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Why Is A Touchdown Worth 6 Points In Football? Exploring The History And Scoring System

With football fans cheering touchdowns each week, many wonder why this coveted score is worth 6 points specifically.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: There is no definitive answer to why a touchdown is worth 6 points in football. The scoring system in football has evolved over time, and the value of a touchdown has changed several times.

However, there are a few theories and assumptions why a touchdown is worth 6 points. In any case, it is the most prestigious way to score points, and it is often the deciding factor in close games.

In this roughly 2,000-word article, we’ll dive into the fascinating history and evolution behind the football scoring system and touchdown point values.

We’ll start with a quick background on the origins of American football. Next we’ll look at the standardization of rules and scoring by Yale, Princeton, and Walter Camp in the 1880s. We’ll examine how touchdowns were assigned point values between 4-10 points initially.

Then we’ll see how the modern 6 point standard emerged and why it stuck. We’ll also compare football scoring to other major sports. By the end, you’ll understand exactly why that iconic touchdown is ingrained as 6 points in football.

Early History of American Football

Rugby roots

American football has its roots in rugby, a popular sport in England during the 19th century. In the mid-1800s, rugby was introduced to American colleges, where it gained popularity among students. However, the early version of American football differed from rugby in several ways.

While rugby allowed players to carry the ball with their hands, American football initially prohibited it. Instead, players could only advance the ball by kicking it or batting it with their feet. This rule would eventually change, leading to the evolution of the modern game we know today.


Standardization of rules in the 1800s

During the late 1800s, the rules of American football began to take shape and standardize. Various colleges and universities played by their own set of rules, which often differed from one another.

In 1876, representatives from several colleges came together to establish a standardized set of rules known as the Intercollegiate Football Association. This organization laid the foundation for the modern American football scoring system, including the value of a touchdown.

According to the Intercollegiate Football Association’s rules, a touchdown was initially worth 4 points. However, in 1883, the value was increased to 5 points.

Finally, in 1912, the touchdown was assigned a value of 6 points, a rule that still stands to this day. The decision to increase the value of a touchdown was made to incentivize teams to score more and make the game more exciting for spectators.

For more information on the early history of American football, you can visit Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website.

Scoring System Standardization

One of the key factors contributing to the current scoring system in football is the influence of Walter Camp, often referred to as the “Father of American Football.”

Camp, who played a pivotal role in the development of modern football rules, proposed the standardization of scoring system in the late 19th century. His aim was to create a uniform system that would allow teams to compete on a level playing field.

Walter Camp’s influence

Walter Camp’s influence on the scoring system cannot be overstated. As a member of the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA) rules committee, he played a crucial role in shaping the game.

In 1883, Camp proposed that a touchdown should be worth six points, a field goal worth three points, and a safety worth two points. This proposal was eventually adopted by the IFA and became the standard scoring system for football.

By establishing the value of a touchdown at six points, Camp sought to encourage teams to score touchdowns rather than relying solely on field goals. This decision had a profound impact on the game, as it rewarded teams for their offensive prowess and encouraged more exciting and dynamic play.

Touchdown values from 4-10 points

Interestingly, during the early stages of football, the value of a touchdown varied. In fact, prior to Camp’s proposal, touchdowns were worth four points in some regions. However, Camp’s suggestion of assigning six points to a touchdown gained widespread acceptance and became the standard across the country.

It is worth noting that there have been instances in the history of football where the value of a touchdown deviated from the standard six points. For example, during the early years of the American Football League (AFL) in the 1960s, a touchdown was worth seven points.

Additionally, in the World Football League (WFL) in the 1970s, a touchdown was briefly worth eight points. However, these deviations were short-lived and the standard six-point value was quickly reinstated.

The decision to assign six points to a touchdown has proven to be a successful and enduring aspect of the game. It continues to be a fundamental part of football’s scoring system, rewarding teams for their offensive achievements and adding excitement to every game.

For more information on the history of football and its scoring system, you can visit Pro Football Hall of Fame or NCAA.


Emergence of the 6 Point Touchdown

The 6-point touchdown has been a fundamental part of American football for over a century. It emerged as the standard scoring system for touchdowns in the early 20th century and has remained unchanged ever since.

6 becomes standard by 1912

Before 1912, touchdowns were worth 5 points in most football rulebooks. However, during this time, the popularity of the game was rapidly growing, and the need for a more standardized scoring system became apparent.

The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS), later renamed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), recognized the need for consistency and officially adopted the 6-point touchdown rule in 1912. This decision was not made lightly.

