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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 World Cup

The time has arrived! The event we’ve all been waiting for, the end of President Trump’s presidency the men’s FIFA World Cup of Soccer tournament, is FINALLY here again. YASSS!!


The World Cup is the largest and most prestigious tournament in soccer and takes place every four years. This year’s World Cup is taking place in 11 cities across Russia from June 14th to July 15th. Yes, we know what you’re thinking. How TF did President Putin and his Kremlin minions manage to host ANOTHER world-wide event?! Honestly, we have no clue. Anyway. Russia is seven hours ahead of EST so most games are going to be taking place over your lunch hour at work, giving you the perfect excuse to take a client out for a “lunch meeting”. There are 32 countries that qualified for this year’s World Cup. FYI, neither Canada nor the USA made the cut. Probably best if you just stick to hockey, boys. Need to freshen up on your soccer knowhow before the tournament starts? We thought so. Make sure you give The GIST’s Guide to Soccer a read here.

Gimme Some History...but not the Boring Kind

When is The GIST ever boring?! The World Cup was established back in 1930 in response to the LA, California Olympic Committee dropping soccer from the 1932 Olympics b/c the sport wasn’t popular enough in North America (and you wonder why the men’s teams in Canada and the US are gawd awful *rolls eyes*). The World Cup at that point was only for 13 teams compared to today’s 32. You may be wondering, what’s the point in having a World Cup for soccer when we already have the Olympics? Well, in the Olympics, players must be 23 and younger (teams are allowed three players above 23) and professional teams can actually bar their players from competing. Effectively, the Olympics is a worldwide tournament for the youth only. Oh, to be young!

How’s it Organized?

Okay. Before a country is granted a spot in the World Cup they have to qualify. The host country automatically qualifies for the tournament, which is prolly why Putin and his pals were so keen on hosting. Otherwise, there are 200+ countries all trying to make it into those remaining 31 spots. It’s a little bit complicated, but #thegistofit is that the qualification rounds take place the three years preceding each World Cup. Each year, national teams compete against one another in various qualifying matches. This round is so competitive that even the prior champion doesn’t get an automatic berth!!

Once World Cup action is underway, teams are divided into eight Groups (A-H) with four teams in each group. You can check out the Groups here. In the Group stage, the teams play three games with the top two teams from each Group moving on to the knockout stage. The knockout stage is basically like the Bachelor: winner moves on, no second chances... unless you’re Lauren from Arie’s season of the Bachelor. There are four rounds of the knockout phase until the Champ is named.

Teams to Look Out For… AKA Teams Whose Bandwagon you Should Jump on

The World Cup is so fkn funny to us b/c all of a sudden people care SO MUCH about their “ancestry”. Like, without a doubt you will hear “well, 23andMe told me I’m actually 1/30 Serbian so I think I’m gonna cheer for my homeland”. Try not to LOL too hard (at least in their face) when you hear it. Here are the teams you gotta look out for:

Germany - They won the 2014 World Cup when it was hosted in Brazil and are favoured to win again this year.

Portugal - The Portuguese won the 2016 Euro Cup. However, they’re seen as a bit of an underdog for the tournament at the World Stage. Still, due to their proven track-record in high-stakes tournaments, we like them. We also like them because Portuguese custard tarts are possibly the yummiest dessert EVER. Srsly drooling just thinking about them.

Spain - These homies won the World Cup back in 2010 and want to get back on the winning end of things. We also like them because they just voted in a ZESTY new Prime Minister who also filled 11 of his 17 cabinet posts with women. Move over Trudeau, there’s a new hot PM in town.

Brazil - Brazil hosted the Cup four years ago. This country has a fiery passion for soccer, so they’re always gonna be #inthemix.

Argentina - Arrrggeennntttina were the runners-up AKA first losers in the 2014 World Cup. They also arguably have the best player (keep reading to find out who) in the world playing for them.

Finally, we gotta give a shout out to Panama and Iceland. These two teams are making their first World Cup appearances this year. Fun fact: Iceland is the smallest country to ever qualify. Iceland’s population is only 351k people...which really makes us wonder why TF our Canadian men couldn’t FIO given our 35.15M population. *facepalm*

Players to Look Out For

Lionel Messi: This Argentinian is largely considered to be the best player in the world, some would even go so far as to say the best of all time! His talents don’t stop on the soccer field though. He’s also really good at... tax evasion!!! Thatta boy! Last year, Messi was charged with tax fraud in Spain, but instead of facing a 21-month prison sentence, he was slapped with a $400k fine. Same same, right?

