the goalie get to touch the ball with their hands. When the ball goes out of bounds, a player from the team that didn’t put the ball out of bounds, will get to throw the ball in overhand to enter it back in play. Two hands on the ball, over the head, and back into play.

Injury time:

Unlike most other sports, soccer does not stop the time of a game at every whistle. Sometimes it can take a bit of time for players to get off the field if they’re truly injured, OR, to stop acting like they’re hurt. Such drama queens. Referees therefore sometimes need to add time at the end of a half or game to account for injury time.

Yellow card:

Yellow cards are used as a warning that a player has been OFFICIALLY cautioned for bad behaviour (a bad foul, swearing / bad mouthing other players, coaches or the ref, etc.). After 1 yellow card, the player can continue playing. After 2 yellow cards, you’re SOL.

Red Card:

A red card is for the most serious foul. A red card is normally given for violent conduct or purposefully obstructing of a goal scoring opportunity (sometimes red cards are given for purposefully using your hands to stop a goal). This is very not cool in soccer and it will get you permanently evicted from the game. “Tell that boi bye”.


When a team has possession of the ball, they’re the one that’s actually controlling the ball, passing it around to each other, moving it up the field towards the goal, etc. and the other team is working to try and get possession back. It’s the name of the game.

Bicycle Kick:

This is some rly fancy footwork. Basically, while the ball is in mid-air, a player facing away from the net, does this nifty lil’ move where they throw their body backward and jump up, their foot meets the ball up in the air and they kick the ball towards the net while falling back. Like they’re on an upside bicycle. Still not picturing it?? Check out this jokes clip.

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Why are the men’s soccer players so dramatic when they get injured? Why do they cry more than in other sports?

They truly are a bunch of drama queens aren’t they?! They’re so incredibly dramatic they put the Kardashian family to shame. The main reason they get so dramatic is that they want to “draw a call” from the referee. The idea is that if they act dramatic, then maybe the ref will provide their team with possession and/or give their opponent a yellow or red card. Sometimes they fake an injury too if they need to slow the game down and have a lil break.

Why is soccer so popular in other countries (across Europe, South America) versus North America?

Soccer has been around for ages. Some researchers have even traced soccer back to ancient China, Greece and Rome. But, it was England that really took soccer to the next level, and transformed it into the game we know and love today. Because of its overseas roots, the game’s popularity of course grew the fastest over there. Soccer is the fastest growing game around the world for both genders. It’s also the cheapest game to play. Get a ball, use whatever you have lying around to create a goal and you’re good to go.

Is there any strategy behind corner kicks?

Oh yes. There’s strategy behind all “set plays” in soccer. A set play can occur anytime the ball is stopped, including a throw in. With corner kicks, there are copious amounts of strategies. Sometimes teams try to curve the ball out, some curve the ball in toward the net and some aim for the short pass. When a player is crossing the ball from a corner kick, they’re generally aiming for the ball to end up between the 6 and 18 yard box, and to have the ball in the air so that their player can head the ball in, but that the ball is far enough away from the goalie that they can’t just catch it.

What is this whole “extra time” rule? I don’t get it?

A soccer game is made up of two 45-minute halves. What’s different with soccer compared to other sports is that the time never stops. That’s right. With hockey and basketball, the time stops at the referees whistle. Not the case in soccer. That means, even when there’s a delay to the a game, due to something like an injury or a substitution, the time never stops running. At the end of the game, the referee has to remember roughly the amount of that elapsed due to delays and tack those minutes on to the 90 minutes at the end of the game.

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The GIST’s Guide to the Women’s World Cup

Who run the world? Girls. Seriously though. It’s time for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

fans waving canada flag


The FIFA World Cup is the largest and most prestigious tournament in women’s soccer. Similar to the men’s World Cup and the Olympics, the World Cup takes place every four years.

