It was founded in 1891, as New Zealand Soccer Association and became officially affiliated with FIFA in 1948. In May 2007, the organisation was renamed New Zealand Football (NZF), replacing the word "soccer" with "football" in line with the common usage in the rest of the world.
In September 2007, the New Zealand female football teams were rebranded. The women's national team changed its name from "SWANZ" to "Football Ferns", the female under-20 team to the "Junior Football Ferns" and the under-17 team became the "Young Football Ferns"
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, New Zealand achieved their best result in their teams' history when they had a 1–1 draw with reigning World champions Italy. Shane Smeltz scored in the 7th minute marking the first time New Zealand had ever led a match at the World Cup. They went on to become the only unbeaten team in the tournament.
In January 2013, members of the FIFA Executive Committee met in a private meeting convened by Joseph Blatter to discuss the possibilities of moving the New Zealand Football Federation for the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in order to enhance the sport in the country. After the meeting, Blatter said the idea was "ratified" but needed some adjustments. This fact provided the New Zealand success in the idea of movement, requiring only a formal request by the association. But in June, the chief executive of the New Zealand Federation, Andy Martin, said his administration has no plans to promote the New Zealand Football to high-level competitions for now, meaning that New Zealand should remain in the weak Oceania Football Confederation.
In 2015, New Zealand was ruled to have forfeited its place in the 2016 Olympic tournament after fielding an ineligible player in its men's Under-23 team; the decision is being appealed. It was subsequently reported that up to 16 ineligible players had been fielded in the men's Under-23, Under-20 and Under-17 teams between 2011 and 2015.