Cristiano Ronaldo: This guy is as delicious as as a Portuguese custard tart *insert tongue emoji here*. Ronaldo is like that hot star athlete from high school who knows he’s hot and knows he’s good at sports, so he’s naturally a bit of an @$$hole...but an @$$hole who you just can’t help but like because he’s just SO HOT and SO GOOD at sports. If you actually care about why he’s so good, click here.

Mohamed Salah: Egypt is ending their 28-year long wait to make it back to the World Cup in large part thanks to this striker. We love this guy. Not only does his smile make us *swoon*, but he also is just a straight-up good guy giving back to his local small-town in Egypt.

Neymar: This Brazillian’s first name is Neymar, but somehow he’s actually also made it his last name b/c his real last name is as long as Phoebe’s Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. Neymar Jr. is on the back of all of his jerseys, and his Wikipedia page name is simply “Neymar”. We guess he’s kind of like the Beyonce of soccer. Similar to Bey, this kid makes a large paycheck - the largest paycheck in soccer as a matter of fact.

Luis Suarez: This homeboy is from Uruguay and knows how to put the ball in the back of the net. He plays on the same professional team as Messi (Barcelona) and these two create absolute magic together. It will be interesting to see what he’s able to do without his right-hand man.

Manuel Neuer: Goalies are a v weird breed of person and definitely get the short end of the stick. They never get enough credit for their amazing play, but when sh!t hits the fan they always get blamed for it. Lucky for Nuer, not too much has gone wrong for him. He’s a staple on the German soccer team, and we don’t think they would be the favourites to win if it wasn’t for him.


The governing body of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is as much of a gong show as the cast of Jersey Shore… except they aren’t lovable and definitely don’t have the same killer dance moves. FIFA is well-known as an old man’s club. The most recent drama includes the organization being involved in a $150M (!!!) bribery scheme in 2017. Jeezus Murphy. But the scandals are nothing new to this organization. Just two years prior, the US Department of Justice had to get involved. The department indicted several FIFA officials on corruption charges including the then President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter. After this scandal, Blatter was booted out of FIFA, and banned from soccer-related activities for eight years. Anyone else feel like this sort of ban would be a fab plan for the @realdonaldtrump as well?!

Nothing Like World Cup Trivia

Channel your inner nerd that grew up playing Sporcle instead of spin-the-bottle with the cool kids by knowing these facts:

- Our North American boys might be relatively sh!tty at soccer, HOW-EV-ER we’ll have you know that the same does not go for the Canadian and American WOMEN’S teams who are currently ranked fourth and first respectively. Who run the world?! FYI, the women’s World Cup is set to take place next summer in France.

- Each year there is a World Cup theme song. Does Nelly Furtado’s, Forca or Shakira’s Waka, Waka sound familiar? Wondering what this year’s theme song is gonna be? Apparently it’s this single by Jay-sonn DeRuuloo. How… Russian???

- The team with the most World Cup wins is Brazil at five. The last time they took home the hardware was back in 2002.

- 3.2B people tuned in to watch the 2014 World Cup - that’s over 40% of the world population! And we thought the Super Bowl was a BFD.

- Starting in 2026, the number of teams that qualify for the World Cup is increasing from 32 to 48. The more the merrier! And guess what?! Since we initially wrote this article, it was released the North America will be hosting the 2026 World Cup together. That’s right. 60 games will be played in the US, 10 in Mexico and 10 in Canada. Canada might finally get a chance to play!

Where Can You Watch the Games?

For those of you that have cable or are, like us, freeloading off of your parent’s Bell/Rogers/Cogeco password, you can catch the majority of games on TSN and CTV. For those of you that aren’t afforded this luxury, you have the option of reverting back to the ol’ classic of downloading a sketchy VPN, OR  checking out a live show partnership between Fox Sports and Twitter and maybe even Snapchat. It’s one of the first times that social media is being used to air a sporting event on such a large scale which is actually pretty freakin’ cool.

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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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