This year’s World Cup is taking place in various cities across France from June 7th to July 7th. Oui oui. France has a six hour time change to EST meaning that a lot of games are going to be taking place while you’re at work —  a perfect excuse for an extra long lunch or coffee break.

Twenty-four countries qualified for the World Cup (with the host country receiving an automatic berth) including Canada (more on those queens later).

How’s it organized?

The twenty-four teams are divided into six groups (A-F) with four teams in each group. The way FIFA decides the group is by completing a draw. You may be wondering: “WTF is a draw?” Of the 24 teams in the tournament six are seeded: USA (defending champs and World Ranked No. 1), Germany (No. 2), France (No. 3), England (No. 4), Canada (No. 5) and Australia (No. 6).

These seeded teams are put into the goblet of fire pot first, and drawn out (hence the name ‘draw’) one by one to see what group (A-F) each team will be in. The seeded teams are selected from the pot first so that the best teams don’t face each other during the group stage. The remaining 18 teams are then drawn and placed into one of the six groups.

The World Cup is a round-robin tournament, so each team plays every other team in their group once. The top two teams in each group, as well as the four best third-place teams overall, advance to the round of 16 (aka playoffs). *Hilary Duff’s Sweet Sixteen plays in the background*

The Canadians were drawn fifth and are therefore No. 1 in Group E. The other countries in their draw include the Netherlands (No. 7), New Zealand (No. 19) and Cameroon (No. 46). Their toughest match will be against the Netherlands, who are the reigning European champions. But the Canadians have never lost against the Netherlands so we’re saying, BRING. IT. ON.  

Speaking of Canada, what do I need to know about the team?

The team

This year’s Canadian women’s team is one of the best rosters we’ve seen Canada put together. They have a perfect combination of wise veterans mixed with energetic younguns.

Canada has never medalled in a World Cup (men’s or women’s). The women’s team’s top finish was back in 2003 where they placed fourth. Their next-best performance was in 2015 when the World Cup was hosted in the homeland (more specifically in Vancouver, B.C.) and Canada lost in the quarterfinals.

HOW-EV-ER don’t count this team down and out. The Canadians have earned a bronze medal at the last two Olympics (2012 London and 2016 Brazil) so they definitely have the chutzpah to make it onto the podium.

Christine Sinclair celebratig

The Players

Christine Sinclair: To no one’s surprise, the team is being captained by Christine Sinclair. This tournament is Sinclair’s fifth — count it, FIFTH — straight World Cup appearance, tying a Canadian soccer record. Unbelievable. She’s also just three goals away from tying American legend Abby Wambach for most international career goals ever. Can you say, #GOAT?

Shelina Zadorsky: Alongside superstar Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky (friend of The GIST!) runs the defence. Thanks to Zadorsky and Buchanan’s height, feistiness and tackling ability, barely anything, or rather anyone, gets by these two.

Jessie Fleming: Fleming plays centre midfield for Canada and, get this, made her national team debut at the ripe age of 15. 15!!!! She’s now 21 years old meaning she’s already played six years for the squad. Like, are you KIDDING me? Watch out for Fleming’s nifty moves and absolutely stunning passes.

Ashley Lawrence: Is a speed demon. She plays left or right midfield and uses her speed to get by her opponents and cross the ball over to the forwards. She plays for Paris Saint-Germain in France throughout the year so with the World Cup being hosted in France, it’s kind of like she has home-field advantage.

Nichelle Prince: is making her World Cup debut for Canada! But, she’s not easing her way into anything as a starting forward. At the ripe age of 24, Prince already has 10 goals in 50 international games. Nichelle Prince? More like Nichelle King (although we prefer Queen).

Steph Labbe: Is Canada’s goaltender! Labbe won the bronze medal with Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics. You may also remember Labbe because she was famously rejected from playing for a men’s pro soccer team because she was a woman not because she wasn’t good enough. SMDH.

Honestly, we could write this entire guide on the players. We’re totally obsessed with this team. And we think you will be too. Get to know the team here.

