Two Australian sailors will face a U.S. court today after allegedly assaulting a man in an argument about whether Aussie Rules is better than American football.

Philip Graeme Ferres, 26, and Kolis Barba, 24, were arrested and jailed on Thursday after the fight, which left the gridiron fan with serious injuries.

Police said the argument about the merits of the two sports grew heated and escalated to a shoving match at a house party in San Diego, Calif. about 5 a.m. on Thursday.

Police Sergeant Kerry Tom said the two Australians maintained that the American threatened to kill them.

Tom said the sailors - who reportedly feared the man would get a weapon - then hit and kicked him, breaking his eye socket.

The pair allegedly fled the scene and were arrested nearby.

The 28-year-old victim, whose name has not been released, was taken to hospital and treated for the eye injury and bruising.

Ferres and Barba were charged with assault with a deadly weapon - the weapon being their feet.

They have spent the past five days behind bars at San Diego Central jail after failing to raise $34,500 bail.

They are understood to be in separate cells, along with one or two other prisoners.

Prison officials said the pair would be able to remain in contact with family by email but cannot take calls.

However, each are allowed to keep money in an account to make outgoing calls, with Barba's account sitting at $200 and Ferres' at $180.

They were in San Diego on shore leave while their boat HMAS Sydney was moored at US Naval Base San Diego for five days.

The vessel left on Saturday without the two men. The Australian Defence Force has refused to comment.

It already has another sailor, Leading Seaman Matthew Doney, languishing in an overseas jail.

Doney, from Cairns, is accused of killing 79-year-old New Caledonian great grandmother Lysiane Mille during a vicious assault in the island nation's capital Noumea in December last year.

His matter is still to be finalised.

The guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney was in the US undertaking trials of its new weapon and other systems under a multi-billion fleet upgrade program.

The Sydney is the first ship in the fleet to be upgraded and is in US waters to test missile guidance and other advanced systems installed by US engineers.

Unlike American military personnel detained in Australia, the two Australian sailors will be locked up in a civilian jail until they are dealt with by the justice system.

In Australia, foreign military personnel are usually detained at military bases pending their court appearance.