Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry sticks up for the American preference for calling it “soccer” rather than “football”:
I’m writing this post as a public service to point out the actual fact, which is that the word “soccer” is basically as old as the sport itself, and has impeccable English bona fides. Here’s the real story, as Wikipedia notes: soccer came into existence at around the same time as other forms of football, in particular rugby football. The sport therefore became referred to as “association football”, to differentiate it from rugby football. With their talent for abbreviation and metonymy, “association football” quickly became “soccer”, from the word “association”.
Call soccer whatever you like. But now you know that the word soccer has impeccable historical and European bona fides, and is not some navel-gazing American invention. It is absolutely proper to call soccer soccer. If anything, calling it “football” is the navel-gazing form, since it ignores other forms of football, whether NFL football or rugby football.
Uri Friedman digs deeper into the history of the term:
If the word “soccer” originated in England, why did it fall into disuse there and become dominant in the States?
To answer that question, [sports economist Stefan] Szymanski counted the frequency with which the words “football” and soccer” appeared in American and British news outlets as far back as 1900. What he found is fascinating: “Soccer” was a recognized term in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century, but it wasn’t widely used until after World War II, when it was in vogue (and interchangeable with “football” and other phrases like “soccer football”) for a couple decades, perhaps because of the influence of American troops stationed in Britain during the war and the allure of American culture in its aftermath. In the 1980s, however, Brits began rejecting the term, as soccer became a more popular sport in the United States.
In recent decades, “The penetration of the game into American culture, measured by the use of the name ‘soccer,’ has led to backlash against the use of the word in Britain, where it was once considered an innocuous alternative to the word ‘football,'” Szymanski explains.