Canada goal

Other teams to watch

The U.S.A: The U.S.A. are the defending champs, the world No. 1 ranked team and are expected to win back-to-back. And, similar to our Canadian women’s hockey team, the U.S. team is our arch nemesis. Yes, these women might play on the same pro teams together, but when they put their national colours on, all of that camaraderie goes out the door.

USWNT celebrates

Outside of the top six teams (listed above), other teams to keep an eye on are:

Japan: Japan came second at the 2015 World Cup. So while they’re not ranked in the top six, don’t underestimate them.

Sweden: Back in 2016, these tall blondes (okay yes, we’re stereotyping) placed second to Germany at the Rio Olympics. Yet again, they’re not ranked in the top six for the World Cup, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see them move on to at least the quarterfinals.

Brazil: Speaking of Rrrriiiooooo, let’s talk Brazil. Brazil almost medalled on home soil in 2016 (they lost in the bronze medal match to Canada) so you better believe they’ll be out for blood after just missing the podium.

Players to keep an eye on

Outside of the Canadian team, there’s a lot of exciting talent to keep an eye on including:

Standing in solidarity

There are two key stories you have to know heading into the women’s FIFA World Cup.

The first? Ballon D’or winner, Ada Hegerberg, will not be playing for Norway’s national soccer team in protest of a lack of respect to female soccer players by the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) in comparison to men.

Hegerberg’s name might sound familiar because in 2018 the 23-year-old became the first female to win the Ballon D’or — an award given to the best soccer player in the world. She was also infamously asked by DJ Martin Solveig if she could twerk when she was onstage receiving the award. Yes that actually happened.

Turns out Hegerberg hasn’t played for Norway since 2017 (her club team is Lyon) due to the lack of respect to female players. Norway started paying its men and women equally in 2017, but Hegerberg says the lack of respect goes beyond salary and that the national team has a long way to go before she’ll play for them again.

Ada Hegerberg kisses camera

The second? On International Women’s Day (IWD) this year, members of the 2015 U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) sued the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for gender discrimination. Mic freakin’ drop.

The team claims the USSF paid them “lip service” about gender equality and that the federation pays the much less successful men’s team way more than the women’s team. For example, in 2014 the USSF paid the men’s national team (USMNT) performance bonuses totaling $5.4M USD for losing in the round of 16. Just one year later, the USSF paid the USWNT only $1.7M for WINNING the entire tournament. SMDH. And, fun fact, that Women’s World Cup final game was the most watched soccer game — men’s or women’s — in American TV history.

All American women are playing in the world cup; however, if the USSF won’t pay the players the salary or bonus they deserve, it seems as though corporate sponsors like Adidas and Luna Bar will.

US celebrates after goal

How to watch

There you have, #thegist on the FIFA women’s World Cup. Now it’s time to watch! Check out the schedule here. You can watch all games on TSN & CTV.

Stay up-to-date on all things World Cup by subscribing to our free twice-weekly newsletter here, following us on Instagram here and Twitter here.

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The GIST's Guide to The EPL

Alright, ppl. It’s time to steep your tea, butter your crumpets and blast “Wanna Be” by the Spice Girls. Why? Because the English Premier League (EPL) season is starting!


No. We’re not talking about a hot new show on Netflix. We’re talking about EPL soccer. But, before we go any further, you gotta know that because Europeans are simply fanatical about soccer, the EPL is just one of the MANY soccer leagues in Europe. The other most popular and competitive leagues in Europe include: La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, Ligue 1 in France, Bundesliga in Germany and many more. If you give a heck, you can learn more about those league here. Many people (including us) though, argue that the EPL is the best league in the world. Feel like you need to learn a wee bit more about soccer in general before reading on about the EPL? Be sure to check out The GIST’s Guide to Soccer.

How’s it Organized?

