Why Do They Call It First And Goal In American Football?

Football First and Goal

Question: Why do they call it first and goal in American football?

Answer: It is called first and goal because a team is within ten yards of the goal line and the other team's end zone. It is a phrase used to denote how close a team is from scoring a touchdown. Typically a number is used instead of the word goal, such as "1st and 10", "2nd and 8", or "4th and 1".


Why do they call it first and goal in American football?

In order to understand the meaning behind "1st & Goal" we need to make sure we understand the following:

Goal Line

Football Goal Line

The goal line is the line that marks the front of each team's end zone. It's used to determine if a score is made.

Line of Scrimmage

Football Line of Scrimmage

The line of scrimmage is just a regular yard line that always shows the spot of the ball on the field. You can see it as a blue line when watching football on TV.

1st Down Line

Football 1st Down Line

The 1st down line is just a regular yard line that shows the distance a team needs to travel to get a 1st down. You can see it as a yellow line when watching football on TV.

Scrimmage Downs

A scrimmage down is just a fancy word that means any play that starts on the line of scrimmage. For short, people call them downs.

The Down Cycle

When a team gets possession of the ball in football they are given a set of four scrimmage downs to move the ball down the field. These scrimmage downs are called:

The 1st down line is initially placed 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If a team fails to reach the 1st down line in four scrimmage downs they must "turn the ball over to the other team" for a turnover on downs. However, if a team reaches the 1st down line on any of the downs, the down cycle starts over and the 1st down line is once again placed 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Down and Distance

Now that we understand the basics of ball movement in football, we can put it all together to understand down & distance or your question on what is "1st & Goal."

Usually, you will see down & distance represented by a number like "1st & 10," "2nd & 15," or "4th & 1." The first part of the phrase is the current scrimmage down. The second part of the phrase is the distance to the 1st down line a team needs to travel to get a 1st down and for the down cycle to start over.

1st & 10

Down: 1st Down

Distance: 10 yards (to the 1st down line)

2nd & 15

Down: 2nd Down

Distance: 15 yards (to the 1st down line)

4th & 1

Down: 4th Down

Distance: 1 yard (to the 1st down line)

In some cases, the 1st down line is replaced with the word "Goal." This means that the 1st down line is the goal line and the team with the ball is within 10 yards of the goal line. So back to your initial question:

1st & Goal

Down: 1st Down

Distance: The Goal Line (1st down line)

2nd & Goal

Down: 2nd Down

Distance: The Goal Line (1st down line)

FAQ

What is First and Goal in Football?

First and Goal in football is when the team with the ball is within 10 yards of the opposing team's goal line. They are also on their first down out of four downs.

When Does a First and Goal Happen?

First and goal happens when a team is less than 10 yards away from the end zone where they are close to scoring a touchdown. First and goal happens all of the time in a football game. It is the same thing as a regular down, it's just called something different.