Depending on where you live—EU or US—you’ve probably seen several variations of both the game and the name: Table Football, Table Soccer, Fuzball, Foosball, Fußball, Langirt, Jouer, Au Baby-Foot, Csocso, Cadureguel-Schulchan, etc.
Equally nebulous as the game’s name are the details of foosball’s roots. The Smithsonian did a deep dive into The Murky History of Foosball that helps explain how hilariously bootstrapped and grassroots its origins are (an alleged inventor of foosball was also one of the first people to hijack an airplane). But beyond that is an even quirkier story—how many miniature one-legged and armless soccer players should be standing in front of the goal?
In soccer (naming based on which side of the pond you’re from) you have 11 men starting on the pitch, or field. And generally, a team arranges 10 of those players in various formations, most frequently a 3-4-3: three in back, four at midfield and three at the helm, plus a keeper, or goalie.
Foosball also has different styles of foosmen placements depending on table brands. Some of the most popular foosball tables used in the U.S. employ 3-2-5-3 from back end to front. Euro tables are similar, but only have one keeper. And the most popular question about foosball placements:
Should there be one or three foosmen in front of the goal?
Depending on where you look, you’ll see one of two reasons for the trio of goalies. The first is that in the one-goalie design, foosballs can roll up the sloped corners and fly off the table. Fair enough, but if hit hard enough, foosballs can fly off of any table. The second, and more believable reason, is a decision by a manufacturer that cut costs by removing the sloped corners and adding extra foosmen to either side of the one-man goalie to account for the dead corners.
It’s not because pro players were slinging urethane balls up table corners like trigger happy kids at Skee-Ball. It was to cut costs. It’s ostensibly less expensive to build flat corners and add another four total foosmen to the metal rods.
Hear people arguing about whether it’s a one- or three-man goalie? Steer clear. It’s a heated argument, especially if it’s with people from different countries.
If you’re looking to start playing in the U.S., you’ll probably likely encounter more tables with three goalies. It’s not soccer, but it’s what the majority of people here prefer. If you’re looking for a quality table that has both goalie options—check out Brunswick Billiards, which now produces both options. Originally, Brunswick produced a pair of three-goalie versions. But when European sellers began asking for the removal of the goalie’s two sidekicks, Brunswick introduced the Euro Scorer to keep international foosball peace.
The chart below shows that variances in table football tops are pretty small, but there seem to be differences between almost every single brand—so it’s kind of like asking which snowflake pattern is official.
See how deep the rabbit hole goes with dimensions found from a group of foosballers on Google+. And definitely pity the foos trying to stake their claim as the official global standard.