The Premier league is the highest division in the English soccer league system and consists of 20 teams.The League runs from August to May and each team plays 38 games - one game at home and one game away. Most of the time, the games are played on the weekends. England is about five hours ahead of EST so, unfortunately, if you tend to be a hungover sloth on the weekend, these games can be difficult to catch live. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw, obvi no points for a loss… and 100 points to Gryffindor!!!


Now, this league doesn’t act the same as the professional leagues in North America. Across the pond, just as they drive on the wrong other side of the road, they do things differently with soccer. The English soccer league system is set up as a pyramid, with the Premier League on the top, the next best league below it and so forth. It also uses a relegation and promotion system. What TF does that mean? At the end of the season, the bottom three teams in each division get relegated to the division below and the top three teams get promoted to the division above. As a result, the teams in the Premier League are “fluid” year to year. Learn more about this system here.

The Best of the Best

The reigning champs are the Manchester City aka Man City or just “City”. Like, ‘nuff nicknames! Last year, Man City absolutely crushed it finishing with 100 points - the most in EPL history. Other teams that are always the forerunners include Chelsea, Manchester United (YES another team in Manchester and YES they have nicknames too - Man U or United), Arsenal, and Liverpool.

Moving on to the players (shoutout to soccer players for having the best bods out there). For those of you getting #inthemix with some EPL soccer pools this season, we strongly recommend trying to get these studs on your team:

David De Gea: This dude is one of the best goaltenders in the world. YEP, the whole wide world. He plays for Manchester United and on the global stage for Spain.

David Silva: This Spaniard is a midfielder and truly a puppet master of the game. Not only can he use his fancy feet and flawless passes to control the play, he’s also a decently productive scorer. Silva plays for Manchester City.

Harry Kane: It’s likely that Kane’s name rings a bell because he was the captain of England’s FIFA World Cup team AND because he won the golden boot (award given for the most goals) in the tournament. Well lah-dee-dah! This striker is unsurprisingly also a goal-scoring star for his team, Tottenham Hotspur.

Kevin De Bruyne: It’s Man City again! This Belgium cutie is the best man on the squad. He plays midfield and has a complete game - meaning he can score, he can defend, he can lead, he can pass... do we NEED to go on?! We’re big fans.

Mohamed Salah: Last but not least, we have striker Mohamed Salah who plays for Liverpool. This guy’s moves on the pitch make us *swoon* just as much as his smile. We promise you, this guys is almost as much fun to watch as the “Men Tell All” episode on The Bachelorette.

Socca Sistas

What’s interesting is that as much as soccer is hugely popular overseas, it’s not that popular for women to play professionally. For example, the Women’s Super League which is the highest division in women’s soccer, just started in 2011 and only has 11 teams. Further, the league has some funky rules that say most these players are “semi-professional” only. As a result, the annual average salary tends to be v low at under $45K CAD... which is BELOW England’s national salary. Can you say #wagegap?

Trivia Diva

Channel your inner trivia diva by spitting these facts:

- Turns out North American sports having nothing on the EPL. The Premier League is actually the most watched sports league in the world with an approximate 4.7 billion TV audience. Chill, chill, chilllll.

- Players in the EPL make a lot of dough. In the 2017 season, the average annual salary for an EPL player was $4.4M CAD.

- The Premier league was founded back in February 20, 1992 and therefore, similar to us, is officially entering it’s quarter life crisis.

- Our gal, Queen Elizabeth II’s fave team is Arsenal. Although the Royals are not really supposed to have a fave team to cheer for, apparently at an event at Buckingham Place in 2007, she spilled the beans to the Arsenal Manager telling him that the Arsenal squad was her favourite. Oh Lizzie you gossip you.

This Sounds Fun, Where Can I Watch?

All games of the EPL will be shown either live or same day on either TSN or Sportsnet. For those of you that don’t have cable or the luxury of living in the same city as the ‘rents, both TSN and Sportsnet have apps where you can watch on the go.

That’s #thegistofit

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