The IAAUS conducted extensive discussions and deliberations with various football associations and universities to determine the most appropriate scoring system. Ultimately, the consensus was reached that a 6-point touchdown would better reflect the significance and difficulty of scoring a touchdown.

Why 6 was selected

But why was 6 points selected as the value for a touchdown? The decision was influenced by several factors.

One of the main considerations was to maintain a balance between the value of a touchdown and other scoring methods, such as field goals and extra point conversions. At the time, field goals were worth 3 points, and extra point conversions were worth 1 point.

By assigning 6 points to a touchdown, it created a clear distinction and emphasized the importance of scoring a touchdown over other methods. This balance ensured that teams would have to work harder to secure a touchdown, as it provided a significant advantage in the overall scoring.

Moreover, the selection of 6 points for a touchdown was also influenced by the scoring patterns observed in early football games. Historical data showed that touchdowns were relatively rare compared to other scoring methods, such as field goals.

Therefore, assigning a higher value to touchdowns further increased the excitement and impact of these game-changing plays.

Since the adoption of the 6-point touchdown rule, it has become deeply ingrained in the fabric of American football. Fans and players alike celebrate each touchdown scored, knowing that it represents a significant achievement in the game.

Touchdowns Compared in Other Sports

In order to fully understand why a touchdown is worth 6 points in football, it’s interesting to compare it with the scoring systems of other sports. Let’s take a look at how touchdowns are valued in rugby, Canadian football, and other similar sports.


In rugby, a sport that shares some similarities with American football, scoring a try is equivalent to scoring a touchdown. However, in rugby, a try is only worth 5 points.

Once a try is scored, the team is then given the opportunity to earn additional points by attempting a conversion kick, which is similar to a field goal in football. If the conversion kick is successful, the team earns an extra 2 points, bringing their total to 7 points.

Canadian Football

In Canadian football, touchdowns are also worth 6 points, just like in American football. However, the scoring system differs slightly when it comes to the extra point attempt.

In Canadian football, teams can choose to attempt a one-point conversion by kicking the ball through the goalposts or a two-point conversion by either running or passing the ball into the end zone. This adds an extra layer of strategy and excitement to the game.

Other Sports

While touchdowns are most commonly associated with American football, there are other sports that have similar scoring systems. For example, Australian rules football also awards 6 points for a goal, which is similar to a touchdown.

Additionally, Gaelic football, a traditional Irish sport, awards 3 points for a goal, which is similar to a touchdown in terms of its significance in the game.

Understanding the different values assigned to touchdowns in various sports helps us appreciate the unique scoring system of American football. The 6-point value of a touchdown in football reflects the significance and difficulty of reaching the end zone, while also providing an opportunity for additional points through extra point attempts or two-point conversions.

Impact on Game Strategy

The value of a touchdown, worth 6 points, has a significant impact on game strategy in football. Teams strive to score touchdowns as they provide the highest point value in a single play. This influences decision-making on the field, both in terms of play-calling and risk-taking.

2-point conversions

One strategic aspect affected by the touchdown’s value is the decision to attempt a 2-point conversion. After scoring a touchdown, teams have the option to either kick an extra point for 1 additional point or attempt a 2-point conversion, which would be worth 2 points.

The choice between the two depends on various factors such as the game situation, the team’s confidence in their offense, and the need to close a scoring gap. Opting for a 2-point conversion can be a high-risk, high-reward decision that can potentially change the outcome of a game.

2-point conversions

Relative TD value analysis

Another aspect of the touchdown’s value is its significance when evaluating the overall performance of a team. By analyzing the number of touchdowns scored by a team in relation to their opponents, analysts and coaches can gauge the team’s offensive efficiency and scoring capability.

This analysis provides valuable insights into a team’s strengths and weaknesses and helps in devising game plans for future matchups.

For example, if a team consistently scores more touchdowns than their opponents, it indicates a potent offense capable of putting up big numbers. On the other hand, if a team struggles to score touchdowns, it may highlight limitations in their offensive strategy or execution.

Furthermore, comparing the relative value of touchdowns across different games or seasons can offer a broader perspective on the evolution of the game. Historical data can show trends in scoring patterns, offensive strategies, and rule changes that have influenced the game over time.


From its early origins to modern gameplay, the 6 point touchdown has become an integral part of football’s identity and strategy. After reviewing the sport’s history, it’s clear why organizers landed on that special number.

So next time you see your favorite team score a TD, you’ll know the fascinating background that made it worth 6 points.

For more in-depth analysis and statistical data on the impact of touchdowns and game strategy, you can visit websites like NFL or Pro-Football-Reference that provide comprehensive coverage of football statistics and historical insights.

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